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Purpose

[1] Side-step scheme, 1694-95

Notes

The 'side-step' scheme (for which there are no drawings at Sir John Soane's Museum) is so called because its plan is set immediately east of the 'Avenue' that Queen Mary wished to keep open between the Queen's House and the river. The design is known from two annotated plans at All Souls College (Geraghty 2007, nos. 186 and 187). The first of these is a block plan marked with a dotted line denoting the southern boundary of the site. This boundary is first mentioned in a minute of 4 October 1694 in the 'Book of Court Orders' at Sir John Soane's Museum (SM, vol. 165). The plan exceeds this southern boundary by roughly the same area as the central domed scheme ([2]; see Downes, The Architecture of Wren, 1988, fig. 19). The second drawing is a detailed plan ground plan, with all the cabin spaces drawn. It is inscribed, 'The fabrick being 3 story high will Contain 2376 people'.

The side-step scheme most probably dates towards the end of 1694 as it acknowledges the site that was chosen in early October 1694, but proposes the demolition of King Charles II Building as redundant to the plan on the west side of the avenue. According to Hawksmoor's account of the founding of the hospital in 1728 (see Wren Society, VI, p. 20), Queen Mary, who died in late December, vigorously resisted this proposal. However, the 'side-step' scheme could also date between May and September 1695 when Wren and other members of the Grand Committee were pressing for the granting of a larger site for the hospital (see [2] and [3]). It is for a hospital in two large courtyards on an enclosed H-plan, the southern court at the top closed by an entrance and dormitory range, facing a southern front courtyard, closed by an entrance screen on the north side of the London Road, immediately west of the Queen's House. The northern court is open to the river, and the central cross-bar of the H consists of a hall and chapel joined by a central octagonal hall (probably domed). In this respect it resembles the principal range of Chelsea Hospital, begun in 1682 (see Wren Society, VIII, pls. 17, 20), and the central range of an unexecuted scheme for Greenwich Palace of c.1661-63 that passed into Wren's collection of drawings (Geraghty 2007, nos. 179-83). The close dependence of this plan both on Chelsea Hospital and the Greenwich Palace scheme suggests that it stands at the beginning of the sequence of the designs for the new hospital.

Level

Drawing

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Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

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