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Stowe, Buckinghamshire: design for library for 1st Marquis of Buckingham, 1805-6 and later unexecuted designs (80)



Soane had carried out work for the the first Marquis of Buckingham when he rebuilt Buckingham House, 91 Pall Mall, London from 1790 (q.v.). Lord Buckingham's country house was Stowe in Buckinghamshire, re-designed by Robert Adam and Thomas Pitt, Lord Camelford, from 1770 in a neo-classical style. The piano nobile already had a two-storey library but it was decided that a new library would be built underneath to house Lord Buckingham's collection of Saxon manuscripts received from Thomas Astle (died 1803) together with a collection of early Irish manuscripts from another source.

The decision to build the new library in a Gothic style cannot be securely attributed to either Lord Buckingham or to Soane. Soane's site visit to Stowe in January 1805 was followed by his assistant Henry Hake Seward making drawings of the Henry VII chapel at Westminster Abbey and this became a key influence in the design of the library, as for example, in the design of the ceiling and the bookcase doors. The idea of a lobby to the library can be safely attributed to Lord Buckingham.

The library at Stowe as an exercise in Gothic design is unique among Soane's works.


There is (in the Soane Museum) a copy of Michael McCarthys typescript 'Catalogue of drawings for the library, lobbby and staircase of Stowe House, Bucks' compiled in 1983. The first section follows the sequence of the bound set of drawings (1-61). The present (on-line) catalogue covers the same drawings but divides and sub-divides them by subject, for example: Library, Lobby, Staircase etc and this determines the sequence and numbering.

Dr McCarthy also catalogued 46 related drawings in addition to those catalogued on line here. The source for these further drawings is the Soane office archive which awaits publication.
Drawings filed with documents (BOX P SET 19) Section B (62-71)
Drawings mixed with documents (BOX 2 SET 22(c) Section C (72-103)
Other drawings in Soane Museum (104-107)
Drawings in locations other than Soane Museum (108-109)

Michael McCarthy also published an article on: 'Soane's ''Saxon'' Room at Stowe', Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, XLIV, No 2 May 1985, pp.129-146.

A report by Purcell Miller Tritton, architects, was prepared in 2008 for the Stowe Trust. A copy is kept in the Green Box files at the Soane Museum and (pages 38-41 cover the Gothic Library and include some photographs).


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Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: drawings@soane.org.uk

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.

Browse (via the vertical menu to the left) and search results for Drawings include a mixture of Concise catalogue records – drawn from an outline list of the collection – and fuller records where drawings have been catalogued in more detail (an ongoing process).  

Contents of Stowe, Buckinghamshire: design for library for 1st Marquis of Buckingham, 1805-6 and later unexecuted designs (80)