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Preliminary design, design and drawings for publication for a neo-classical house, 1786-92, party executed (4)


Adam’s neo-classical alternative scheme for Wyreside was accepted by John Fenton Cawthorne. Construction began, resulting in the execution of Adam’s new west front, but this work was halted in 1796 and never completed (see scheme note).

Of the neo-classical designs Rowan (1988) wrote the following: ‘In many ways the Adam designs for Wyreside are typical of much of the brothers’ practice towards the end of their lives. Like several of their proposed villas in Scotland, the scale of Mr Cawthorne’s design was modest […]. Yet this small house is treated in a manner that is architecturally highly self-conscious, employing a number of different ideas each of which is typical of the late Adam style. The bowl shaped domes as terminal features, the four columned Tuscan porch, the tripartite aediculed window and the central tower motif of the south front had, by the date of this scheme, all become standard elements in the Adam villa repertoire.’

On account of his familiarity with the three neo-classical drawings for Wyreside at the V&A, Rowan was also able to attribute these uninscribed drawings at the Soane Museum (Adam volumes 1/50 and 46/109-110) as being for the same scheme. Rowan has noted that the two finished drawings (Adam volumes 46/109-110) were made for inclusion in an unrealised publication of the Adam brothers’ later works, and can therefore be given a date range of 1786-92. The drawings are inscribed in pencil with 43d perhaps suggesting their proposed position within a publication. Moreover, the plan for the house (Adam volume 36/100) is inscribed on the verso with the words: these Plans go 21st into the Book, again suggesting the design's inclusion within a publication. Rowan also notes of these drawings (Adam volumes 46/109-110) that the plan does not exactly correspond with the elevation for either the west or south fronts. Particularly clear are the inconsistencies of fenestration and the omission of recesses in the plan.

Similarly, the other extant plan for Adam’s work at Wyreside (Adam volume 36/100) does not exactly correspond with the elevations either. Adam volume 36/100 has previously been described as a drawing for the unexecuted castle-style scheme for the house, but comparison with the alternative elevations of the house shows a much closer resemblance to the neo-classical scheme. This makes sense as Adam volume 36/100 was clearly drawn after Adam’s alterations to the west front had already been built and are therefore shown in black as parts of the pre-existing structure. Adam volume 36/100 is the only dated drawing among those for Wyreside, suggesting that the earlier designs (Adam volumes 1/50 and 1/63) were made between Adam and Fenton Cawthorne’s introduction by Delaval in 1786 (see scheme notes) and 1790.



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

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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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Contents of Preliminary design, design and drawings for publication for a neo-classical house, 1786-92, party executed (4)