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Sessions House, Westminster, 1822-24 (7)


Architectural Note:-
Westminster Sessions House, sometimes referred to as Westminster Guildhall, was the place where the Justices of the Peace for the Liberty of Westminster held their sessions. It was located on the west side of Parliament Square, between Great George Street and Broad Sanctuary, on the site now occupied by the Supreme Court (formerly Middlesex Crown Court) and Middlesex Guildhall. It was a cruciform building, with shallow arms projecting from a central octagon (containing the court room) and an Ionic tetrastyle portico to its south front. The design was provided by Samuel Pepys Cockerell and erected 1804-1805, but only completed in 1808. It replaced accommodation in King Street, Saint James’s, which had been gifted to the Justices by Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland in 1762.

Drawings Note:-
The earliest specific reference in the Day Books concerning the Sessions House occurs on 17 October 1822, when John Hiort was engaged in surveying the latter. This can be identified with SM 37/3/31, which is clearly in Hiort’s hand, and he alone appears to have been deligated this exercise. The remaining drawings are less immediately identifiable, though note should be made of SM 37/3/21-23. These employ a distinctive series of coloured washes to denote the materials and seating provisions of the temporary furnishings. Buff wash indicates bench for those attending sittings, green for the Counsel and officers of the Court, and deep pink for the Judges’ tribunal. Though the draughtsmanship of these three drawings is refined and competent, they do not betray characteristics which make the hand identifiable. Also notable in SM 37/3/35 is the device of layering different plans of the Court of King’s Bench’s different locations over that of the Sessions House itself. This was undoubtedly a response to the judiciary's wish to ensure that the inherited parameters within which the Court would sit. The inscription on SM 37/3/24 associates it with the Labourer in Trust at Westminster, Adam Lee, though the hand cannot be directly attributed to him. It was most likely produced by the Office of Works and forwarded to Soane.



Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation. This catalogue of Soane’s designs for the New Law Courts was generously funded by The Worshipful Company of Mercers and The Pilgrim Trust.

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 Sessions House, Westminster, 1822-24 (7)