- The drawings from the office of Sir John Soane
There are no surviving design or working drawings for the Court of Equity. The earliest relate to a survey of the Court as completed, undertaken on 9 October 1825 (SM 53/5/20-SM 53/5/20v) clearly undertaken by a junior hand amongst Soane’s pupils. They are here associated with Charles Richardson, who entered Soane’s office in February 1824. They can be compared with survey drawings of the Court’s furnishings dated to 15 - March the following year, undertaken by Stephen Burchell (SM 53/5/21-SM 53/5/21v). It should be noted that, as was not uncommon in the Law Courts, the furnishings closely followed those provided in the period Courtrooms. The interior, complete with furnishings, was included amongst Joseph Gandy’s interior views taken in the first half of August 1826 (SM Vol 61/59-SM Vol 61/60). Located in behind the completed northern range of The Stone Building along St Margaret’s Street to the west, and the Court of King’s Bench to the north, Soane’s design not only responded to the implicit necessity for lighting from above, but also honed the interior to integrate it into its architectural context.
The main source of direct light was provided by the lantern light, which by enclosing arched openings within its inner faces, echoed that of the Court of Chancery. The four glazed tympana above this bore a direct relationship to the designs for the lantern lights over the Courts of King’s Bench and Exchequer (see SM 53/3/11 and SM Vol 61/58 respectively). Additional light reached the interior via arched ‘clerestory’ windows, whose varying lengths were dictated by adjacent accommodation. Internally, however, they were framed by pseudo-Serliana openings, with large rectangular moulded panels between. This provided a regular architectural rhythm to the interior, effectively diverting attention from the unavoidable variance (SM Vol 61/60). The Serliana motif was clearly derived from the example offered by The Stone Building and the same feature was deployed for the interior of the adjacent Court of King’s Bench. As elsewhere, the common architectural elements may well have served to demonstrate the shared practice of jurisprudence between the Common Law Courts.
More singular and distinctive was Soane’s handling of the junction between the internal base of the lantern light and the ceiling. The latter had an S-curve profile, as recorded in SM 53/5/20v, which may have been a characteristic shared with other lanterns. More remarkable ae the four rows of canopy arches which surround the opening along its north and south sides; design elements Soane has originally experimented with in a comparable position in his early designs for the Vice-Chancellor’s Court.
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).