Explore Collections Explore The Collections
You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  Copy of competition Design for a Penitentiary House to contain 600 Male Convicts
  • image SM (13) 13/1/16

Reference number

SM (13) 13/1/16


Copy of competition Design for a Penitentiary House to contain 600 Male Convicts


13 Ground floor plan


to a scale


The several parts of the plan distinguished with the lightest tint / were proposed to be only one Story high and labelled including: Turnkeys Lodge, Store Keeper, The Court of Entrance, Governors / House, Committee / room, Governor's Garden, The Chapel Court with Chapel and Seats for / Class 1 (and 2 and 3), Reception Court, Warehouse Court, Warehouse (twice),(each of three cross-shaped areas of prisoner accommodation labelled Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3) each 'class' with Airing Court / for Fifty Convicts (4 times), Eating Room for 100 (twice), Necessary (4 times), Bath (4 times), 4 circular towers each with Work room, Staircase, Passage, Overseer. Octagonal with wings infirmary labelled Infirmary Court (twice), Working Court (twice), Common Working room (4 times), Sheds for picking Oakum, chopping Rags, beating Hemp &c, circular court labelled Prison Court, Court &c (5 times), Court with / five dark / but airy / dungeons and in a related court Solitary Sawg sheds (twice) and Solitary Polishg Sheds. Also labelled is a Rope Walk & Cartway to every part of the Building, three Kitchen Court(s) with Bakehouse, Meat Room, Washouse, Brewhouse, Boilg Room / & Scullery, Kitchen, Pantry and Cutting Room

Signed and dated

  • John Soane Archt (the 'e' added later) and datable to 1782

Medium and dimensions

Pen and ink wash, burnt umber, sepia and pink washes, some pencil setting out lines, within triple ruled and wash border on laid paper (625 x 955)


Robert Baldwin (fl. 1762-1804)


J Whatman


The scale (not the 1/8 inch to 1 foot required of competitors), lack of a competition motto and number, the signature and the use of the past tense 'were' in the second inscription all indicate that this is a reduced copy of the original competition plan. In 1782, almost four months after the hand-in date for the competition, Soane exhibited an 'Elevation of a design for a prison' at the Royal Academy; this plan may have accompanied the elevation.


P. du Prey, John Soane: the making of an architect, 1982, Chapter 10 (Competition for the first Howardian penitentiaries)



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).