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image SM (210) 67/2/17

Reference number

SM (210) 67/2/17


Record (design) drawing, 24 June 1818


210 Half-Elevation with section of roof of the Secretary's new office / Chelsea Hospital (west front)


bar scale


as above and some dimensions given

Signed and dated

  • 24th June 1818


Soane office


Drawing 210 shows the Secretary's Offices almost as built, though the roof is incomplete and the structure of the timbers can be seen. The four chimneys of the central Secretary's building have yet to be added as has the skylight (which was only added in 1821 to provide natural lighting for George Jones' painting of the Battle of Waterloo, hung in the vestibule). However, two drawings at the National Archives - (PRO) Work 31/236 and Work 31/237 - show the design with a skylight and the latter design is dated 5 March 1818. Thus a skylight may always have been in Soane's mind as a possibility for this building.

Although the central section of building is only one storey high, the addition of incised blind panels above the windows articulates the facade and allowed Soane to create a taller interior and experiment with a vestibule having three different floor-to-ceiling heights.

The drawing shows a brick building, with stone quoining at the corners, rubbed red brick window surrounds and a grey slate, hipped roof. All these details are in sympathy with Wren's style (particularly because of the two Wren buildings on either side of the Secretary's new Offices, which would eventually be connected by low link buildings). Margaret Richardson and Ptolemy Dean have both noted that, by this point, Soane's architecture had come under criticism from George Soane's article in The Champion (and elsewhere) and as a result the Board of Commissioners had requested Soane to design in accordance with Wren's style.


P. Dean, 'The Royal Hospital Chelsea II - life after 1815' in Sir John Soane and London, 2006, p.74; M. Richardson, 'Soane in Chelsea', pp.45-51 The Chelsea Society Report, 1992, pp.45-46



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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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