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  • image Image 1 for SM (9) 61/5/1
  • image Image 2 for SM (9) 61/5/1
  • image Image 1 for SM (9) 61/5/1
  • image Image 2 for SM (9) 61/5/1

Reference number

SM (9) 61/5/1


Presentation drawing showing Vanbrugh's original theatre design, copied 27 November 1790


9 Plan


bar scale of 1/24 inch to 1 foot


This is a true Copy of the Plan of the Opera House and other Houses and / Ground in the Haymarket and Market Lane, referred to in a Lease from / the Crown to Edward Vanbrugh Esqr (dated the 4th day of January 1777 / and remaining in the Office of his Majesty's Surveyor General // Examined P Wm Harrison // Novr 27th 1790, Stage, The Opera house, Orchestra, Pit, Boxes, Passage, Houses belonging to / the Opera House, Room belonging / to opera house, Entrance, Passage, Entrance into / Opera House, King's Yard, Geo: / Alexander, Wm/ Johnson, Eliz: / Hallet, Ino / Stephenson, Haymarket / East, North / Parsons Cooling, West / Market Lane, Peter Dennis and Doctr Brooks / South, NB The House in the possession of William Johnson was / lately two Houses which are now laid into one and dimensions given

Signed and dated

  • Copy Novr 27th 1790

Medium and dimensions

Pencil, pen and wash on laid paper (307 x 487)


attributed to William Harrison


fleur-de-lis within crowned cartouche and GR below


The drawing shows the original Royal Opera or 'Queen's Theatre' in Haymarket built by Sir John Vanbrugh from 1704 to 1705, copied from a plan on a lease held in the office of William Chambers, His Majesty's Surveyor General. William Harrison probably made the drawing. Soane called on Mr O'Reilly and Mr Harrison in St James Place on 25 November 1790. He called on Harrison the next day and on the 27th he paid Harrison 'for an altered plan of the old opera house'.

The original opera house at Haymarket was built by Sir John Vanbrugh in 1704. This plan of Vanbrugh's theatre shows the theatre with a proscenium arch approximately 35 feet wide and an auditorium approximately 45 feet deep. Theatres grew in size through the 18th century, as revealed in the succession of designs for the nearby Royal Theatre at Drury Lane: Robert Adam's 1775 alterations to the Drury Lane theatre provided a proscenium 30 feet wide and an auditorium 60 feet deep; in 1794, Henry Holland rebuilt the theatre with a wider proscenium and an auditorium 100 feet deep. Vanbrugh's design has the boxes surrounding and in close proximity to the stage, another aspect of early theatre design that was altered through the 18th century.

The original theatre was positioned behind a range of houses on Haymarket, with only a narrow entrance front facing the street. As drawing 2 shows, this part of the plan was not altered by subsequent architects but the rest of the theatre was largely changed. Drawing 2 shows much less space behind the stage, and the boxes arranged in a horseshoe-form resembling La Scala in Milan.


Survey of London, St James, Westminster, volumes XXIX and XXX, 1960, pp. 223-225.



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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