- The drawings from the office of Sir John Soane
The verso of drawing 1 has (in Soane's hand) a rough half-elevation for a seven-bay, two storeys and raised-basement house with horizontal rustication to the ground floor, roundels between the ground and first floor windows, tablets below the ground floor windows and with an entrance composed of a square-headed door set in a two-storey arched surround with optional coupled columns on the right-hand side; this design is labelled No 3. A smaller sketch elevation 'labelled No 4' shows a door with a cornice supported by two brackets that is set against a projecting corniced panel that reaches the string course. A further detail is for a door flanked by coupled columns supporting an entablature. The inscription 'Temple of Concord' (against the dentil course) probably refers to the temple of that name in Rome of which Soane in his copy of Lady Miller's Letters from Italy, 1777, p.190 (see catalogue entry under Sketchbooks) added to her comments on its 'elegant pediment' that 'the Brickwork behind the Marble is remaing / but no part of the inclined Cornice'. As it happens, the identification of the true Temple of Concord had to wait until 1825 and what Lady Miller and Soane saw was the Ionic Temple of Saturn.
Drawings 3 to 6 are designs for the principal front that follow the same overall design as in drawing 1 verso, variation occurs with the alternative treatments for the entrance and entrance bay. Drawing 3 ('No1') is very close to the 'No.3' design of drawing 1 verso; the optional pair of coupled columns has been dropped. Drawing 4 ('No2') is based on drawing 1 verso, ('No 4' design) and drawing 5 ('No 3') is based on the detail on drawing 1. Drawing 6 is close to drawing 4 but above the front door is a balustraded balcony with a semicircular arched recess behind it. The entrance stairs (on the elevations) are treated differently in each design so that there are either four external stairs or a dozen. The portico and stair of drawing 5 corrresponds with drawing 2 and the modest few stairs of drawing 6 with drawing 1 (flyer).
The present building, which replaced an older one, was begun by William Mitford (1699-1777) in 1760 to the designs of John Upton, surveyor to the nearby Petworth Estate. Mitford's son, also called William (1748-1824), consulted Soane in 1794. Both William Mitfords worked in the Treasury and were Receiver-Generals for Sussex (as was the second William's son Charles). A letter, dated 18 March 1784, in the Soane Museum Archives from Soane to Mitford gives a clue to the history of the project: 'I am favored with your letter and am exceedingly / sorry that it is not in my power to send you the Drawings / for after the conversation with your Builder, finding they did / not accord with his Ideas I destroyed them supposing they / could never be of any use to you. // As to any charge it was never my intention to be / considered professionaly in this business. You will therefore have / the goodness to accept of my trouble and believe me // Dear Sir // Most truly yours // John Soane' SM Letter Books ). The builder may have followed some of Soane's suggestions since the entrance front is of two storeys over a basement, seven bays wide, with a rusticated ground floor and a tablet below each of the ground floor windows. However, some elements such as the Neo-Palladian pediment with oculus and crossed palm fronds in the tympanum must have been the builder's contribution. Inside, the vestibule with dining and drawing room on either side was built.
Information: (www.) The National Archives: West Sussex Record Office: The Mitford Archives
Jill Lever, November 2012
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).