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image Image 1 for SM (1) volume 42/39 recto and verso (2) 42/122 verso
image Image 2 for SM (1) volume 42/39 recto and verso (2) 42/122 verso
image Image 3 for SM (1) volume 42/39 recto and verso (2) 42/122 verso
  • image Image 1 for SM (1) volume 42/39 recto and verso (2) 42/122 verso
  • image Image 2 for SM (1) volume 42/39 recto and verso (2) 42/122 verso
  • image Image 3 for SM (1) volume 42/39 recto and verso (2) 42/122 verso

Reference number

SM (1) volume 42/39 recto and verso (2) 42/122 verso


Sketch designs, 1781 (2)


1 Rough plan showing a circular centre with twin, square courtyard blocks symmetrically disposed on three sides. Each block measures 191.6 by 182.0 and is labelled 34 Cells, 32 Cells and 34 Cells - 100 cells for each block with a total of 600 cells - presumably on two floors; (verso) rough circular plan with 15 rows (220 feet long) of 40 cells arranged radially in three groups of five and totalling 600 prisoners, two aerial perspectives of the same design, and an alternative plan 2 Rough plan and bird's eye view of a six-sided (half a decagon) enclosure with courtyards and towers, elevation of front with three towers


1 (recto) as above, dimensions given and some (pencil) calculations; (verso) calculations adjusting the layout to 20 (not 40) cells taking into account a width of 9 feet 6 inches per cell 2 8)140 [over] .17 (140 divided by 8 equals 17)

Signed and dated

  • datable to 1781

Medium and dimensions

(1) Brown pen on laid paper (201x 207, bottom right-hand corner missing) (2) pencil, brown pen on laid paper with one fold mark (247 x 392)


1-2 George Dance (1741-1825)


(1) IV (2) fleur-de-lis


These rapidly made sketch designs encapsulate the finished designs that followed. Thus drawing 1 recto is the basis of the plan for a women's prison (see drawing 5) while the verso of drawing 2 has the essence of the plan and elevation of the men's prison (see drawings 13 and 10). The authorship of these drawings is important and has been attributed to George Dance.

for recto of drawing 2 see (Soane's architectural education ...): Preliminary, early, intermediate and late designs, record drawings and R.A. exhibition drawings for a mausoleum for the Earl of Chatham died 11 May 1778: drawing 2 by Soane


P.du Prey, John Soane: the making of an architect, 1982, chapter 10, 'The 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).