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The drawings from the office of Sir John Soane


Welcome to the Online Catalogue of Soane's drawings.

The online catalogue of drawings by Sir John Soane begins with the theoretical designs as well as the measured drawings he made as a student at the Royal Academy and on his Italian tour. It also includes his earliest sketch/notebooks (see online Sketchbook Catalogue). Digital images accompany most of these catalogue entries.

Also added is volume 42 which was Soane's personal 'scrap book' with 195 drawings. Of these, half are by Soane, 33 by George Dance, 15 from Henry Holland or his office with others by, for example, William Chambers and Robert Adam or his office and by masons, furniture makers and engineers. The drawings range in date from 1757 to 1818.

Following are drawings for Soane’s architectural practice. The online catalogue includes, for example, drawings for five of his major London schemes: the Soane Monument in St Pancras Gardens, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Pitzhanger Manor, the Royal Hospital Chelsea and the Bank of England. The drawings are arranged here first by building type and then by place name in the searchable online database.

Soane's earliest works (commissions and competitions) date from 1777. The first was his design, while in Henry Holland's office, for a farmyard at Cadland, Hampshire. In the same year he submitted two designs in the competition for a new St Luke's Hospital for Lunatics, London. Soane was abroad from March 1778. In Rome he met the Bishop of Derry (later 4th Earl of Bristol) and there are three designs by Soane for Downhill, Co. Derry, two of which (to his intense disappointment) came to nothing. Returning home in June 1780, some of Soane's earliest commissions were for other Grand Tourists that he had met while abroad (see Allanbank, Berwickshire and Castle Eden, Co.Durham). In 1781 (in an unacknowledged association with George Dance) Soane entered a competition for two model prisons. Stylistically, perhaps the most remarkable design of these early years was that for a dairy at Hammels Park, Hertfordshire (1783) in a primitive, rustic style that again, owes something to George Dance.

The online catalogues for Soane’s education, volume 42, and his early commissions from 1777 (as well as his sketchbooks) were researched and written by Jill Lever, former Curator of the Royal Institute of British Architects Drawings Collection, and author of Catalogue of the drawings of George Dance the Younger (1741-1825) and of George Dance the Elder (1695-1768): from the collections of Sir John Soane's Museum, Azimuth Editions, London, 2003. Jill Lever's work was funded by a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The online catalogue of Soane’s five London schemes was supported by a generous one-year grant made by the Designation Development Fund (DDF) from Renaissance funding administered by Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA). The catalogue was researched and written by: Matilda Burns, Madeleine Helmer, Emma Smith and Jill Lever (2009-2010).

Work continued with the cataloguing of Soane's commissions by Madeleine Helmer (April 2010-April 2012) and by Jill Lever (April 2010-December 2012).

Starting from January 2013, a new two-year project funded by the Pilgrim Trust is underway. Conceived as 'Money, Power and Politics' it begins with Soane's designs for the 11 branch banks set up by the Bank of England from 1826. As Attached Architect to the Board of Works for Westminster and Whitehall, Soane designed additions to the House of Lords, the House of Commons and the old Foreign Office as well as the new State Paper Office. The cataloguers are Tom Drysdale and Jill Lever.

We are most grateful to the Leon Levy Foundation who have generously funded a large proportion of the digital photographs of the Soane drawings.



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).  

Contents of The drawings from the office of Sir John Soane