- The drawings from the office of Sir John Soane
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By 1810 Soane had sold his country estate at Ealing, Pitzhanger Manor. Chelsea, therefore, was well positioned as a convenient replacement. The 1814 improvements made to the Chelsea house must have been high on Soane’s own agenda. After the death of Soane’s wife in 1815, the architect spent rather more time at Chelsea – some have suggested because he couldn’t bear the associations of his Lincoln’s Inn Fields house. Susan Palmer’s article (‘Sir John Soane's garden at the Royal Hospital Chelsea’, pp.11-20, in The London Gardener, Vol 9, 2003-4, p.20) draws attention to the focus placed on the garden surrounding the completed house, creating a haven and antithesis to London life. He employed the hospital gardener to care for the Clerk of Works’ garden, which included climbing plants, crimson roses and a white climbing flower (which Palmer suggests may be jasmine). Palmer also notes that the walls surrounding Soane’s garden were kept low ‘to maximise the light and air reaching the Infirmary’. Drawings 163 to 169 clearly show all this.
There is one survey drawing relating to the Clerk of Works' Housee in the SM Archive - an elevation with a detail of a window on the verso (Priv.Corr.IX.J.26).
The post of Clerk of Works to Chelsea Hospital was abolished after Soane’s death in 1837. For a short time the hospital Chaplain occupied the house but it was demolished in 1856.
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 Clerk of Works' House, 1807-1833 (35)
- Design for alterations, and survey drawing, 1807 and 17 July 1814 (2)
- Site record drawings of the old house, 25 April 1815 (3)
- Record (working) drawings, 20 April 1815 (2)
- Site progress drawings, 5-6 May 1815 (4)
- Record (working) drawings, 5 and 12 May 1815 (4)
- Record drawings, one dated 13 May 1815 (2)
- Record (detail) drawings, c. June 1815 (2)
- Later record drawings, one dated 1833 (7)