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Secretary's Offices, 30 March - 24 June 1818 (9)

Signed and dated

  • Main Year: 0


Soane’s new offices for the Secretary went though several stages of design and construction because of a consistent and rapid increase in staff numbers (from 5 in 1812 to 51 in 1816 and an increase again by 1818), a direct result of an increase in the number of pensioners. The first phase of building, (as the minutes of the Board of Commissioners show) was in 1815, when Soane was commissioned to extend Wren’s Gardener’s house for offices (by two wings). The second building phase began in 1818, when the main offices now standing were constructed. The third stage must have been when the Soane building was joined to the Wren pavilions (Gardener’s house and Guardhouse) on either side, by low stretches of building with flat lead roofs. The building work from 1818 to 1820 cost a total of £7,750.

There are only ten drawings relating to the Secretary’s offices in the SM collection. A further eleven drawings are in the SM archive collection however (Priv.Corr.IX.J.35-45), and another five in The National Archives (Works 31/236-240). The SM plans (drawings collection or archive) show only the basement storey but there are plans of the ground floor in The National Archives collection (Work 31/236 and 238). The north-south range has offices occupying its length and on the ground floor, a continuous corridor the length of the building serves each room. Ptolemy Dean (op. cit. p.74) indicates that the Secretary’s offices were ‘skilfully broken down into a sequence of three interconnected buildings, each of which took their cue from the scale of Wren’s buildings at either end’. The skylight visible today was added in 1821 along with alterations to the vestibule in order to accommodate George Jones’ painting of the Battle of Waterloo. Otherwise, the building is much the same today as it is shown in the SM designs and according to M. Richardson (op. cit. p.50), still holds much of the original furniture supplied by Soane.



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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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Contents of Secretary's Offices, 30 March - 24 June 1818 (9)