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Pitzhanger Manor recorded, 1832 (50)

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In 1832, when Pitzhanger was sold for a third time since Soane’s ownership, Soane and C.J. Richardson set about making watercolour sketches of every aspect, for nostalgic and educational purposes. Drawings within volume 87 and volume 55 were preparatory work for lithographs made for publications on Pitzhanger Manor: Plans, Elevations and Perspective Views of Pitzhanger Manor-House, 1833 and Memoirs of the Professional Life of an Architect between the years 1768 and 1835 written by himself 1835. Both of these were privately printed; Plans had two editions published, the second, printed by James Moyes, consisting of 50 copies (eight of which are in the Soane Museum collection and only one of which has the accompanying twelve lithographs referred to in the text). Volume 90 is a proof copy of Memoirs bound with the original watercolours.

By the 1830s many of Pitzhanger’s original features had already been lost, and the watercolours were evidently made from earlier designs and perspectives. Within this group of drawings there is the additional problem that some of the watercolours have elements that do not tally with either the earlier designs or with Pitzhanger as it appears today. These changed elements include the vase finials surmounting the canopy dome caps (which do not exist today nor can they be seen in the earlier designs) and the Tudor finials added to the corners of the Dance and service wings. The ruins also gain two access staircases to the two-storey temple, in the later watercolours and an expanded footprint in their imaginary reconstruction.

Bianca De Divitiis suggests, "By trying to give Dance’s wing the appearance of a Tudor fortress-dwelling, Soane seems to have wanted not only to invent a further episode in the history of Pitzhanger, but also to widen its narrative value by absorbing its original autobiographical significance into a reflection and summary of changes in architecture over time.’ (p.59)

Ultimately, none of these watercolour sketches can shed much light on the design process for Pitzhanger or be regarded as an accurate record of the building as it was in Soane’s time. They do, however, show a nostalgic and altered attitude on Soane’s part towards a house he designed and owned for such a short period.

Matilda Burn 2010



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 Pitzhanger Manor recorded, 1832 (50)