- The drawings from the office of Sir John Soane
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Consols, originally short for consolidated annuities, are government bonds with a fixed interest rate. In 1757 the interest paid on the face value of the bond was reduced to three per cent. Thus the hall was named the Three Per Cent Consols Transfer Office. The clerks transacted business with the public and kept records for these annuities. Towards the end of the eighteenth century there was an urgent need for a larger Consols Transfer Office because most of the government's wartime borrowing was being added to the three per cent bonds. The current facilities for the consols offices in the southern halls of the east wing of the Bank were strained during this period as it was already one of the biggest bonds managed at the Bank. The new Consols Transfer Office was to be sited to the north of the east wing, with a recess at the east end for the Chief Clerk and rooms either side for the Unclaimed Dividends and the Wills and Power of Attorney registration offices.
In designing the new hall Soane was free from the pre-existing structural restrictions faced in the remodelling of the Bank Stock Office and so had the scope to create a larger hall of more orthodox proportions measuring 82 feet by 50 feet and 33 feet high; the other offices measured less at 64 feet by 45 feet. By constrast with the old hall, Soane was able to raise the height of the dome, lengthen the end-bays and add a recess at the east end. It was a four-part plan, closer to Antique models of Roman basilicas.
The structure of the Bank Stock Office was used as a model for the construction of the other transfer halls at the Bank of England, including the Consols Transfer Office. Thus within the Soane Museum's collection of drawings for the Consols Trasfer Office there are fewer preliminary alternative designs because precendents had already been established. At the Bank Stock Office it seems the design process was largely driven by practical requirements with the development of technological innovations including iron skylights, iron tie-rods, steam heating systems and incombustible hollow-cone pots. All of these features were employed in the Consols Transfer Office which allowed for the design process for the new hall to focus on reinstating the classical principles and ornamentation. Thus there are more drawings for alternative details and decoration. Following critics' satirical poems published and recited at the Architects' Club in 1796 criticising his abstraction of the classical orders and 'barbarous stile', Soane endeavoured to design a more orthodox and monumental hall returning, for example, to the conventional pilaster order with full entablature with complete tri-fascia architrave and conventional dentilled cornice. The piers were enlarged and strengthened by doubling the major pilasters on the inner faces. He also employed Classical motifs such as Greek key fret, lion masks and caryatids. Abramson writes that Soane 'implicitly bowed to his critics'. At the Bank Stock Office Soane had reduced and made abstract decorative mouldings for an appropriately sober commercial character with the virtues of simplicity. However, while the hall had a commercial function, it also had an aesthetic and monumental role too. Hence Soane elaborated the decorative scheme at the Consols Transfer Office.
Unfortunately the hall was destroyed during the rebuilding of the Bank by Sir Herbert Baker between 1924 and 1939. For photographic views of the Consols Transfer Office as executed see D. Stroud, The architecture of Sir John Soane, 1961 p. 68, ill. 70, and 'The Bank of England', in Architectural monographs: John Soane, 1983, p. 71, ill. 18-19.
An interior view of the Office is in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The drawing shows low benches along the walls and four stoves.
Literature. A. T. Bolton, The Works of Sir John Soane, 1924, pp. 28-68; P. du Prey, Sir John Soane, 1985, in series of 'Catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum', catalogue 146; Dunster & F. Russel (eds), 'The Bank of England', in Architectural monographs: John Soane, 1983, pp. 61-7; E. Schumann-Bacia, John Soane and the Bank of England, 1991; D. Abramson, Money's architecture: The building of the Bank of England, 1731-1833, doctoral thesis for the Department of Fine Arts, Harvard University, 1993; Buildings in progress: Soane's views of construction, an exhibition catalogue for the Soane Museum, 1995; M. Richardson & M. Stevens (eds), John Soane architect: master of space and light, Royal Academy of Arts, 1999; D. Abramson, Building the Bank of England: money, architecture, society 1694-1942, 2005
Emma Smith, August 2010
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 Consols Transfer Office, 1797-1799 (75)
- Preliminary working drawings for central dome with groin-vaulted end-bays, side aisles and eastern recess, showing clerestory lunettes, segmental arches and panelled pilasters, October 1797-January 1798 (2)
- Preliminary designs for the cellar, one dated 16 May 1798 (3)
- Preliminary working drawings for the arches and piers, July-November 1798 (3)
- Working drawing of final plan, 7 February 1799
- Working drawings of sections based on the plan of drawing 9, 7 February 1799 (7)
- Working drawings for the roof and vaulting, at different levels, 25 July 1798-7 February 1799 (6)
- Designs for lantern dome, one dated 29 April 1799 (3)
- Designs for lantern to the central dome, 1799 (2)
- Working and record drawings of decorative details for pilaster, mouldings of capital and cornice, and part of groin arch soffit, one dated 23 August 1799 (9)
- Working drawings for decorative mouldings of arches, August-October 1799 (7)
- Working and record drawings for decorative panels on soffit of side-aisle arches, one dated 29 August 1799 (3)
- Working and record drawings for soffit decoration of two trunk arches, September 1799 (7)
- Working drawings for door and windows, one dated 26 October 1799 (2)
- Working drawings for three-storey hall, with cellar, ground floor and attic, one dated 15 November 1799 (2)
- Working drawings for preliminary alternative designs of the stove, in Soane's hand, November 1799 (6)
- Working drawing for recess at the east end, 30 October 1799
- Site progress and record drawings, one dated 28 April 1799 (4)
- Record and presentation drawings, one dated 16 May 1799 (9)