- The drawings from the office of Sir John Soane
- Main Year: 0
The Rotunda was originally built by Sir Robert Taylor (1765-68) for the trading of government and Bank stocks. Brokers and jobbers filled the space from eleven until one o'clock each day (according to the Sure Guide for visitors published in 1782). Taylor's building was as wide as it was tall (sixty-one feet). The interior was reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome, with pedimented entrances and semicircular arched alcoves spaced between coupled Corinthian columns, surmounted by a dome with octagonal coffering.
Soane replaced Taylor's coffered and columned 'Pantheon' with an austere, stripped down interior. Soane had measured the Pantheon on his visit to Rome in 1778 and admired the ancient temple's construction, remarking in his Royal Academy Lecture VI, 'The ancient architects, fully impressed with the beauty and importance of domes, constructed them with durable materials and in the most scientific manner'. Soane was fascinated that the Pantheon was still standing after 2,000 years, and it was this admiration of structure that he applied to the Rotunda. The interior omitted virtually all columns and mouldings, aside from incised lines in the plaster, permitting light from the clerestory windows to fill the space. Twelve Coade stone caryatids encircled the lantern at the top of the dome. To heat the large space, 'two very large patent pilosophicc rarefying stoves, extra strong metal with double back and cast feet' were installed (Bank bills, October 1795).
From 1838 the hall was used for cashing dividend warrants. The stockbrokers and jobbers, and the cacophony that accompanied them, were thereby removed from the Bank. In 1830, the dome of the Rotunda was re-covered in lead and the lantern was replaced, at an increased height.
The Rotunda was demolished in the 1920s and 30s, for a new Bank by Herbert Baker. The caryatids from the transfer halls and Rotunda were preserved and reassembled in one hall (Kelly).
There is one undated drawing of the rotunda in the Victoria and Albert Museum, showing an interior view of the hall.
Literature: J. Francis, History of the Bank of England: its times and traditions, vol. 2, 1847, p. 230; A.T. Bolton, The Works of Sir John Soane, 1924, p. 34; H. Rooksby Steele and F.R. Yerbury, The Old Bank of England, London, 1930, pp. 16-19; W. Marston Acres, The Bank of England from within, 1931, p. 196; P. du Prey, Sir John Soane, 1985, in series of 'Catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum', catalogue 172; A. Kelly, Mrs Coade's Stone, 1990, p.86; D. Watkin, Sir John Soane: Enlightenment thought and the Royal Academy lectures, 1996, pp. 566-579; 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. pp. 347-350; J. Lever, Catalogue of the drawings of George Dance the Younger (1741-1825) and George Dance the Elder (1695-1768), 2003, pp. 355-356. cat. . 1-2.
Bank of England Committee for Building Minutes Book, 1764-1803, M5/748
Madeleine Helmer, 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 Rotunda, 1794-95 (30)
- Record drawing and alternative design drawing of the Rotunda (formerly Brokers' Exchange) built by Robert Taylor (2)
- Preliminary designs by George Dance, May 1794 (2)
- Preliminary design for the Rotunda
- Record drawings of designs for the rotunda (3)
- Presentation drawings showing variant designs, May 1797 (3)
- Alternative designs for the interior ornament, one dated 7 July 1795 (3)
- Design for the construction of the dome
- Working drawings for the construction of the dome, with some preliminary details of ornament, one dated 15 July 1795 (2)
- Working drawing
- Working drawings for ornamentation in the Rotunda, one dated 7 September 1795 (3)
- Record drawings (2)
- Record drawings of the interior, one dated 6 July 1798 (2)
- Record drawings by J.M. Gandy of the Volunteers' Dinner in the Rotunda, September 1799 (3)
- Royal Academy exhibition drawing by J. M. Gandy, 1798 (2)