- The drawings from the office of Sir John Soane
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The main renovation took place in the passage itself. Abramson writes that this short tight corridor is, in effect, 'a miniaturization and intensification of the Long Passage' (1805-06) from the Princes Street entrance to the Pay Hall at the Bank of England. The Long Passage was a dramatic sequence of distinctly defined bays. The new passage was little more than ten yards in length, including the diagonal turn into the Rotunda, and consisted of five distinct bays of layered domes and barrel vaults separated by the placement of Ionic columns and arches. Above the oculi of the pendentive domes were lantern domes which cast light down into the passage. This created a lumière mystérieuse effect with the contrast of the brightly top-lit domed bays and shadows of the barrel vaults.
Soane achieved a 'picturesque' quality with the use of elegant decorative features such as the free-standing fluted columns with egg and dart moulding below Ionic capitals and full entablature, caduceus motifs and acanthus, Vitruvian scroll and bead moulding. The previous decorative scheme for the vestibule was more elaborate with a dentilled cornice and lion masks.
The bulk of the drawings are found in three octavo sketchbooks inscribed; volume 70 Sketches of the New Entrance / to the Rotunda at the Bank / from the Pay Hall Court / made during the progress of / the Works in the year 1814-15, volume 45 with ... Bank Passge to Rotunda... 1815 and volume 46 Bank of England / 1815-16, which helps to identify and date the individual drawings. They are predominantly working and progress drawings and would have been used or drawn on site, and the sketchbooks allowed for easy transportation between Soane's office and the Bank. The majority of the building work was done in 1815.
Unfortunately the passage was destroyed during the rebuilding of the Bank by Sir Herbert Baker between 1924 and 1939. For photographic views of the passage as executed see H. R. Steele and F. R. Yerbury, The old Bank of England, London, 1930, ill. xxvii-xxix.
Two drawings for the Vestibule are in the Victoria and Albert Museum. One drawing is a detail of a pendentive with a caduceus and two cornucopias on a globe. The other drawing is an internal view showing the central lantern supported by Ionic columns.
Literature: H. R. Steele and F. R. Yerbury, The old Bank of England, London, 1930; P. du Prey, Sir John Soane, 1985, in series of 'Catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum', catalogue 165-166; 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; D. Abramson, Building the Bank of England: money, architecture, society 1694-1942, 2005
Emma Smith, September 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 vestibule and Treasury, 1814-1815 (65)
- Survey drawings of east wing, 1813 (2)
- Preliminary design for remodelling the vestibule into new passage, 26 December 1814
- Working and site progress drawings for the new passage, 23 December 1814 - 4 January 1815 (8)
- Designs and working drawings for the new passage, datable to 1814-1815 (5)
- Working drawings for mouldings of passage, datable to 1815 (2)
- Sections of unlocated mouldings and structural details, datable to 1815 (3)
- Working drawings for decorative details of passage, datable to 1815 (4)
- Site progress drawings of passage, datable to late 1814 (4)
- Site progress drawings of passage, 4 January - 10 January 1815 (5)
- Site progress drawings of passage, January 1815 (4)
- Site progress drawings of passage, 5 April - 17 April 1815 (6)
- Site progress drawings of passage, datable to April 1815 (6)
- Site progress drawings of passage, 28 April 1815 (4)
- Views of the new passage as executed, datable to 1815 (2)
- Designs for the new Treasury, datable to 1815 (5)
- Site progress drawing of the new Treasury, 5 April 1815