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Ossington Hall, Nottinghamshire: designs for garden buildings for John Denison 1786 (8)

Signed and dated

  • 1786
    Main Year


In April 1786, Soane provided Denison with designs for a circular temple, a 'prospect room' and lodges. He was not involved in the building programme. Seven drawings, including six presentation drawings and a working drawing, are in the Denison papers. Richard Hewlings surmises that, with the possible exception of the lodges, none of Soane's designs were built (R. Hewlings, p.280).

Ossington was bought by William Denison in 1768 and eventually inherited in 1785 by his nephew, John Wilkinson, later Denison. Immediately upon acquiring the estate, John Denison commissioned designs for various ornamental buildings that would enhance the property and draw the attention of passing travellers (R. Hewlings, p.272).

Soane's temple was probably designed in recognition of an unbuilt design by John Carr, and may even have been intended to stand upon existing foundations of Carr's temple. Initially commissioned by William Denison and subsequently by Ossington’s brief owner and brother to William, Robert Denison, Carr designed a garden temple having a circular plan, two floors and a freestanding Roman Doric colonnade adorned with an Adam-inspired frieze and an urn finial (not unlike Soane’s design). Five designs were produced by Carr for Robert Denison from 1782 to 1786 and the foundations for one of them were laid (G. Worsley, p.190). With the estate’s change of ownership in 1786, however, came a new architectural programme and John Carr’s commissions were dropped in favour of the young John Soane.

In May, Soane was called to Ossington and in July he sent his pupil John Sanders to survey the house and offices. Soane sent four designs for alterations and additions in October, charging 21 guineas. These presentation drawings are in the Denison papers.

Extensive alterations to the house were made by William Lindley in 1788-90 and 1805-6, so Soane's work would have been either immediately demolished or subsumed. Soane charged Denison a total of £77 12s 6d for his drawings and a copy of 'my book'.

Literature: R. Hewlings, 'Soane's Designs for Ossington', Architectural History, vol. 27,1984, pp. 271-80; P. Dean, Sir John Soane and the country estate, 1999, p. 176; G. Worsley, ed., John Carr of York, 2000, pp. 189-90.

Madeleine Helmer, 2011



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Contents of Ossington Hall, Nottinghamshire: designs for garden buildings for John Denison 1786 (8)