Praed wrote to Soane that ‘we have much to talk over before the first of Jany when I expect to find myself in the character of a London Banker seated in full form in the most elegant and convenient House in the City of London’. Elegance and convenience were certainly two of Soane’s primary concerns. The façade was ornamented with arched openings, pilasters, hood moulds with Greek key stops, Greek fret friezes and a balustrade with a scrolled acroterion and antefixes. Unusually for the time there was no external separation between the bank on the ground floor and the domestic accommodation on the upper floors of the house. Soane also took great care over the plan. Rather than having a central entrance, Soane placed the entrance to Praed’s bank to the right, which enabled him to place the desks at a right angle to the windows, improving lighting for the clerks. The plan also enabled Soane to separate the bank from the domestic apartments that were accessed by a staircase at the end of the entrance hall (Black, op. cit., p. 49).
Praed’s bank is significant in that it provided the model for many of Soane’s later town houses in the treatment of the façade and in the manipulation of irregular sites through the use of curved walls and top-lighting (Dean, op. cit., p. 162). Lord Buckingham is named on several of the drawings catalogued here (e.g. ,  and ), although the nature and extent of his input is not known. He did forge the initial link between Soane and Praed (q.v. Tyringham) and was involved in Praed's business interests. The bank building was demolished in 1923. The site is now occupied by Coutts & Co. (Anderson, Forster & Wilcox, 1963-67) but Soane’s rear retaining walls survive and can still be seen from Clifford’s Inn Passage (Pevsner, op. cit., pp. 501-2).
J. Booker, Temples of Mammon: The Architecture of Banking, 1990, pp. 1-36; D. Stroud, Sir John Soane, Architect, 1996, p. 182; S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 1: The City of London, 1997, pp. 501-2; I. Black, 'Private banking in London's West End, 1750-1830', London Journal, 28, 1, 2003, pp. 29-59; P. Dean, Sir John Soane and London, 2006, pp. 23 & 162.
Tom Drysdale, March 2015
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 London: 90 Fleet Street, City of London: new banking house for William Praed, 1801 (59)
- Surveys and preliminary designs, June-July 1801 (18)
- Alterations to the approved design, July 1801 (4)
- Designs for the front and rear elevations, July-August 1801 (7)
- Designs for the one pair floor, chamber floor, roof and partitions, August-September 1801 (7)
- John Soane junior (1823-1848) [grandson], Sketchbook containing early studies in perspective, w/m: J. Whatman/1837. Marbled boards, leather spine (270 x 375)
- Designs and working drawings for chimneypieces, May 1802 (3)
- Designs for offices at the rear of the site, February 1812 (8)