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image SM (51) 36/4/40

Reference number

SM (51) 36/4/40


[51] Design A, December 1794


51 Plan of ground floor 'from which the estimate / was made'


bar scale (pricked for transfer and feint pencil) of 1/13 inch to 1 foot


DESIGN A ... / from which the estimate / was made, rooms labelled: Arcade, The / Court of Parliament, Waiting Room, Attendants / on the / Lords, Vestibule, Closet, The / Earl Marshall, Conference Room [i.e. Painted Chamber], Council / attending / the House, Attendants / on the Prince, Robing Room / for / the Prince of Wales, The Bishops, The Archbishops, Lobby / of the / House of Lords, Anti / Room, Witness / attending / the House, Entrance / for his / Majesty, The House of Lords, Serjeant / at Arms, Lobby, Anti Room / for Attendants, Robing Room for / The Duke of Glocester / and the rest / of the Royal Family, Black / Rod, Anti Room / for Attendants, Doorkeeper (twice), Robing Room / for / His Majesty, Anti Room / for Attendants, Water / Closets (four times), The Lord Chancellor, Court (twice), Clerks Room, The / Lord Chamberlain, Assistant Clerk / of Parliament, Clerk of Parliament, Committee Room (twice), Witnesses and dimensions given

Signed and dated

  • December M.DCC.XCIV

Medium and dimensions

Pen, black, pale sepia, blue and pink washes, pricked for transfer on cream coloured laid paper (644 x 458)


? Frederick Meyer (1775-?, pupil April 1791-1796)


J Whatman


The drawing programme must have been tight and a standard method of presentation with quadruple-ruled borders for the larger (say 1250 x 680) as well as the smaller sheets (460 x 280) with drawings made to 1/7, 1/10 or 1/15 inch to a foot was employed. The existing office Day Book (from October 1794) shows Meyer and Jeans working six days a week on producing drawings probably in a rather production line sort of way since more than one copy would have been made of each of the designs that Soane wished to show to the House of Lords committe and others. It is possible that one of them specialised in lettering the drawings while another might add the washes and borders.

Of the 51 plans for the ground floor, drawing 51, dated December 1794, was the drawing from which 'the estimate was made' so that it may be considered as the last in this series. The format reverts to that of earlier drawings where the sheet is used portrait-wise with the river front at the top of the sheet. The western end of the building in Old Palace Yard has the arcade sited against the length of the Court of Parliament (old Court of Requests) as first seen on drawing 46 though now of seven bays rather than five. The arrangement for the Lords Entrance at the south-west corner consists of an entrance vestibule, waiting room, attendants room, next to a half-turn with landings stair, and broad stepped passage as found on drawing 46. In fact, it is very close to that drawing though the internal layout of the new House of Lords differs. To sum up: the design retains the old House of Lords and four adjacent rooms, the Painted Chamber and the Court of Requests. These form a small part of an overall scheme that provides a slightly larger chamber for the Lords as well as Robing Rooms with attendants' rooms for the King, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Gloucester 'and the rest of the royal family'. Rooms are provided for the Bishops and Archbishops and for various dignitaries including the Earl Marshall, Lord Chancellor and Lord Chamberlain as well as parliamentary officials such as the Clerk of Parliament together with committee and conference rooms. As well as providing accommodation Soane had to work out a plan that, among else, gave convenient access for the Lords and a dignified royal route for the monarch. The Lords entered from Old Palace Yard to the west via a vestibule looking south that gives on to a top-lit corridor that runs almost the entire length of the building to a committee room on the east front facing the river Thames. Near to the Lords' entrance is their Robing Room and also the room for the most senior of the Lords, the Earl Marshall. The King's entrance was on the south side and progressed via a stately hall with three flights of five steps via a right-turn into a lobby and thence to the Robing Room opposite to the entrance of the House of Lords itself. All of this was designed for one visit a year (the occassion of the state opening of parliament) or twice if there was an election. The Robing Rooms for other members of the royal family were nearby and the royal Dukes might attend the Lords as members on other occasions.

In a memorandum dated October 1794 addressed 'To the Right Honorable the Lord Chancellor, and / the rest of the Lords Committees for making the / House of Lords more commodious &c' Soane began with 'Having been honoured with / your Lordships Commands of the 30th of June 1794 ... I have the honour to submit for the Inspec. / tion of your Lordships four different Designs ... The Design marked A / for an entire new House of Lords ... Two designs / marked B and C for converting the Court of / Requests into a House of Lords ... [and] a Design marked D for converting the / Painted Chamber into a house of / Lords. But very much of the same / Inconveniences occur [as with B and C]'.

Although the number of alternative or variant plans seems excessive, Soane's difficulty (other than indecisiveness) was that his designs had to be approved by a number of people. Soane's Statement of Facts respecting the Designs of a New House of Lords, 1799, p. 14, lists these as 'the Lord Chancellor (Loughborough), Lord Grenville, the Prince of Wales, the Dukes of York, Clarence, Gloucester and Leeds, the Marquesses of Buckingham, Lansdowne and Abercorn, the Earls of Hardwicke and Carnarvon and Lord Gwydir, the deputy Lord Great Chamberlain'. Soane also showed his designs to George III on a visit to Windsor that is noted in the office Day Book for Saturday 25 October 1794: 'Mr Soane went to Windsor this afternoon & took No. 7 fair drawings of House of Lords &c with him viz. No 1 Plan, 1 Section, 2 Elevations, 3 Perspective Views'. On Sunday, he returned to Windsor to show the drawings to the King. Soane received useful advice from Sir Peter Burrell (1754-1820, later (1796) Lord Gwydir), the master of ceremonies for the Palace of Westminster. Clearly, considerable tact was called for when designing a building where tradition and protocol were paramount. Soane's office Day Book for 10 December 1794 has his comments in red pen and crossed out viz. 'House of Lords / With 'Lord Grenville / Breakfast with him / approved very much' and 'With Lord Lansdown / disapproved of the Idea / entirely'.

Soane's estimate for his design based on drawing 51 was five years and £154,000 (given in SM Private Correspondence XIV.K.6).

S. Sawyer, 'Soane at Westminster', PhD thesis, Columbia University, 1999, p. 180. The final design (a 'synthesis of two planning approaches' taken from 'A1' to 'A6') includes drawing 51.



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