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Royal Entrance and Scala Regia, 1822-23 (68)


Soane's first substantial works to the House of Lords were prompted by the accession of the King, George IV, and his desire for a grander Royal Entrance to the Palace of Westminster. The new entrance was to form the final stage of a processional route for the monarch terminating at the King's Robing Room and was to be followed at the annual State Opening of Parliament. Soane's new additions consisted of an arcaded, curved Royal Entrance from Old Palace Yard and a Scala Regia (Royal Staircase) leading to the Prince's Chamber.

Soane's scheme was submitted to the King with the endorsement of Lord Liverpool and Sir Charles Long and approved in April 1822 at an estimated cost of £8,000. Over the following months the plan was altered and designs were made for turning the Prince's Chamber, old House of Lords and Painted Chamber into a Royal Gallery 'to be decorated with paintings, bassi-relievi and statues to perpetuate the glorious achievements of British valour' (SM 71/2/84). In September a porte-cochère was added to the Royal Entrance at the request of the King. Having commenced on 10 August, work was completed by 5 February 1823 at a total cost of £7232 1s 2d.

The Royal Entrance itself was designed by Soane in a Gothic style matching the medieval exteriors of the Palace of Westminster and James Wyatt's much-derided additions to the House of Lords (1806-12). The Scala Regia, though, was built in a richly-ornamented, Soanean style, with domed and vaulted ceilings, top-lighting and Neoclassical motifs, largely derived from engravings in Desgodetz's Les Édifices Antiques de Rome,1682 (see SM 71/2/44). According to Arthur Bolton (curator, 1917-45), 'The Scala Regia was, perhaps, the best of all Soane's designs, and even if it was possibly somewhat gaudy in detail... it is undoubtedly a fine and characteristic composition', although Sir John Summerson was of the opinion that this - and the Royal Gallery - were 'no advance on his very earliest studies'. In his project of 1794-96, Soane had also made designs for a Scala Regia, although it bore little resemblance to the executed staircase.


See scheme introduction



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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 Royal Entrance and Scala Regia, 1822-23 (68)