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Site Surveys, 1820-23 (9)

Architectural Note:-
The context for the whole site is discussed below, with specific details considered under the respective ranges.

Drawings Note:-
Four drawings in this set, and those catalogued under their respective ranges, represent the surveys taken from September-October 1822 by John Hiort. The Day Book entries for this period make clear that it was his responsibility to survey the existing buildings, while Soane’s office prioritised completing drawings for the King’s Entrance to the House of Lords. The reasons for delegating this to Hiort are suggested by Soane’s Day Book entry on 3 September 1822, recording a meeting with Mr Lee with the sardonic note: it is not his business to take plans (SM Day Books). This is presumably Adam Lee, Labourer in Trust for Palace of Westminster from 1815-32.

Of the relevant Day Book entries for September-October 1822, those for Hiort demonstrate a focus upon the extant Law Court buildings at Westminster, rather than upon design drawings. The earliest entry is 4 September 1822, when Hiort was Taking Plan & Sections at West[minste]r (SM Day Books). He appears frequently in entries to 19 October 1822, when Hiort is Laying down plan of [the] Sessions House [Westminster] (SM Day Books). Though the Day Book entries are not always specific enough for direct correlation with the survey drawings to be established, it is clear that Hiort systematically recorded the existing buildings.

The surviving drawings demonstrate that Hiort was an accomplished draughtsman, able to produce meticulous drawings to a scale of 1/18 inch to 1 foot, covering large areas of the site (e.g. SM 53/1/9). These contrast with less worked-up plans, usually to a scale of 1/8 inch to 1 foot, which presumably pre-date the latter drawings and served as the intermediate stage between preliminary on-site drawing and highly-finished drawings (e.g. SM 37/3/7).

Three drawings in the set belong to the second phase of recording the existing Law Courts and their offices, primarily undertaken by Arthur Mee. These begin on 11 March 1823, when Mee was Making sketches of the Courts at Westminster (SM Day Books) with subsequent entries records in the Day Books distinguishing his work as focussed upon the existing buildings, and not the New Law Courts. This continued until 26 April 1823, when Mee was Finishing sketches made at Westminster (SM Day Books). Very intermittently, Mee was assisted in his task by David Mocatta, and the relevant Day Book entries seldom specify exactly which part of the extant complex Mee surveyed on any given day.

These three drawings are in Mee's characteristic and competent hand, drawn in pen over preliminary pencil. Washes are distinctively lightly applied in pale pink (for walls) and light blue (for open areas). They are all to a rough scale and no scale bar is indicated, but respective dimensions are consistently recorded in minute detail.
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