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Samuel Smith: unexecuted designs for alterations and additions to a house, 1780-81 (11)

1780-81
Adam’s patron, Samuel Smith is unknown. It is possible that this was Samuel Smith (1755-93) MP for Ilchester in 1780-84, Worcester in 1784-90, and Ludgershall in 1791-93. He was a Turkey merchant; director of the East India Company in 1783-86; and treasurer of the Levant Company in 1790. In 1777, this Samuel Smith married Elizabeth Lockyer, daughter of Thomas Lockyer, which may explain why these designs were commissioned just a few years later.

How Smith came into contact with Adam is not known, but in December 1780 designs were commissioned for a two-storey rustic thatched cottage, with lattice windows and a portico over the door supported by tree-trunk columns. Variant schemes for this cottage were made simultaneously: one scheme (Adam volumes 46/177, 179) had a 40-foot wide façade, while the other scheme (Adam volumes 46/178, 180-181) had a 50-foot wide façade. Each scheme describes alterations and additions to a much smaller building.

Four months later in April 1781, designs for a slightly larger neo-classical house were made for a Mr Smith (Adam volumes 42/102-105). Owing to the close dates, it has previously been assumed that these designs were commissioned for the same Samuel Smith. Here, the designs show a two-storey house with three relieving arches on the ground storey; the central arch containing a tripartite door supporting a fanlight, and surmounted by a tripartite window in the first storey flanked by balustraded windows.

It has previously been suggested that these two rather different designs – the rustic and neo-classical houses for patrons named Smith – are entirely separate commissions for works on separate buildings, but close observation of their plans suggest that these are alternative schemes for alterations to the same building. Each plan makes use of roughly similar proportions and footprint; each contains the same small original structure; and each includes the same rooms in the same locations: on the ground floor of each design there is a central hall and half-turn staircase, flanked by a book room, parlour/dining room, servants' hall and butler's room, and with a kitchen and service amenities in the rear wing; while on the first floor of each design there are numerous bedrooms. It is suggested here that not only was Samuel Smith the patron of both designs, but that he commissioned the rustic design, rejected it, and then soon afterwards commissioned a neo-classical alternative.

The location of this small house is not known. Samuel Smith MP was in possession of houses in the village of Cherington in Gloucestershire, and Putney (then part of Surrey), and it may have been for one of these two properties that the designs were made. However, there is no evidence to confirm this, and the designs are not thought to have been executed.

Literature:
A. T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 57, 87; D. King, The complete works of Robert and James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, pp. 121, 260; Smith, Samuel (1755-93), of Cherington, Glos. And Putney Hill, Surr.’ History of Parliament online

Frances Sands, 2015
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