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Saxlingham Rectory, Norfolk: (executed) house for the Revd John Gooch, 1784-1787 (33)

1784
Saxlingham Rectory is one of Soane's finest early works. The budget was tight - Soane estimated the building costs at £2,500 (SM Ledger A p.32), kept low by the re-use of building materials from the demolished old Rectory and of local white brick. The new Rectory has the repeated themes of Soane's architecture - 'the first is symmetry which, when combined with axis, created vistas through buildings and determined internal planning. Coupled with symmetry was Soane's deeply felt conviction about light and shade' (from Ptolemy Dean's article, op.cit., p. 68).

Soane made at least four alternative designs (drawings 1-8) before he reached a conclusion (drawings 10-14). The finished design has an inevitability about it that comes when plan and elevations are completely resolved.

The kitchen and stables wings were not built. Shown in the earlier alternative designs (drawings 1-8, 11) they were probably too expensive nor were the last designs (drawings 20-21), made a year later in April 1785, executed. Something like the kitchen added by Soane to drawing 12 was built, enlarged in the nineteenth century and replaced in 1975 by a new addition. Of the chimney-pieces designed by Soane, that for the eating room has survived.

Two alternative plans and elevations were published in Soane's Plans, elevations and sections of buildings erected in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, 1788 (1789), plates 41-42. Plate 41 is close to drawing 11, the plan reversed as instructed on the drawing, so that, for example, the stair is on the right-hand side, the stables on the left instead of right. Plate 42 is close to drawings 4 and 5 (Design No.3) except that, for example, the office wings are omitted.

There are references to Saxlingham Rectory in Soane's office Bill Book 1, Journals 1 and 3, Account Book 1781, Ledger A, Day Book 1792, Letter Book 1797-1801, Private Correspondence I.G.14 as well as in his Note Books. MS indexes to the Note Books, Bill Books and Journals are currently only available for study at the Soane Museum. There are plans to put these online.

Literature: P. du Prey, John Soane: the making of an architect, 1982, pp.288-90, 293-5; D. Stroud, Sir John Soane architect, 2nd ed., 1996, pp.124, 126,242; P. Dean, Sir John Soane and the country estate, 1999, p.169; P.Dean, 'Soane: the pragmatic architect', pp.68, 69, P.Dean, 'Early practice: country houses and the primitive', pp114, 116-7, 121 in M.Richardson and M.Stevens (eds), John Soane architect: master of space and light, 1999
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