Explore Collections Explore The Collections
You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  Drawings

London: St Giles in the Fields burial ground (now St Pancras Gardens), Camden: Soane monument [the 'Soane Tomb'], 1816, 1828 (47)

1816
This online catalogue of drawings for the Soane monument was written by Jill Lever in March 2010 and is based on Christopher Woodward's typescript catalogue for the Soane Museum (1998).

The first record of design dates from Sunday 11 February 1816, seven weeks after Mrs Soane's death (on 22 November 1815) when Soane wrote in his Note Book 'About Monument'. At that time, there were in Soane's office, an assistant and three pupils: George Bailey (1792-1860) pupil and then assistant, 1806-37, and subsequently Soane Museum curator 1837-60; George Basevi (1794-1845) pupil 1810-16; Charles Tyrrell (1795-1832) pupil 1811-16; Henry Parke (1790-1835) pupil 1814-20. Drawings for or of the monument were made in the office between 13 February and 23 May1816 with three being made in 1828 for the purpose of engraving. Of those catalogued here, two are by an unidentified hand, ten have been attributed to Soane, eighteen to Basevi , eleven to Parke as well as five to Joseph Michael Gandy (1771-1843) an architect, and in the intervals of practice, employed by Soane as a perspectivist; a late drawing was made by C. J. Richardson (1809-71) pupil and assistant 1824-37. Tyrrell was (according to the office Day Book) making drawings but none have been attributed to him and presumably, these did not survive. The other work of the office fell to George Bailey and Charles Tyrrell. Basevi stayed in the office several months beyond the expiry of his articles in order to assist in the monument project, and his loyalty to Soane is shown in a letter of July 1816 (A.T. Bolton, Portrait of Sir John Soane, 1923, p.221) in which he refused with thanks the extra £25 Soane had offered in return. Probably the most successful of Soane's pupils, after a three-year tour of Italy and Greece, Basevi set up practice in London and, among other works, designed the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, completed after his death (while inspecting the western tower of Ely Cathedral, he fell through the belfry floor) by C. R. Cockerell.

In a series of evolving designs for the tomb, elements and details were added and then, often, removed. At the heart of the monument is the four-sided aedicule executed in Carrara marble. An aedicule is a surround to a door, window or niche consisting of columns or pilasters supporting a pediment. Soane had designed a wall monument in the form of a conventional aedicule for his friend and patron Lord Bridport, sending a presentation design dated 6 February 1816 to Lady Bridport. The form, Ionic order and pediment with a scroll on either side was adapted by Soane for the four identical faces of a double-cube aedicule that was placed within a Portland stone canopy consisting of a monolithic, shallow dome on four piers. The design of this dome had its origin in George Dance's Council Chamber at the London Guildhall, 1777-78, and became the leitmotif of Soane's style, used for a ceiling or a skylight, a finial or a clock case. The forms of the quadruple aedicule and domed canopy scarcely changed at all though an initial indication of an oculus to the dome was soon superseded by a strigilated 'drum' embraced by an ouroboros and with a pineapple terminal. The ouroboros or encircling serpent motif had been used by George Dance in c. 1785 for an unidentfied mausoleum (SM D3/7/17). All was enclosed by a balustrade carved with a stylized Roman tile ornament, a T-motif or 'drop' as well as semicircular acroteria; the Coade stone balusters were the only off-the-peg element in a complex design.

The most problematic part of the design was the access to the vault via a stair and through a gateway. This last, after several re-designs in which the arched gateway became square-headed then reduced to twin pedestals, was eventually discarded altogether. It is not certain whether the stair to the vault was built and since removed or never built.

The epitaph to Elizabeth Soane, placed on the west sideof the aedicule reads: 'Sacred / to the memory of / ELIZABETH / the wife of John Soane, architect. / She died the 22d November, 1815. / With distinguished talents she united an amiable / and affectionate heart. / Her piety was unaffected, her integrity undeviating. / Her manners displayed alike decision and energy / kindness, and suavity. / These, the peculiar characteristics of her mind, / remained untainted by an extensive intercourse / with the world. // Stranger - // If Virtue oe'r thy Bosom bear Control; / If thine the gen'rous, thine th' exalted Soul; Stranger, approach - this consecrated Earth / Demands thy Tribute to departed Worth: / Beneath this Tomb thy kindred Spirit sleeps, / Here Friendship signs - here fond Affection weeps - / Here to the Dust Life's dearest Charm resign'd, / Leaves but the Dregs of ling'ring Time behind: / Yet one bright Ray to light the Grave is giv'n, / The Virtuous die not - they survive in Heav'n.' These words were written by Mrs Barbara Hofland, Soane's close friend.

Soane died in 1837 and was interred in the vault. His epitaph, on the principal, front of the aedicule reads: 'IN THIS VAULT / are deposited the remains of / Sir John Soane / R.A. F.R.S. / Architect to the Bank of England / &c. &c. &c. / who departed this life / on the 20th of January 1837 / Aged 84 Years’. Soane's elder son John who died aged 37 of tuberculosis in 1823 was also laid to rest there though his estranged brother George was not admitted to the family tomb.
The canopy with its shallow dome on four piers of the Soane tomb was probably the inspiration for Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s 1924 design for the K2 telephone box. Scott was a trustee of the Soane Museum at the time and would have been familiar with Soane's use of the canopy form for ceilings, cappings and clocks for his house at 14 Lincoln's Inn Fields. The Soane tomb is one of the only two tombs in London to be listed Grade I. It suffered from vandalism from the mid-19th century and was restored by the Soane Monuments Trust in 1990 only to be vandalised once again. However, it has again been restored (by Camden Council) and is now safely within a railed enclosure.

A model of the Soane monument (SM L78), made in 1816, is on the west side of the Dining Room/Library of 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields (Sir John Soane's Museum).

Literature:
J. Summerson, 'Sir John Soane and the furniture of death', pp.135-7, The Unromantic castle and other essays, 1990; M. Hall, 'Mending monuments', Country Life, 14 June 1990, pp.302-3; D.Stroud, Sir John Soane, architect, 2nd edition, 1996, pp.100-102, 114-5; G. Waterfield (ed), 'Soane family tomb', pp.106-110, in Soane and death, 1996; B. Cherry and N. Pevsner, London 4: North, 1998, p.348; R. Bowdler and C. Woodward, '"An Ornamental Structure and Very Likely to be Damaged... ": Sir John Soane's tomb in St Pancras Gardens, London', pp. 246-62, Architectural History, volume 42, 1999
Previous  1 2  Next
Architectural & Other Drawings results view
Select list view result
Select thumbnail view result
Previous  1 2  Next
Architectural & Other Drawings results view
Select list view result
Select thumbnail view result