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Gated entrance, c. 1800 - December 1801 (23)

The entrance to Pitzhanger Manor originally lay directly opposite the entrance facade, to the east of the house. Soane re-positioned it, in order that the house would be approached from an angle, via a sweeping drive lined with shrubs and trees, giving the visitor the most picturesque view.

The first six rough drawings are in Soane’s hand and began with a design for a simple central gate flanked by piers capped by four-sided pediments. The design gained smaller side gates, and eventually the triangular pediments became segmental pedimented canopy dome caps, and a scrolled acroterion enclosing a wreathed eagle relief was added above the arch.

The construction of the gated entrance was particularly utilitarian as Soane used the rubble from the demolition of old Pitzhanger Manor, mixed with a cement-like substance to create the basic form of the gate arch. This was then faced with brick and flint piers.

Two particular motifs used on the gated entrance were to be used again by Soane in the designs for the rest of the house: the scrolled acroterion and the canopy dome cap. The canopy dome caps, John Summerson suggests, are reminiscent of funereal furniture, resembling the lids of Antique cinerary urns. Indeed, the canopy dome is a form that Soane used on a larger scale later on, for the Soane monument at St Pancras Gardens. The scrolled acroterion, as has already been mentioned, had both a Classical source and reflected work at the Bank of England as well as suggesting a funereal atmosphere.

As it stands today, the gated entrance is a partly restored (during the 1980s) and partly original structure. The ground around it had to be excavated, having risen around the base of the piers. The pine-cone finials that can be seen today are based on conjecture. Some of the designs within this section show a similar finial but the C.J. Richardson watercolours of the 1830s show caps surmounted by vase finials. This later representation may have been part of Soane’s theoretical re-design of his former house. The driveway leading from the arch to the house was reinstated according to the plans in the 1980s.

Virginia Brilliant's TS Pitzhanger catalogue has been instumental to the creation of this catalogue.

Matilda Burn 2010
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