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Preliminary designs for Pitzhanger Manor, villas A to G, c. August - c. November 1800 (31)

Soane visited Pitzhanger Manor on 21 July 1800 and began negotiations for the site less than a month later on 1 August. Most of the drawings within this section post-date Soane’s final purchase in September. However, Drawing 73 is dated to 2 July, presumably shortly after Soane heard that Pitzhanger was for sale.

The preliminary drawings for Pitzhanger first expand on the surveys of the earlier sub-section. Soane consulted John Haverfield of Kew (with whom he had worked on earlier projects) very early on the designs and layout of the Pitzhanger grounds (11 July 1800). The first drawings experiment with the position of the house (looking very similar in plan to the final designs for a villa at Acton) and show Soane contemplating the complete demolition of the old house in order to have a free rein over the position, size and form of the new house. The following five designs (drawings 68 to 72) are also very similar to the last designs for Acton. The first seven designs (drawings 66 to 72) then, show a separate and symmetrical villa with no attached Dance wing to hinder construction. Drawing 71 is the first to show an elevation of Soane’s proposed new house with the old Dance wing attached. Although it may not have been an ideal solution to retain the Dance wing in Soane’s eyes, he himself declared in his Plans, Elevations and Perspective Views that ‘I was naturally attached to this part of the building, it being the first whose progress and construction I had attended at the commencement of my architectural studies in Mr. Dance’s office.’

The designs follow through a number of stages, most interestingly two designs for a villa attached to the old Dance wing, with turrets and two designs for a brick house with flint piers, similar to the gated entrance and also to Soane’s work at Betchworth Castle. The lawn front is shown in drawings 84 and 85 with four columns surmounted by figurative statues. However, Soane seems to have changed his mind and decided that this columned facade was more appropriate for the entrance front, shown in drawing 89. From drawing 94 onwards the designs begin to bear a much closer resemblance to Pitzhanger as it was built.

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

Matilda Burn 2010
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