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Shotesham Park, Norfolk: (executed) house for Robert Fellowes, 1785-1790 (34)

1785
Shotesham was an important commission for Soane. It was only the second time that he had been asked to design an entire house and its offices rather than making alterations and additions to an existing one (Letton Hall, Norfolk, q.v., was the first). It may explain why he produced a number of different designs though a demanding client is perhaps another reason. Unusually, some of these not-as-executed designs occur towards the end of the building phase and are probably connected with the publication of Soane’s Plans, elevations and sections of buildings erected in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk…, 1788 (1789). The book has three plates with different or varying designs for Shotesham, only one (plate 1, plan) of which is an executed design. Among the drawings catalogued here nearly half are for unexecuted designs.

Soane's Journal No 1 records that he made his first visit to site on 26 September 1784, and in October 1785 'Nine Drawings of House & Offices' were sent. Possibly those were drawings 1-9 catalogued here. Three of these drawings are variant designs for the principal two-storey elevation. The plan is a rectangle with a projecting short west wing and a longer east wing that includes some of the domestic offices. Drawing 10 is a five-bay revision of the seven-bay east front of drawing 5 suggesting a revised plan for the house though without the attic storey that was eventually added. Then follow undated alternative or variant designs (drawings 11-13) of which drawing 11 has a rectangular plan with an ‘Arcade leading to the Kitchen Offices’ while drawing 12 has the square U-plan of the adopted design though with a circular stair and superfluous porticos to the side elevations that relates it to plate 2 of Soane’s published designs. Drawing 13 has a square U-plan while the elevation shows an attic storey with (unexecuted) dormer windows. Drawings 18 and 19 are variant designs for a five-bay or seven-bay house with pavilions close to plate 2 of Soane’s Plans, elevations and sections…, 1788 (1789). Drawing 20 is close to the executed design and to plate 1 of Soane’s publication; the design of the heads to the door and windows of the entrance elevation varies both in drawings 20 and again in plate 1; the executed design was much the best solution.

Soane’s Journal No1 records drawings sent from 1785 to 1789; the measuring of mason’s and plasterer’s work is recorded in Journal No2 (1792), alterations to the existing library are mentioned in entries for 1792-3. On 23 January 1794, £310 was ‘Recd in full for all demands’ and that must have marked the completion of Soane’s work at Shotesham. In 1999, Ptolemy Dean wrote that Shottesham was 'One of Soane's best preserved and most complete estates' (op.cit. p.171).

Soane largely re-used his design for the principal elevation of Shotesham for the re-facing (in stone) of Piercefield, a country house in Gwent (q.v.). Soane was not diffident about re-using his designs whether for mouldings, cornices, windows or, as here, a whole façade.

There are 88 drawings for Shotesham Park from Soane, dated November 1784 to October 1792 (FEL 1115) in the Norfolk Record Office, Martineau Lane, Norwich NR1 2DQ (http://archives.norfolk.gov.uk).

Literature D.Watkin, ‘Shotesham Park, Norfolk’, Country Life, 10 August 1967, pp.312-6; P.du Prey, Sir John Soane, 1985, in series of 'Catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum', catalogue 100-101, pp.52-3; D. Stroud, Sir John Soane architect, 2nd ed., 1996, pp.129-30; P. Dean, Sir John Soane and the country house, 1999, pp.171-2.

Jill Lever, May-June 2011
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