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Wardour Castle, Wiltshire: (executed) extension to a chapel for 8th Lord Arundell of Wardour, 1788 (30)

1788
Soane built an addition to the chapel for Lord Arundell, 8th Baron of Wardour from 1788 to 1790. The private chapel is part of Wardour Castle, a house designed by James Paine, 1770-76. Soane greatly admired Paine's architecture at Wardour, including the house in his Royal Academy Lectures decades later (in Lecture IIX, he praised the staircase and made an example of the principal entrance). His addition in the chapel was comprised of a new sanctuary covered with an oval vaulted ceiling and flanked by shallow-apsed transepts with galleries overhead. Though the addition has a distinct design, it is respectful of its setting, having the same mouldings, orders and gallery designs as Paine’s existing building.

Soane was probably introduced to Lord Arundell by Edward Foxhall (1756-1815), a carver and fellow pupil at the Royal Academy. Soane made designs for a window at Wardour Castle in May 1786 (Ledger A) but these alterations were apparently not executed. In April 1788, he visited the house in preparation for designing an addition at the chapel’s west end (the ritual east end). Variant designs were made in April. In May, a model of the proposed chapel ceiling, with ornaments drawn on, was built and sent to the client (Journal No 1). The design was apparently approved at this point, as working drawings for the roof were made in September 1788. Drawings for the finishings were made from January to December 1789, indicating the completion of the building. Lord Arundell was delayed in his payments to Soane, as a letter from 1795 attests (Letter Book 1793-95).

Soane also made designs for Lady Arundell’s cabinet ceiling, but these appear to have been unexecuted.

The altar was made for the original chapel by sculptor and architect Giacomo Quarenghi (1744-1817), imported from Rome and installed in the original chapel in 1776.

Originally a private chapel for a Roman Catholic patron, the building now serves as the local Catholic church. The house was used as a girls’ school from 1960 until 1990 when it was bought by a developer and divided into ten apartments. Wardour Castle was described by Pevsner as the 'largest Georgian house in Wiltshire' (Pevsner, pp. 551-554) and John Summerson considered it to be Paine's 'finest house' (J. Summerson, p.371).

A drawing of the chapel at Wardour Castle by Soane's office is at the Victoria and Albert Museum drawings collection, London, showing a view of the chapel interior. The drawing does not correspond with the design of the executed building.

Literature: N. Pevsner and B. Cherry, The Buildings of England: Wiltshire,1975, pp. 551-554; J. Summerson, Architecture in Britain 1530-1830, 1983, p. 371; P. du Prey, Sir John Soane, 1985, in series of 'Catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum', catalogue 139; D. Watkin, Sir John Soane: the Royal Academy lectures, Cambridge, 2000, pp. 602, 608, 619, 621.

Madeleine Helmer, 2011
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