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Norwich, Norfolk: Surrey Street, alterations for Robert Patteson, 1790 (8)

Soane made designs for additions to John Patteson's house on Surrey Street in 1790. The ground floor domestic offices were expanded and a first floor was built over them. In this manner the house was extended to the property's south-western edge, joining the screen wall at the site's periphery. The addition included a dressing room, bedroom, nursery, water closet and a top-lit powdering room on the first floor and communicating with the first floor of the existing building, and a pantry, butler's pantry and altered kitchen on the ground floor.

John Patteson (1755-1833) was a cloth merchant and master weaver living in Norwich. He inherited the family business in 1774, along with this house on Surrey Street from his uncle John Patteson (1727-1774). The town house was built by Robert Mylne in 1764-5. Patteson met Soane as a young man while he was travelling in Italy. The two, together with two other Grand Tourists, travelled through Sicily together in 1779. When they returned, Patteson was one of Soane's early friends who helped him connect with clients and establish his country house practice. Patteson commisisoned Soane for shipping various items from London to Norwich from 1782 to 85, including a hat and music. In January 1782, Soane made alterations to the firm's warehouse on Cloak Lane, Norwich for Patteson's business partner, John Iselin. Iselin also commissioned Soane to design a house in 1788 (q.v. Hethersett). Patteson rose within Norwich politics in the 1780s, being appointed Sherriff of Norwich in 1785 and Mayor in 1788.

The 1790 addition was built for Patteson's growing young family. It was an inconspicuous building at the back of the house. Aside from the impressive new bookcase, the drawings show a more functional than decorative set of rooms. The Norwich textiles trade was not thriving the 1780s; indeed, Patteson purchased a brewery in 1793 with the intention of establishing himself in a more promising industry. Despite this economic uncertainty, Patteson's family was growing and the extra space was needed: he and his wife Elizabeth (née Staniforth, 1760-1838) had five children, at least two by 1790. The house had originally been built in 1764 as a home for a Patteson's uncle John, Patteson's widowed mother Martha Patteson and her two young boys. Soane's addition provided a spacious nursery, an extra water-closet, a more efficient kitchen and an intimate dressing room isolated from the busy household.

The house on Surrey Street before Soane's updates was described in a 1783 letter: 'It is a large brick house which retreats ten yards from the level of the street, and has four large rooms upon a floor. The garden behind is level with the second floor, so that the back rooms of the ground floor are lighted through grates. The library is below stairs, but the drawing-room, with its ante-room, which they commonly sit in, and the dining Room, are above. All these are fitted up in a style which is seldom seen but in the houses of our first nobility.'(The Great Tour of John Patteson, p.17). Patteson's uncle kept three male and six women servants. Situated on a prominent street in Norwich, the house was essential for establishing and maintaining the wealthy merchant family's status.

Soane sent designs for the additions but from his records it appears that he did not oversee the building works. A first set of drawings were sent on 28 April 1790, and more through July and August. Soane's Ledger C records that he charged only £10 6s for the drawings, only enough to cover the clerks' fees. The designs may be seen to reflect this lower level of exertion, as many of the finishings are re-used designs, mainly from Soane's 1790 additions to Bentley Priory (q.v.).

The addition and house still exist. The plasterwork has been stripped and altered but two of Soane's original chimney-pieces remain intact, one corresponding with drawing 7.

Literature: D. Stroud, Sir John Soane Architect, 1984, p. 146; G. Darley, John Soane: an accidental Romantic, 1999, pp. 47, 68; The Great Tour of John Patteson: 1778-79, Norfolk Record Society, Vol. LXVII, 2003, pp. 6, 10, 17-18, 21-28.

Madeleine Helmer, 2012
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