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image M1481

Model for the Bank of England, London, Old £5 Note, or Public Drawing, Office, designed by Sir John Soane, c.1804-5

Painted wood

Height: 46cm
Width: 36cm
Depth: 80cm

Museum number: M1481

Curatorial note

This model and models M1366, MP224 and MP226 belong to an area of the Bank that was developed between 1803 and 1804. Their designs evolved almost simultaneously and to some extent affected each other. The Prince’s Street or Doric Vestibule gave access to the loggia of the Governor’s Court and the £5 Note Office. The Governor’s Court occupied the south side of the £5 Note Office.

In the Bank folios the £5 Note office is called the ‘Accountants Office’. It was later to be known as the Public Drawing Office. Model 1484 M was made to show the office’s interior: the viewer looks through the open east end, down the length of the hall to the openings leading to the recess at the west (or Prince’s Street) end. The exterior of the £5 Note Office was masked to the south by the loggia to the Governor’s Court, while the northern elevation gave only onto a well-yard and was consequently kept plain.

The model does not show the office as executed. In the executed design the east wall featured Ionic pilasters paired with Ionic ¾ columns; not the Doric pilasters and Ionic ¾ columns of the model. The arch with thermal window above was used, but the 3 round-headed windows over disappeared. An alternative light source was provided by 3 windows inserted in the coffering of the barrel vault.

The earliest drawings to show the orders as they appear on the model are dated April 16th 1803 and April 30th 1803 (Folio XIII ff 42 and 43). They differ materially from the model however, in that Soane was proposing to give the office a flat ceiling. The shallow barrel vault is first roughly sketched in in Folio XII f 16, dated May 17 1803. The model’s combination of Doric and Ionic reappears in a drawing of July 1803 (Folio XII f 42) where the orders are intended to mirror those on the west front of the Governor’s Court. The use of the Ionic order alone – as finally executed- makes its appearance by Octr 2nd 1803 (Folio XII f 55).

The elevation of the south wall of the £5 Note Office was affected by developments in the design of the loggia of the Governor’s Court. The tall, round-headed windows – identical to those of the north elevation – could only be introduced once the loggia had increased in height from one to two storeys. This seems to have occurred in September 1803. This and the evidence above suggests that the model too dates from September of that year, although it is clear from Soane’s Notebooks that the final design for the office was not settled until August 1804. The entry for August 6th reads: ‘Drawing end of Accts Office’.

Exhibition history

John Soane Architect: Master of Space and Light, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 11 September - 3 December 1999; Centro Palladio, Vicenza, April - August 2000; Hôtel de Rohan, Paris, January - April 2001; Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, 16 May - 3 September 2001; Real Academia des Bellas Artes, Madrid, October - December 2001


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk