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image M611

Model for the New State Paper Office, St James's Park, London, angle, designed by Sir John Soane

Wood and plaster

Museum number: M611

Curatorial note

The design of the New State Paper Office was another of Soane’s schemes for the Office of Works and, like the others, was characterized by the interference of those in authority. Mr Goulburn was the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he it was who dismissed Soane’s original, submitted design (June 1829) in favour of one of his own. His wishes were communicated to Soane through George Bailey and are recorded on the inscription to drawing 82/1/21: ‘On the 22nd September 1829,…, Mr Bailey received a note from Mr Seward requesting him to call at the Office of Works on the 23rd as Mr Seward had something to communicate relating to the New State Paper Office… Mr B attended accordingly when Mr Seward produced the Design which Mr Soane had sent to the Office of Works a short time previously to his leaving Town, on which had been made sundry memoranda & sketches in pencil as shewn on this Drawing.

Mr Seward then stated that the Surveyor General had yesterday had an interview with Goulburn at the Treasury, the result of which would be seen by an inspection of the Drawings and further said that Mr G. disapproved of the Rusticated Quoins shewn in Mr Soane’s Design and wished the Elevation to be altered agreeably to the Pencil Sketch.

The design so altered was sent to the Office of Works 19 Nov 1829.’ Mr Goulburn’s alternative design featured a double row of pilasters and no rustication to the upper storeys. Although officially ‘approved’ on 24th June 1830, Soane, who disliked the design, continued to work on his own and, for reasons still obscure, eventually succeeded in having Goulburn’s design dropped and his own executed.

The two models M611 and M253 are studies for the rusticated outer bays of Soane’s State Paper Office. Neither shows the building as executed. Bailey specifies in his 1837 Inventory that M253 is the ‘Model of a Design for the North West angle of the New State Paper Office in St James’s Park.’ Although no drawings relate specifically to the models, some illustrate elements of the designs and serve as guides in dating.

Soane used the models to examine the effects of the rustication and to experiment with the decoration of the façade, particularly the treatment of the windows. In his earliest designs the basement was given banded rustication (see 82/1/39 dated May 1829, and 82/1/23 dated June 1829). By mid-1830, however, he was contrasting and defining the different storeys by applying vermiculated rustication to the basement, and banded rustication or rustication with Vignolan quoins to the floors above. This comes across clearly in model M611.

Both model M611 and M253 are unlikely to pre-date April 1830, if only because both have the windows to the attic storey inserted in the cornice metopes, a feature that does not appear in drawings until 24th April 1830 (82/1/44).

Another individual to ‘contribute’ to the design of the State Paper Office was Mr Henry Bankes, a Member of Parliament who had already distinguished himself by complaining loudly and to devastating effect about Soane’s Law Courts and his work elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster. On this occasion there was greater sympathy between the two men: Bankes seems to have approved of Soane’s design (and not Mr Goulburn’s) with its rusticated outer bays (see 82/1/41 Elevation altered as suggested by Mr Bankes, dated 31 May 1830), but he wanted the ceiling of the low attic storey raised.

Drawing 82/1/43, dated Friday 21 May 1830, has two half elevations contrasting the height of Soane’s Original design with the height proposed by Mr Bankes. The attic storey is lit by windows placed below the cornice. Drawing 82/1/42, dated 2nd June 1830, is a copy of a drawing sent To / The Right Hon Henry Goulburn showing the Attic raised from 8 foot to 11 foot 9 to meet Mr Bankes’ suggestion. Here the windows appear in the metopes. This was the design finally settled upon by Soane, probably because he wanted to limit the height of the building following the raising of the attic ceiling. Drawing 82/1/44, however, shows that Soane had considered placing the windows in the cornice when the attic was still only 9 foot high (i.e. Before Henry Bankes intervened?)

The decorative panel with swag beneath the first floor window on model 253 M, only appears in one drawing and that is unfortunately not dated. Drawing 82/1/58, although it differs in other respects, has windows given the same decorative treatment as the model (brackets to ground and first floor windows, panel with swags and Greek Key motif).

Neither model has the Greek fret frieze that featured on many designs, placed variously beneath the cornice or between the basement and ground floors. The frieze over the basement eventually evolved into the panels decorated with the Greek key motif seen on model M253, and on the executed design. The undated 82/1/58 aside, the first drawings to show these panels are those in the set of May 1831 that illustrate the State Paper Office almost exactly as executed. They almost certainly post-date these two models.

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