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  • image MR41

Model for the Law Courts, London, sectional plan as originally designed, designed by Sir John Soane, made by Thomas and George Martyr, 1827

Mahogany and limewood

Height: 5cm
Width: 67cm
Depth: 87cm

Museum number: MR41

Curatorial note

When the Select Committee of 1824 recommended the demolition of Soane’s original, classical Law Courts and their re-building in the Gothic style on a smaller site, Soane prophesied that the lost space would be missed. He was right and complaints about the accommodation provided by the new courts were made from the moment of completion. Soane was not responsible for the problems caused by the reduced size of the Law Courts and therefore published, in 1828, A Brief Statement of the Proceedings respecting the New Law Courts to clarify the role he had played and protect his professional reputation.

He addressed the ‘Introduction’ to the Right Honourable the Lord Chief Justice of the Court of the King’s Bench and wrote: ‘I am also prepared to shew, by Plans and Models, that all the defects so often complained of, to the annoyance of your Lordship and to the delaying of the business of the Court, may be easily removed…’. A further note reads: ‘The Models are left at No 13 Lincoln’s Inn Field, - for the inspection of the Committee of Taste, - the Gentlemen of the Bar, - and thos unbiased and impartial Editors of the Daily Journals, and other Periodical Publications…’. Some of these models would have dated from earlier in the history of the design of the Law Courts; some may have been made specifically to illustrate Soane’s statement. The sectional plan MR41 probably belongs to the second category for a bill survives in the Museum archives that is dated 1827 and almost certainly refers to it. The bill is from Soane’s carpenters and joiners Thomas and George Martyr who are asking for £46 10s 6½d ‘For Materials & Time expended in preparing a Model of the New Courts Westminster, between January 19th & February 9th 1827’. MR41 with its mahogany base is the only Law Court model to correspond with the materials listed in the bill. (Soane Archives: Box 7, set 1)

The plan, with the exception of the treatment to the elevation of New Palace Yard, is generally as built (1822-23). The New Palace Yard front has a three bay’d central entrance for King’s Counsel flanked by pairs of windows, and a side entrance place on a level with the front of the NW tower of Westminster Hall. These features recall the designs in drawings 53/3/19 and 20, and 53/6/1, 4 and 8, although the drawings are later, dating from between December 1828 and April 1829. 53/3/20 is inscribed: Plan of a Design for enlarging the Court of the King’s Bench, and providing the accommodation required, / by reinstating the building in New Palace Yard taken down in 1824 by Order of a Select Committee of / the House of Commons. Model MR41 was built with the same aim.

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