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Model for the Law Courts, Palace of Westminster London, projected front for northern section in Gothic style, (designed by Sir John Soane), painted wood

Height: 44.5cm
Width: 69.5cm
Depth: 31cm

Museum number: SC2

Curatorial note

On 2nd March 1824, an attack was made on the style of Soane’s classical Law Courts in the House of Commons. Building was suspended on March 19th and a select committee was speedily appointed to review the matter. On March 25th Soane was summoned to appear before it. The Committee’s opinion was that the Law Courts should be rebuilt in the Gothic style, and that their site should be reduced so that they encroached less on Westminster Hall.

Soane was instructed to prepare a design showing “the front towards New Palace Yard, containing the three Venetian windows, taken down and set back as far as the boundary-wall of the Court of the King’s Bench, and the front to be decorated to accord with the northern entrance to Westminster Hall, and terminated next to St Margaret’s Street with an octangular or hexangular tower, and that the upper floors of the turret might be made use of for containing the records of the Court of Common Pleas.” (A Brief Statement of the Proceedings respecting the New Law Courts).

Soane was immediately critical of the loss of space - including rooms that had been allocated to various judges - that such a design would entail. He explained: “…the several Courts and all their component parts are so dove-tailed and wedged together, that to disturb any portion of them without duly considering the general arrangement, would be as fatal to the convenience of the Courts, as the taking out the key-stones of the arches of the building would be to the durability of the structure”(ibid).
The model is Soane’s attempt to reconcile the wishes of the Select Committee with the spatial requirements of the Courts. It shows the Select Committee’s design adapted to the site occupied by the classical Law Courts, and therefore without the loss of any floor area. It probably dates from 1824 when the Gothic design was being evolved. The executed design was limited to the site chosen by the Select Committee.


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