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  • image SM 53/1/15

Reference number

SM 53/1/15


[142] First design, with preliminary revisions, New Law Courts, 18 October 1820


Plan of the main (ground) floor of the New Law Courts, with preliminary sketches for alternative layouts of the Courts and anciliary accommodation, not executed


bar scale of 1/10 inch to 1 foot


Court of Exchequer / Judges Room / Court of Equity / Entrance Hall / over / Court of Equity / Judges room / Entrance into the / Court of Chancery / & / the Court of Exchequer / & the / Court of Equity / OR / Ent.[ranc]e / into Vice-Ch[ancellor's]. / Court / Court of Chancery / Tribunal (x 3) / Water Clos[et] / Passage / Attendants on / the / Lord Chan[cellor]. / Area (x 7) / The Lord Chan[cellor's]: / retiring / room / Lobby or / Antiroom / Corridor of communication (x 2) / Vice Chan[cellor's] / Room / L[or]d. C[hancellor]. / Vice Chancellors / Court / Hall / Entrance into / the Vice chancellors / Court / Or / Entrance into / Lord Ch[ancellor']s Court / The Court of Comm[on]- / pleas / Clo[set] / Judges room / of the / Court of Common / pleas / Custos Brevium / [_] / Jury Room. / Way for the Jury to the Court of King's Bench / Entrance / into the / Court of Common / Pleas / The Court of K[ing's] Bench / Judges retiring / Room / Officers &c / attending on the / Lord Chief Justice. / The / Bail Court / &c / Mr Hewitt / Hall of / entrance / to the / Court of K[ing's], / Bench / Entrance / into the /Court of Kings Bench / Mr White / The Court of Exchequer is supposed / some feet higher than the other C[ourt]s / The Court of Common Pleas is proposed / to be lower[e]d some feet. / The Court of Chan[cery] - Com[mon] Pleas Kings Bench / & Vice chancellor are proposed to be on the same level / (pencil) No 1

Signed and dated

  • 18/10/1820
    L[incolns]. I[nn]. F[ields]. / 18 October 1820

Medium and dimensions

Pencil, wash, coloured washes of red and blue, pen, within quintupal wash border pricked for transfer on wove paper 903 x 595)


Sir John Soane RA (1753 - 1837), architect
This drawing is annotated in Soane's hand.
Soane Office


J Whatman


This drawing bears shows extensive revisions to the plan in Soane's hand. As originally drawn, the existing provisions for the Court of Common Pleas and the Custos Brevium (washed in red) were to be retained and incorporated into the New Law Courts. The existing Exchequer buildings facing New Palace Yard are also indicated, in a combination of grey line, pencil and wash. The numerous faint pencil anotations (which resist transcription) suggest that the planning of the New Law Courts was still at a formative stage, which numerous Court rooms being transposed across the plan, and circulation routes are still being charted. There are four proposed portals cut through the west wall of Westminster Hall, giving access directly to the Courts, as the Public Corridor running parallel to the hall had not yet been thought of. A corridor from the Court of Chancery leading to the return flank of The Stone Building on St Margaret's Street has been sketched in pencil. The alternative labeling of entrances on the latter façade further suggests fluidity. A preference for incorporating curves is also apparent, with opposing alcoves in the northernmost entrance from St Margaret's Street, and also in the layout of the Courts of Chancery and King's Bench; the latter perhaps knowingly perpetuating the Court's arrangements in Westminster Hall.

As Sawyer notes, the plan gives little indication of the complex changes of levels within the existing buildings, and of how the new structures would accommodate these (Sawyer, 1999: pp. 492-493).


Sawyer, 1999: p. 490 - 492
Sawyer, 1999: p. 493, footnote 1450



Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation. This catalogue of Soane’s designs for the New Law Courts was generously funded by The Worshipful Company of Mercers and The Pilgrim Trust.

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

Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

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