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Site Surveys, 1820-23 (9)


Architectural Note:-
The context for the whole site is discussed below, with specific details considered under the respective ranges.

Drawings Note:-
Four drawings in this set, and those catalogued under their respective ranges, represent the surveys taken from September-October 1822 by John Hiort. The Day Book entries for this period make clear that it was his responsibility to survey the existing buildings, while Soane’s office prioritised completing drawings for the King’s Entrance to the House of Lords. The reasons for delegating this to Hiort are suggested by Soane’s Day Book entry on 3 September 1822, recording a meeting with Mr Lee with the sardonic note: it is not his business to take plans (SM Day Books). This is presumably Adam Lee, Labourer in Trust for Palace of Westminster from 1815-32.

Of the relevant Day Book entries for September-October 1822, those for Hiort demonstrate a focus upon the extant Law Court buildings at Westminster, rather than upon design drawings. The earliest entry is 4 September 1822, when Hiort was Taking Plan & Sections at West[minste]r (SM Day Books). He appears frequently in entries to 19 October 1822, when Hiort is Laying down plan of [the] Sessions House [Westminster] (SM Day Books). Though the Day Book entries are not always specific enough for direct correlation with the survey drawings to be established, it is clear that Hiort systematically recorded the existing buildings.

The surviving drawings demonstrate that Hiort was an accomplished draughtsman, able to produce meticulous drawings to a scale of 1/18 inch to 1 foot, covering large areas of the site (e.g. SM 53/1/9). These contrast with less worked-up plans, usually to a scale of 1/8 inch to 1 foot, which presumably pre-date the latter drawings and served as the intermediate stage between preliminary on-site drawing and highly-finished drawings (e.g. SM 37/3/7).

Three drawings in the set belong to the second phase of recording the existing Law Courts and their offices, primarily undertaken by Arthur Mee. These begin on 11 March 1823, when Mee was Making sketches of the Courts at Westminster (SM Day Books) with subsequent entries records in the Day Books distinguishing his work as focussed upon the existing buildings, and not the New Law Courts. This continued until 26 April 1823, when Mee was Finishing sketches made at Westminster (SM Day Books). Very intermittently, Mee was assisted in his task by David Mocatta, and the relevant Day Book entries seldom specify exactly which part of the extant complex Mee surveyed on any given day.

These three drawings are in Mee's characteristic and competent hand, drawn in pen over preliminary pencil. Washes are distinctively lightly applied in pale pink (for walls) and light blue (for open areas). They are all to a rough scale and no scale bar is indicated, but respective dimensions are consistently recorded in minute detail.



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.

Browse (via the vertical menu to the left) and search results for Drawings include a mixture of Concise catalogue records – drawn from an outline list of the collection – and fuller records where drawings have been catalogued in more detail (an ongoing process).  

Contents of Site Surveys, 1820-23 (9)