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Reference number

SM 4/3/7


Preliminary design for William Sotheby Esqr


Plans of Cellar Story, ground floor including single storey offices, Mezzanine Story, Bed chamber Story and (verso) two revised ground floor plans in the form of a shallow cross in which kitchen and scullery are incorporated, and (very feint pencil) elevation


bar scale of 1/15 inch to 1 foot


as above, rooms labelled Hall, Library with Closet for Records &c, Drawing room, Breakfast / Parlor, Kitchen Court & / Drying Yard, Brewhouse Court, Laundry, Washroom & / Brewhouse, Pantry, Scullery, Kitchen, Butler, Plate Closet, Water / Closet, Housekeeper, Cover'd Passage, Laundry, Brewhouse Court, a and b; (bedroom floor plan) Passage, Dressing / Room, Light Closet and dimensions given. List of rooms with dimensions: Butler's Pantry --- 7 by 12 / Servants Hall --- 17 by 12 / Kitchen --- 21 by 18 / Pantry 6.6 by 10 --- / Washouse & Brewhouse - 21 by 18 / Laundry --- 20 by 17 / A. Wet Larder --- 10 feet Square / B. Dairy --- 10 feet Square / Housekeepers Room --- 15 by 12. Lower right hand side: Ralf Winter Esq / Crediton / near Exeter. Verso, left hand plan labelled in pencil: Kitchen / 3 feet lower, D[ining] r[oom], Eat[ing] R[oo]m, Store r[oo]m, Lib[rary]; right hand plan labelled in pencil: Eat[ing] room, D[rawin]g room, Kit[chen], Scull[ery], Store, Pass[age], Lib[rary]

Signed and dated

  • J Soane ('e' added later) Archt and Decr 1781

Medium and dimensions

Pen with grey and black washes, pencil, within single ruled border, pricked for transfer on laid paper with three fold marks and an old patch (510 x 365)




J Whatman


A rectangular, two-and-half-storey with cellar, three-bay house 44:6 deep by 51 feet wide, with a bow to the library on the garden front and a four-column portico on the entrance front. The offices and yards are surrounded by a circular wall. The house or villa is compact having three reception rooms and six bedrooms - one of them circular. The library is large - 36 feet by 25 feet - and its size and prominence may be explained by the bookish interests of William Sotheby who was a poet, playwright, translator of the classics, traveller and member of the Society of Dilettanti (see London: Hereford Street, Grosvenor Square, Westminster: unexecuted designs for the Society of Dilettanti ...).
Soane published a plan and elevation for 'a villa designed for a gentleman in Berkshire' in his Sketches in Architecture, 1793, plates xxxii-iii. The published plan has some correspondence with the plan catalogued above though there are variations so that, for example, the front windows are not shown as tripartite in the drawing. The published elevation has giant Corinthian pilasters carrying a frieze with festoons, the door is fronted by an Ionic portico with pediment and is flanked by (tripartite) Wyatt windows. The effect is over elaborate for a small house. It seems that Soane reworked his initial design for publication, achieving greater symmetry by placing the offices on each side of the house instead of to one side, as in the drawing, while making the library a 'Library and Museum' that now incorporates what were the closets on either side. References in Soane's Note Book 2 (see below) show that Soane received twenty guineas for his unexecuted design and estimates.
SM 'Ledger A' has an entry under William Sotheby, dated 25 October 1781, that says 'Making a design for a house', an entry for 24 June 1783 reads: 'Making four drawings of a design / for a Library' and on 29 June 'Making out the particulars and / Descriptions of the manner / of executing the Works / [£] 7.7.0' and 'Sent per post Octr 1786' (sic). Seven guineas was paid to Soane 'by draft on Messrs Coutts' on 6 December 1786.
SM Note Book 12/17 has an 'Estimate of the Shell of house / proposed to be built at / for Willm Sotheby Esqr ' that is dated January 1782.
The TS index and MS transcript of Soane's Note Books have references to Sotheby viz: (7April 1782) 'Recd of Mrs Sotheby 21.0.0 / Chamber's Arch[itecture] 1.16.0 [total] 22.16.0'; (23 and 24 June 1783) 'Mr Sotheby Design for a library'; (30 June 1783) 'Mr Sotheby's Description'. Further references are found in SM Account Book 1778-1797, p.17 and SM Ledger A, p.154.
The added inscription 'Ralf Winter ...' refers to a Ralph Winter for whom Soane built a small house that has not been located (SM Ledger A, p.138 '5 per cent for making / the plans, directg the / works & meas[uring] & val[uin]g / the same').

Jill Lever, May 2009


P.du Prey, John Soane: the making of an architect, 1982, pp.244, 277-8, 384 fn.21-3



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