Explore Collections Explore The Collections
You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  [5/2] Preliminary design for the hall, 1697-98, without a dome, and with a north-facing flight of steps to the colonnade
  • image SM volume 109/43

Reference number

SM volume 109/43


[5/2] Preliminary design for the hall, 1697-98, without a dome, and with a north-facing flight of steps to the colonnade


North elevation


Approximately 100 feet to 10 7/10 inches (i.e. 10 feet to just under 1 1/10 inches, on the basis that the hall is just over 200 feet long, as on 109/1)


In pen and brown ink by C19 hand at bottom right (originally top right in volume), 43.

Signed and dated

  • Undated, but datable 1697-98

Medium and dimensions

Pen and brown ink with grey wash over graphite under-drawing, on laid paper, with central vertical fold; sheet trimmed on left-hand side; C20 repair strip on back of left-hand edge. 457 x 688




double-headed eagle (not in Heawood or Churchill in this form)


This neatly finished large-scale drawing is the earliest known design for the elevation of the hall and probably dates to late 1697 or early 1698. On 1 February 1698 Wren was asked to 'lay before the [Fabric] Committee at the next meeting a draught and estimate of an Hall to be added to the present building in pursuance of the general design'. On 5 April it was reported: 'Mr Surveyor having laid before the Committee a draught for an Hall ... it was approved of, and ordered, that his Clarke do set out the ground accordingly' (ADM 67/2; Wren Society, VI, p. 37). This elevation immediately precedes the north elevation at All Souls (G. 201). The hall scales at just over 200 feet long, corresponding to the '200 feet 6 inches' marked on the master-plan drawing of c.1698, [6/1], where the three-block scheme is revised to the twin-courtyard scheme.

On this elevation and the one at All Souls (Geraghty 2007, no. 201) the pairs of columns are 7 feet across on average, which equals the spaces between the pairs. At the next stage in the design, [6/2], and in the fabric itself, the pairs of columns are only 5 ½ feet across, and the spaces remain 7 feet. The earlier stage corresponds to the plan of the colonnade in the four block scheme (All Souls, Geraghty 2007, no. 196), in which the colonnade itself is narrower in relation to the hall. Thus the hall and colonnade were revised together.

One of the factors influencing the design of the colonnade was its treatment on the north side of the hall, for in this drawing and the All Souls elevation, the colonnade functions as a portico-entrance on the north side. There is no indication in this drawing of a significant entrance on the east side, facing the central avenue. An approach from the north side may explain the infilling of the colonnade alongside the north wall of the hall. The left intercolumniation is backed by a wall with a niche, like the bays to the right. Unless this is a draughting error, this infilled bay indicates a previously unknown stage in the design in which the colonnade is closed off at its north end by an extension of the ground-floor wall of the hall.

The infilling of the colonnade alongside the north wall of the hall created a symmetrical north-facing portico, the central bay of which served as the principal entrance to the hall and the main route up to the higher level of the hospital site from King Charles II Court. Wren may have regarded the hall vestibule, rather than the colonnade, as the principal route from King Charles Court to the dormitories on the south side of the hall.

As the amendments to [6/2] show, the entrances to the hall on the north and east sides were later modifications. They appear to reflect a fundamental shift in the orientation of the plan. In the present drawing the centre of gravity is at the north end, with the main axis running from north to south. In [6/2] and subsequent designs the hall is approached from the west and east sides. Preparatory pencil lines at the west end of this drawing anticipate the two square-headed windows drawn at principal level on the end-bay of All Souls, Geraghty 2007, no. 201. The dome may have been omitted on grounds of cost. The accounts were in debt until the middle months of 1698, and 1697 was a particularly difficult year. Wren may have asked Hawksmoor to produce two variants of the hall design, one with, and one without a dome.


Wren Society, VI, pl. 27, bottom



Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

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).