Explore Collections Explore The Collections
You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  [1] Design, datable to February or March, 1790
  • image SM 14/3/5

Reference number

SM 14/3/5


[1] Design, datable to February or March, 1790


Ground plan on the level with the first row of boxes


bar scale of 1/8 inch to 1 foot


(upper case) as above, New Street East side of the Building, Gerrard Street, Soho, New Street, West side of the Building, (feint pencil) New Street West side of building

Signed and dated

  • February or March 1790 (see Notes)

Medium and dimensions

Pencil, pen and wash, within double-ruled and wash border, pricked for transfer on laid paper (709 x 1038)


Soane office


The plan shows the exterior having a colonnade on the front elevation, loggias down both sides, and a row of columns between projecting corners at the back. The entrance lobby is entered through four doors arranged asymmetrically (one has been filled in). The stage is approximately 84 feet deep, including the 8 foot segmental projection in front of the proscenium arch. The design allows for 41 boxes. Some of the boxes come closely to the stage, in keeping with theatre design from the late 18th century. For example, Henry Holland's design for the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane, 1794, had boxes in this same position. In later designs for theatres, such as Benjamin Wyatt's Durry Lane theatre of 1810, the separation between audience and scene was more defined.

Pencil alterations to the drawing show the corners at the front elevation projecting in three bays, as in the rear elevation. This alteration corresponds the exterior perspectives and elevations on SM 14/3/1 and SM 14/3/2, with a colonnade between three-bay end ranges.

As stated in an article in the Cambridge Opera Journal, this plan does not correspond exactly with the description of the theatre provided for The Chronicle in January 1790 but is probably a variant design made after the preliminary design, with omissions that would reduce costs. The drawing does not have the 'concert-room, behind the stage, a beautiful oval, 84 by 42' described in the newspaper article. The stage is also smaller than that described by the January article. The drawing, therefore, is a design made after 9 January 1790, probably in February or March 1790, before the project was dropped in late-April. Soane met with O'Reilly on 1 February 1790, spending three hours talking over plans. Subsequently, Soane's entire office was occupied with drawings for the theatre from 15 March 1790 (Journal No 1), no doubt in preparation for the hearing on 14 April 1790 (see scheme notes).


C. Price, J. Milhous, R. D. Hume, 'A Royal Opera House in Leicester Square', Cambridge Opera Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Mar. 1990), p. 10.



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).