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London: Banqueting House, Whitehall: working drawings for repairs and restoration, 1829-33 (4)


Built by Inigo Jones in 1619, the Banqueting House originally served as a setting for public ceremonies, masques and other State occasions. In 1698, following the fire that destroyed most of the Palace of Whitehall, the Banqueting House became a royal chapel and in 1809, after being enlarged by James Wyatt, it became a military chapel. Soane had been awarded the Royal Academy’s Silver Medal for a measured drawing of the Banqueting House in 1772 (q.v.). In 1828, as an Attached Architect to the Office of Works, he was directed to make repairs to the then deteriorating chapel.

Having surveyed the building, Soane found that the masonry was in need of substantial repair and that the roof was in a very bad condition. The building was refaced in Portland stone, the original Northamptonshire stone being much deteriorated and literally crumbling in places. Although he had initially intended to strengthen the existing roof structure, in the end Soane constructed an entirely new roof which he covered with slates and lead. This required the removal of Rubens’ ceiling paintings which were taken down, packed and protected at a cost of £560. Estimates of £13,000 and £3,500 were made for the stonework and the roof respectively. Soane also repaired and replaced several of the sash windows which themselves had replaced the original mullion-and-transom windows in 1713.

Soane was directed to invite fresh tenders for the work despite his desire to employ the workmen from the House of Lords who he both knew and trusted. The works were substantially completed by November 1831, save for the reinstallation of the paintings which were later repaired and reinstated. The total expenditure by 20 November 1833 was £18,204 9s 2d. Further interior alterations were conducted by Robert Smirke (1780-1867) and the Banqueting House was reopened as a royal chapel in 1837.

Catalogued here are four drawings for Soane’s restoration of the Banqueting House. Two are for the ceiling, one is for the windows and one is for the roof. Not catalogued is a survey drawing in the Soane Museum archives showing a section through the ceiling, made by the clerk of works, William Craib, in 1829 (SM Priv. Corr. XII.E.37). There are also in Sir John Soane’s Museum five models for the roof of the Banqueting House showing the original structure with Soane’s alterations for strengthening the trusses and designs for a new roof.

*The original building had been constructed of Oxfordshire stone (ground floor) and Northamptonshire stone (upper storey). The original columns and cornice were made of Portland stone. The lower storey was refaced with Portland stone in 1773.

M. H. Cox and P. Norman (eds), Survey of London: Vol. XII: St Margaret, Westminster, Part II, 1930; J. Wilton-Ely, 'The architectural models of Sir John Soane: a catalogue', Architectural History, XII, 1969; J. M. Crook and M. H. Port (eds), The History of the King's Works: Vol. VI: 1782-1851, 1973, pp. 545-49; D. Yeomans, 'Inigo Jones's roof structures', Architectural History, 29, 1986, pp. 85-101.

Tom Drysdale, April 2014



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

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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 London: Banqueting House, Whitehall: working drawings for repairs and restoration, 1829-33 (4)