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  • image M1384

Model for the Bank of England, London, Lothbury Court,designed by Sir John Soane, c.1797

Painted wood

Height: 32.4cm
Width: 58.4cm
Depth: 48.3cm

Museum number: M1384

On display: Drawing Office - also known as the Students Room (pre-booked tours only)
All spaces are in No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields unless identified as in No. 12, Soane's first house. For tours https://www.soane.org/your-visit

Curatorial note

This model shows the Bank’s Lothbury Court without the Bullion Gateway that occupied its N side, and without the court’s extension – beyond the columnar screen to the W – later known as the Residence Court. The design is very close to that executed, except for the arrangement of the steps on each side of the court which eventually ran the whole length of the fronts (see Soane’s 1831 plan of the Bank buildings, Dance Cabinet, N Drawing Room); the acroteria over the colonnades were to be replaced by urns. Soane started on the design of the Court in the second half of 1797. Little work was done in 1798, very much more in 1799. The scheme was not finalized until 1800.

10/3/32 shows the first approved design for the Court’s E side, dated Octr 5th 1797, and inscribed This Drawing shewn to the Comee of Building / & approved of by them Octr 10 1797. It illustrates the extent to which the design altered over the next few years: a three bay loggia stands on a basement, with two sets of steps leading up to it through arches to the N and S.

The model is most likely to date from 1799. The plan 10/3/1 shows stairs of the type that appear on the model and is dated Febry 21 1799. 10/3/46 is a Design for the Attic – Eastside of the Lothbury Court, dated simply 1799, and is the first drawing to show the attic with a screen row of arches (blank on the model, open as executed). The design of the stairway changed several times and had not been settled by Decr 31:1799 (10/3/4) when the approach to the loggia was shown up centrally-placed steps and onto a curving terrace.

The gateway on the S side of the Lothbury Court has the Arch of Constantine for its source. 10/3/8, dated Nov. 15 1797, illustrates how early Soane reached the basis of his design, even if he was to experiment with many variations before arriving at a solution. The model’s S front is that executed (minus details of ornament). It has a sequence of three arches surmounted by an attic, the largest arch occupying the centre bay. A column separates the centre from narrower bays holding each a square-headed niche. Second columns stand between the middle and outer bays with their smaller arches, the latter being set back and abutting immediately against the Cour’s fronts to E and W. The design appears in 10/3/6 dated Nov 9 1799 although the drawing is in fact a study of alternatives: Soane is playing with different arch sizes and types of sculptural decoration. Even as late as Febry 13th 1800 (10/3/7) he is toying with changes to the pedestals. This does not necessarily mean that the final design had not been reached by this date; Soane quite often returned to an established design and made alterations for no-one’s benefit but his own.

Considering the way the design evolved it is not possible that the entry in Soane’s Notebooks of Sept 19th 1797 refers to This model (‘At Bank, Presented 2 plans & two small Models for the Improvements…’). The entry for Sept 20th 1797, however, does indicate that Soane was working on the design of Lothbury Court by then, for it reads ‘abt Elevations &c for Court of new Offices’.

Exhibition history

John Soane Architect: Master of Space and Light, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 11 September - 3 December 1999; Centro Palladio, Vicenza, April - August 2000; Hôtel de Rohan, Paris, January - April 2001; Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, 16 May - 3 September 2001; Real Academia des Bellas Artes, Madrid, October - December 2001

Soane collections online is being continually updated. If you wish to find out more or if you have any further information about this object please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk