Building the House
This section looks at the way Georgian and Regency London Houses were built. We see a drawing made by one of Soane’s assistants to record the process of building. We see a drawing for a roof truss by George Dance the Younger, one of Soane’s teachers.
There is a drawing of the dangerous process of working with molten lead, which gives a good idea of the dangers in the building trade in the Georgian and Regency period.
This drawing, from 1809, was made in Soane’s office to record the process of building the Royal Hospital, in Chelsea, but the construction techniques would have been similar in a house. Note that the floor boards still have to be laid on the joists and narrow planks have been put down for the workmen to walk and push their barrows along. Building was a very dangerous business; the workmen did not wear today’s hard hats or benefit from modern ideas of health and safety. As this was an addition to an existing building, the triangular timbers or roof trusses of the old building can be seen embedded in the wall to the left. The horizontal trusses of the roof are formed of two timbers bolted together for strength. Temporary timber supports or ‘centering’ is in place to support the door and window openings, this will be removed when the mortar has set.
A workman is about to carry bricks on a ‘hod’ up the ladder. In reality there would probably have been much more scaffolding but this has been left out to make the drawing clearer. This sort of drawing was made by students and assistants to record the progress of the building and learn about design, construction and the play of light. A London house would take about two years to build. Over the first year, it would be a race to build up to roof level and get the slates on before winter set in, when building was impossible because of the cold. When spring came, the carpenters would finish the floors and fit the doors and windows and internal woodwork, the plasterers would plaster the walls and the painters do their work in time for the occupant to move in.