Soane's London

Pitzhanger Manor

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By 1800 Soane had built himself a successful career, inherited a fortune, gained a young family and built his own town house at No. 12 Lincoln's Inn Fields. The next thing he wanted was a house in the country – to confirm his position in society and to provide space for his ever expanding collection of art and artefacts. He first bought a plot of land at Acton, early in 1800.

However, this project was quickly abandoned when Pitzhanger Manor (one of the first buildings Soane had worked on as a young assistant in George Dance the Younger's office) came up for sale.

Of the old Pitzhanger, Soane kept the wing designed by Dance with its large eating room, and drawing room. The rest was demolished in favour of a yellow stock-brick villa, with six principal rooms: a breakfast room, library, drawing room and three bedrooms. Service buildings at the back were connected to the house by a courtyard. Mock-ruins were also added to the grounds, to appear as if the remains of a Roman temple had been discovered there.

Soane's residence at Pitzhanger was short-lived, however. Mrs Soane's declining health made the upkeep of two residences impractical and the house was sold in 1810. The house was subsequently much altered in its reincarnations as a home for the Perceval sisters and as a public library. The principal Soane rooms were restored in the mid-1980s and the house has been open as a museum since 1987. Further Soane restorations are planned for the future.

Perspective old Pitzhanger Manor

Perspective of the entrance front and service wing

Henry Hake Seward
5 Nov.1800
Pen and coloured washes on paper
14/2/1 (Pitzhanger drawing 64)

The view shows the old house, with Dance's wing on the far left. The main three-storey part of the house was approached by a driveway. Prior to Soane's purchase in May 1800 it had been inhabited by the Gurnell family.

This kind of view was often made for Soane as a record when he intended to alter or demolish a building. In this case, all but the Dance wing would be demolished. Soane may have kept that part of the house for nostalgic reasons, given that he had worked on it under Dance.