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 of the entrance front

Perspective of the entrance front

Joseph Michael Gandy
Pen and coloured washes on paper, framed
XP14 (Pitzhanger drawing 95)

The drawing shows the entrance front of Soane's proposed new villa and was made before construction to show what the design would look like in perspective and in use. To add to the effect imaginary visitors are included, admiring the house and grounds. Dance's wing can still be seen on the left (the only remnant of the old house).

As shown, Soane's alterations included moving the drive, so that the house was approached from a picturesque angle. Its entrance front was articulated by columns, and by statues based on the caryatids from the Erechtheion in Athens. The central lantern is a particularly Soanean device for lighting interior spaces – in this case the attic and vestibule.