Soane's London

Pitzhanger Manor

Collections | Soane's London | Pitzhanger Manor

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.

Reconstruction of part of the ruins in the grounds

‘Reconstruction’ of part of the ruins in the grounds

Soane Office
13 June 1804
Pencil, pen and coloured washes on paper
ADD7/4 (Pitzhanger drawing 150)

After designing the house, Soane decided to add fake 'ruins'. Broken masonry and column fragments were planted in the ground to amuse guests.

The Classical model employed for these mock ruin-reconstructions was the Temple of Clitumnus at Spoleto, which had a raised first floor door from which priests could preach. This explained the incongruous height of the temple entrance.

Soane's fascination with ruins extended further, from his vast collection of Piranesi engravings (mostly of classical ruins), to the commission of an imaginary view of the Bank of England as a ruin and to the description of his own house at Lincoln's Inn Fields as a future ruin. The ruin was a theme of great interest to Soane.