Building a Dialogue: A Case Study

To complement our current exhibition Building a Dialogue: The architect and the client, two members of the Soane Museum’s curatorial  staff, Frances Sands and Tom Drysdale will write fortnightly blog pieces on particular objects and themes within the exhibition. This week Tom Drysdale will consider Tyringham in Buckinghamshire as a case study.

Sir John Soane’s Museum benefits from a rich collection that includes Soane’s original drawings, models and archives, thanks to which it has been possible in our current exhibition to trace the progress of an individual commission with reference to the on-going dialogue between the architect and the client.


Joseph Michael Gandy, perspective of the house and offices from the south-west, August 1798. SM 13/5/3.


Tyringham Hall, an Elizabethan manor house, was inherited by William Praed through his marriage in the 1770s. Praed, a banker, was introduced to Soane by the Marquess of Buckingham in 1792. After initially making designs for alterations to the house in an unconvincing Gothic style, Soane was directed to make designs for an entirely new house, as well as a bridge, gateway and stables. The commission would occupy, in Soane’s own words, ‘six of the most happy years of my life’.


Joseph Parkins, presentation model of Tyringham house, c.1793-4. SM X236.


Drawings from the Soane’s collections document the project from start to finish. Included in the exhibition are design drawings submitted to Praed for approval; an original preliminary design in Soane’s hand for the gateway, made during one of his visits to the site; a drawing by the Clerk of Works, who acted as the architect’s eyes and ears on the ground, thereby facilitating the process of the dialogue; and two evocative drawings of the bridge, gateway and house as executed. These picturesque views by Joseph Michael Gandy may have been shown to other potential clients, completing the cycle of the architectural commission. A final highlight of the exhibition is an exceptional wooden presentation model, made specifically for Praed to explain the relationships between the many rooms and the different levels of the house. The model was presented to the Museum in 1918 and is not normally on view to members of the public, so we are pleased that Building a Dialogue offers us a rare opportunity to showcase this magnificent piece.


Building a Dialogue: The Architect and the Client is on display at the Soane Gallery until 9 May 2015. Entry is free.

Posted on 06 May 2015 in Exploring Our Exhibitions
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