Phase I: The Restoration of No.12
Since July 2012, many first time visitors to the Museum will have been unaware that No.12 (John and Eliza Soane’s first house on Lincoln’s Inn Fields before they moved to No.13 in 1813) underwent a radical transformation as part of Phase I of the Opening up the Soane project.
The works at No.12 took just over a year to achieve and comprised the complete refurbishment of this fine 1792-1794 Soane-designed townhouse in order to provide the Museum with much-needed new facilities: a cloakroom, Shop, Gallery for temporary exhibitions, and the new John A and Cynthia Fry Gunn Conservation Studios – the latter being funded entirely by Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation in the USA. Two specially designed lifts – one external and one internal, the latter rising four floors and opening five ways and cunningly disguised behind historic joinery – ensure that the Museum is now more accessible than ever before.
No.12 Lincoln’s Inn Fields was Highly Commended in the 2012 Georgian Group Awards and in 2013 won the RICS annual award for Building Conservation. It was also shortlisted for the Museums and Heritage Award.
Exploratory work being carried out to the central boss on the ceiling of the first floor of No.12 (now the exhibitions Gallery). Photograph: Ralph Hodgson
The last element of Phase I, which was completed in December 2012, was the restoration of the Shakespeare and Tivoli Recesses off the main Staircase in No.13. The Tivoli Recess, which had been turned into a lavatory in 1918, presented the biggest challenge in order to reinstate its original decorative elements including its plaster ceiling and panelling, as well as to reconstruct the large stained glass window after Joshua Reynolds, the ‘Charity’ window, on the east wall of the recess - perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the OUTS project to be completed thus far.
What do visitors think about the newly restored No.12?
‘So far the work to ‘Open up the Soane’ is looking good – there was a fascinating sense of things not always being quite what they seem, from the hidden doorway to the cleverly disguised lift!’
Philippa Charles (Director, Garfield Weston Foundation)
‘I am full of admiration for the thoughtful changes that have been wrought on the buildings . . .’
Elizabeth Cayzer (Patron)
‘No.12 certainly has that wow factor – you have all been extremely busy for the past year or so. I loved the ‘Harewood finish’ – beautifully executed and which will no doubt be much copied worldwide! And the staircase, the conservation galleries, and the new exhibition room – I have to say that the old one is so much nicer opened up and showing itself off properly! I could go on – oh yes and the colours – terrific!’
Ros Hartman (Interior Designer, Elizabeth Eaton Limited)
‘Many congratulations. When I despair of the modern museum world, and I do frequently, the Soane always revives my spirits.’
David Beevers (Director of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton)
For a more detailed account of the restoration of No.12, download our Newsletter Special, No.12: Celebrating the Restoration of Sir John Soane’s First Townhouse at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
For a full list of all donors to the OUTS project as well as our contractors and consultants for the project please go to the Donors to the OUTS project page.