The Oratory

This small space to the west of Soane’s bedchamber evokes the memory of Eliza Soane. The walls were hung with some twenty small prints, in black and gold frames of a type that was fashionable in the 1790s. The religious subjects of many of the prints are similar to those hung in Mrs Soane’s Morning Room and were in all likelihood chosen by her.

Three elaborate stained glass windows illuminated the room, giving it a distinctly abbatial atmosphere – hence its name. Beneath a large panel of stained glass showing a hermit (perhaps a reference to Soane’s fictional persona ‘Padre Giovanni’) stood a side table whose form echoed a piece of liturgical furniture. On top of this was placed a single white neo-classical urn made by Wedgwood, decorated with pressed dried flowers, in all probability by Mrs Soane.

As with Sir John Soane’s Bedroom, Bathroom and Book Passage this space was incorporated into the large back office that formed part of the Curator’s apartment (although it seems to have survived until at least 1874).

When the furnishings and decoration of this room are reinstated, it is touching to think that Eliza Soane’s Wedgwood vase will once more form the poignant focus of this small room devoted to private contemplation.

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately we do not have a contemporary image of the Oratory, but these are some examples of objects that will be redisplayed in their original Soanean positions within this space.  Top left: an engraving after John Dean in a black and gold frame depicting the Mother and Child. Top right: a Netherlandish stained-glass panel from c.1600 here depicting the hermit Saint Arsenius. The stained glass panel will be restored to a window below which stood an early nineteenth-century side table (bottom left) on top of which Soane placed the white neoclassical urn by Wedgewood that Eliza Soane hand-decorated with dried flowers (bottom right).