A series of little stories for younger visitors, inspired by the drawings in our Fanciful Figures exhibition.

Curious about the characters of the small figures that appear in these drawings? Read our stories below to meet them and learn about their worlds. As you explore, try matching the stories to the drawings in the gallery!

A perspective view of Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing, after Sir John Soane's renovations and remodelling.


Young Samuel was very excited to visit Pitzhanger Manor with his mother and aunt. Being four, he was not interested in seeing the grand architecture or the fashionable setting, or even meeting the architect Mr Soane, but he was hoping that the Soane boys would be fun playmates. They travelled in style, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and Samuel at first enjoyed spying the passing world through a small gap in the curtains. As their horse-drawn carriage made its way through the vast countryside towards Ealing, Samuel became bored and fidgety. The only thing that kept Samuel amused was watching the large feather of his aunt’s silly hat stroke the carriage ceiling in a looping pattern. When they finally arrived, Samuel was desperate to run around the garden with John and George, the Soane boys. However, after a brief hello, John and George were ushered inside by their father to study. Samuel frowned and huffed. Sensing his disappointment, Mrs Soane introduced Samuel to the family dog and he spent two happy hours playing with it in the garden. On the way home, Samuel announced Pitzhanger Manor to be his ‘most favourite manor ever’. 

A perspective drawing of an alternative vision for Lincoln's Inn Fields, showing grand classically inspired buildings arranged around an open public square.

Chancery Lane

Little Anna Peabody was most frustrated. She did not think it was fair that, on the family walk, her older brothers William and Jack were allowed to go up and watch the men boxing, but she was not. Anna wanted to watch too, but instead Mother bundled her away to look at the flower seller’s wares. As if she cared about posies! Anna would have much rather seen who won the fight. With her face hidden in her mother’s skirts, Anna could hear the men’s punches landing on bare skin, which sounded like huge lumps of wet clay being thrown to the ground. Later that afternoon, when back at home, Anna asked her brothers to act out for her some of the boxing they had seen. William accidentally caught Jack’s mouth with his fist, and a little spray of blood spattered the drawing room carpet. Mother gave the boys a good telling off for fighting, while little Anna stood innocently in the corner, clutching her primroses.

A detail of an Antonio Van Assen figure drawing, showing a Regency gentleman wearing a top hat and a buttoned-up tailcoat

The Mayfair Gentleman

Joseph Cooper dressed with extreme care, ready to take a stroll through the most fashionable streets in London. He was determined he would not look out of place. Not this time. He was tired of being looked down upon by the wealthy people he passed on his walks. He smoothed down his trousers, straightened his collar, and placed his hat jauntily over his freshly-washed blond curls. He looked every part a gentleman. 

As he made his way from his lodgings into town, for fear of his hat or coat being covered, Joseph darted past any pigeon-filled trees. He stepped smartly around the overflow from a leaking cesspit. Joseph carefully avoided the sludgy manure as he crossed the roads, ignoring the laughter from the cheeky crossing sweepers. He held his head high and tucked his hand into his coat, just as he had seen noble men do. Joseph caught sight of himself in a window and congratulated himself on his grand demeanour. 

Just as Joseph entered Mayfair, a scruffy mutt bounded over to him. Joseph tried to avoid the dog’s mucky paws and slobbering tongue, but the quicker he moved, the more the dog pursued him. Joseph ran through the streets, faster and faster, until he arrived back at his lodgings, sweaty, rumpled and, he realised with a sigh, looking nothing like a gentleman.

Detail from a perspective drawing of the curtain wall of the Bank of England, showing Georgian Londoners passing the grand columns and capital of the Tivoli Corner.


Jip liked exploring the streets around the new, large building near his alleyway home. There were always plenty of people about, strolling along, looking up at the impressive building, and pointing out different things they could see. Did they not realise that the most interesting parts of any building were on the ground, by the pavement? That’s where all the best smells were! Often, Jip would patter along beside the people, giving them a friendly hello. Occasionally, a passer-by would be friendly back, but many people shooed him away. One nasty man kicked out at Jip so roughly that Jip jumped into the path of a carriage, only just avoiding clopping hooves. Jip always watched out for his favourite person. That human went into the big building almost every day, and when he came out, he would greet Jip with a quick ruffle of his fur and a crust or other treat to eat. That person called him ‘Dog’. However many people Jip met by the building, none of them were his old family. He missed his old family. They had given him his name.

A figure sits on a cross-beam between a ladder, making a sketch of the ongoing building works around him.

Progress Drawing

Jacob Charlesworth often wondered why, as an apprentice architect working under Mr Soane, his uniform included white trousers. It made no sense to Jacob that apprentices were expected to visit filthy building sites, yet also were expected to keep their trousers pristine and white. This was particularly on Jacob’s mind when he was sent to sketch the construction of the mausoleum at Dulwich Picture Gallery. He was pleased with the makeshift desk he had prepared himself in order to carry out the sketch, but was particularly delighted with his inspired idea to place his handkerchief down on the wooden board that was to be his seat. Jacob was then happily able to stop worrying about dirtying his trousers and could focus instead on his job of accurately representing each precious brick used in the building process. If there was anything Mr Soane was more fussy about than white trousers, it was bricks.

Two figures, a lady and a gentleman in Regency attire, stand within the portico of a grand country home, looking out over the rolling countryside beyond.

Holkham Hall

When Mr Henry Sitwell invited Miss Lydia Cranner up to Holkham Hall, Miss Cranner’s heart skipped a beat. Surely this was the moment she had been waiting for. Was Mr Sitwell finally going to ask her to marry him? He had, after all, been apprenticed to his architect master, Mr Soane, for a while now and he was starting to consider his future. Miss Cranner dressed up in her finest and most fashionable attire, even buying a new gown for the occasion. She chose a bonnet that framed her face beautifully, and a matching parasol, under which she could hide her excited blushes when Mr Sitwell proposed. Once at Holkham Hall, Miss Cranner could barely breathe. She pretended to admire the view, waiting for the moment to happen. Miss Cranner was to be disappointed. Henry Sitwell became so engrossed in the architecture around them that he spent the next several hours describing it in the most minute detail, until Miss Cranner’s feet ached in her dainty boots. She hid her silent tears under the parasol. Miss Cranner never did become Mrs Henry Sitwell.

About the author

The Fanciful Figures Little Stories are by children’s author, Bethany Walker. Before becoming an author, Bethany worked in museum education. Her published works include ‘Chocolate Milk, X-Ray Specs & Me!’ (2021), ‘How to Steal the Mona Lisa’ (2022) and ‘Olly Brown, God of Hamsters’ (2023).