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The Great Hall that Sir John Soane designed for the Freemasons was one of his greatest interiors. At the centre of this hall, underneath its dramatic hanging ceiling, stood Soane’s monumental ‘Ark of the Masonic Covenant’, a piece of ritual furniture built in honour of the unification of Ancient and Modern Masonic Lodges in 1813. Sadly nothing of this architectural ensemble now survives. The Great Hall was lost during remodelling of the site in the 1860s, and the Ark was destroyed by fire in 1883.
The centrepiece of Soane's Ark: Buildings with Symbols is a stunning re-creation of Soane’s Ark by Master Woodcarvers Houghtons of York. Around the Ark are displayed a number of others works that together offer a fascinating view of Soane’s broader engagement with Freemasonry. These include a stunning watercolour by J. M. Gandy, Soane’s own masonic apron and gloves, and several fascinating books on Freemasonry from Soane’s personal library.
Soane’s Ark: Building with Symbols is guest-curated by Ferdinand Saumarez Smith, Factum Foundation, and has been generously supported by the United Grand Lodge of England and Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation.
To accompany the exhibition, Factum Foundation are publishing a new book edited by exhibition curator, Ferdinand Saumarez Smith. The book begins with an account by Saumarez Smith describing the fascinating process of re-creating Soane’s Ark and includes contributions from Douglas Burford, like Soane a former Grand Superintendent of Works at the United Grand Lodge of England, and the leading architectural historian, Dr James Campbell.