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Sir John Soane, R.A. (Goring-on-Thames 1753-1837 London)
Sir John Soane, R.A. (Goring-on-Thames 1753-1837 London)

Design for a National Monument

Sir John Soane, R.A. (Goring-on-Thames 1753-1837 London)
Design for a National Monument
With inscriptions (in Soane's hand) '30 Dec 1817' (lower left) and 'Design for/National Monument/by Sir John Soane/1817' (upper left); and a subsidiary design for the upper storey (centre right)
pencil, pen and grey ink and grey wash, on two joined sheets of paper
18 x 36 in. (45.7 x 91.5 cm.)
Possibly London, The Royal Academy, 1817, no. 889.

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Lot Essay

The present drawing is part of a scheme for improving the area around the Houses of Parliament. A National Monument commemorating the victories of Waterloo and Trafalgar, was intended to form one side of a quadrangle, the other sides were intended as sites for a Royal Palace, the two Houses of Parliament and the Courts of Judicature. This scheme was never executed, although Soane worked on various changes and improvements of the Palaces of Whitehall and Westminster during the early 1820s.
Sir John Soane's involvement with the sites began with his appointment as Clerk of Works at Whitehall, Westminster and St. James's in 1791, under the Surveyor General Sir William Chambers (1723-1796). In 1794 a committee from the House of Lords approached Soane (and not Chambers) to design new accommodation for them. Despite royal approval for the idea, the scheme did not get off the ground. Partly probably due to opposition from James Wyatt (1746-1813) who, after Chambers, was the most influential architect at the period and who was appointed Surveyor General following the latter's death in 1796.
In 1813, following Wyatt's death, the Board of Works was reorganised and the post of Surveyor General abandoned in favour of appointing a team of three architects with responsibility for all public works. Soane was appointed one of these. His first job was to reorganise the Law Courts on the south side of Westminster Hall and create a series of interconnecting top-lit courts. Then in 1822-3 he worked on creating a new Royal entrance and gallery, followed in 1824-7, by a library and committee rooms. Soane's additions were partially damaged by the fire that destroyed much of the Houses of Parliament in 1834 and were subsequently demolished.

We are grateful to Stephen Astley, Helen Dorey and Susan Palmer and the rest of the team at the Sir John Soane's Museum, London for all their assistance with the group of 18th and 19th century architectural drawings and designs.

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