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The Property of the Late Humphrey Whitbread, Esq., sold by Order of the Executors, lots 92-96.
Charles Barry was declared the winner of the competition for the new Houses of Parliament in January 1836 and the long process of their building occupied him for the rest of his life. This group of drawings provides an excellent example of his methods during the early years of this project. Barry's office was expanded to deal with the amount of work caused by this commission, and it became one of the major centres in London for training architects during this period. These young men were surrounded by a great number of drawings for the Houses of Parliament, of which some were designs by Barry, some designs by A.W. Pugin, and some made by the office staff. They were aware of the importance and interest of this material. Several of them made their own copies or tracings. Sometimes they assembled a 'Gothic' volume from drawings of the Houses of Parliament, and an 'Italian' one, which concentrated on drawings for the Reform Club. Impressive examples of these exist in the House of Lords Records Office and the British Architectural Library (Royal Institute of British Architects), and a similar source is no doubt the original provenance of this group.
Barry nearly always designed in pencil, often on tracing paper and on a small scale. He was an excellent draughtsman and a perfectionist, constantly searching for the ideal solution. An early sketch (circa 1836), (see fig. 1, lot 92), for the north elevation to New Palace Yard shows him balancing the entrance to Westminster Hall between his new range to the east and a new gothic exterior to Sir John Soane's Law Courts to the west. Two further sketches (lot 92) by Barry of the same date show him wrestling with the design for the Monarch's Entrance at the base of the King's Tower, later to be known as the Victoria Tower, at the southern end of the building. There is also an office copy in pen and wash of part of a splendid drawing by Pugin of the King's Tower, now in the Society of Antiquaries (see fig. 3, lot 92).
The major part of this collection, however, consists of designs for the elevation of the River Front, where the foundation stone was laid in 1840. Barry made great efforts to find satisfactory balance between the vertical and the horizontal on this very long façade and to judge the right amount of sculptural decoration. These drawings show that the time-consuming work of copying out the elaborate elevations was done in the office. Then Barry concentrated on bringing to his ideal of perfection some particular detail, such as the pinnacles, battlements or tracery and many of the office drawings have Barry's pencil additions. All these drawings show the building before the final design was arrived at circa 1842. They clearly demonstrate Barry's compositional skill, and also prove that the modern tendency to attribute the decoration of the exterior to Pugin is wrong.
The lithograph plan of 1843 of the Principal Floor shows the main outlines of the building as built, although there were to be many further changes, such as the arrangement at the south end of Westminster Hall, the creation of the Prince's Chamber, and the addition of oriels to the division lobbies of the House of Commons.