Bank of England, Construction Model


Sir John Soane’s Museum, London.

Institutional Internal Reference Code:

SM M606


Bank of England, London, constructional model of a niche in the Rotunda.

Date of creation:


Extent and basic medium:

1 model which comes apart in 14 sections: the lower part is solid, the sections above the springing of the apse deconstruct.

Name of creator(s):

Henry Provis with some timber elements prepared by the firm of Swinton and Martyr, for John Soane.

Administrative / contextual / biographical history:

When Soane surveyed the existing Bank buildings after his appointment as architect he found them in a poor state and the roof of Robert Taylor’s Rotunda in too bad a state to be repaired. He decided to rebuild using ‘incombustible materials’ with ‘no timber being used in any part of the new construction’. The Rotunda was speedily reconstructed in 1794-95: Soane used hollow terracotta cones for the construction of the dome (an ancient Roman method) and the walls of the Rotunda were reinforced with a fireproof stone casing inside and out replacing lath and plaster. This mahogany model had a very practical function. It deconstructs so as to demonstrate the masonry construction of one of the Rotunda’s niches and was almost certainly made to explain the system to the masons on the job. In 1797 Soane requested reimbursement of £58.16s he had ‘Paid Henry Provis at different times for sundry Models for the use of the Workmen &c. of parts of the Rotunda, 4 P[e]r Cent Office and Front next Lothbury’. This retrospective claim probably includes the cost of this model. The model would have been made in the early stage of the work in 1794 when an entry in Soane’s Journal 2, 13 May 1794, reads ‘Making designs for the Rotunda & Model of do’. An item in the accounts of the carpenters Swinton and Martyr for Lady Day to Midsummer 1794 records 15s for ‘Mahogany and turning of [ditto] for Model’, in the section ‘Materials and Time to Rotunda’. The entry in Soane’s Journal may refer to office time or to his own part in ordering the model’s construction and deciding what should be shown and how. The accounts for the Bank show that Swinton & Martyr were frequently asked to ‘turn’ parts of models, such as columns, and were seldom responsible for building a complete model. The carpenters bill mentions mahogany and this is the only surviving Bank model that is made of mahogany. It seems likely that this model was made by Provis under Soane’s direction, with pieces of mahogany prepared by Swinton & Martyr. It was probably used later by Soane as an instructional tool in his Royal Academy lectures.

Provenance / archival ownership history:

Model made for John Soane.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Bequeathed to the nation as part of Sir John Soane’s Museum, 1837.

Conditions governing access:

In storage; available to view by prior appointment.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright The Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Materials, physical characteristics and technical requirements:

Painted mahogany. H: 3.95cm, W: 60cm, D: 32.5cm. Scale: 2ft to 1 inch.

Finding aids available:

Sir John Soane’s Museum collections online –

Bibliographic note:

John Wilton-Ely, ‘The Architectural Models of Sir John Soane: A Catalogue’, Architectural History, Vol. 12, 1969, cat. 18, figs 16a and 16b; M. Richardson & M. Stevens (eds), John Soane architect: master of space and light, Royal Academy of Arts, 1999, cat. 131.

Exhibition / display history:

Exhibited in John Soane Architect, Royal Academy, 1999, cat. 131.

Subjects (Getty Art & Arch Thesaurus):

Architectural models; architectural education; model-making


England: London; City of London; Bank of England.


John Soane (1753-1837); Henry Provis.