John Soane’s Law Courts and Westminster Hall, Sectional Plan Model


Sir John Soane’s Museum, London.

Institutional Internal Reference Code:



London, sectional plan model of John Soane’s Law Courts and Westminster Hall.

Date of creation:


Extent and basic medium:

1 model.

Name of creator(s):

Thomas and George Martyr for John Soane.

Administrative / contextual / biographical history:

John Soane’s Law Courts at Westminster, 1822-25, were one of his most significant late public works. His challenge was to build new courtrooms on a constrained site next to medieval Westminster Hall (the site of royal courts of justice since the thirteenth century). This plan model (a form possibly invented by Soane) shows the original extent of the design approved in December 1821 and demonstrates Soane’s skill in placing some seven courts between the Hall’s buttresses, accessed by portals cut through its western wall. When a Parliamentary Select Committee of 1824 recommended the demolition of Soane’s original, classical, Law Courts (by this time under construction and well above the ground) and their re-building in the Gothic style on a smaller site, Soane prophesied that the lost space would be missed. He was right: there were complaints from the moment of completion. Soane was not responsible for the problems caused by the reduced size of the Law Courts and therefore published, in 1828, A Brief Statement of the Proceedings respecting the New Law Courts, to clarify his role and protect his professional reputation. In the Introduction Soane stated ‘I am also prepared to shew, by Plans and Models, that all the defects so often complained of … may be easily removed…’ and the pamphlet proposed reinstating the building taken down in 1824. A further note reads: ‘The Models are left at No 13 Lincoln’s Inn Field, – for the inspection of the Committee of Taste, – the Gentlemen of the Bar, – and those unbiased and impartial Editors of the Daily Journals …’. This model was probably one made specifically to accompany Soane’s Statement. The bill is dated 1827, from Soane’s carpenters and joiners Thomas and George Martyr, for £46 10s 6½d, ‘For Materials & Time expended in preparing a Model of the New Courts Westminster, between January 19th & February 9th 1827’.

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 Soane’s Model Room which is accessible daily during Museum opening hours (Weds-Sunday 10-5) on free and paid-for tours only. See for booking details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright The Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Materials, physical characteristics and technical requirements:

Mahogany and limewood. H: 5cm, W: 67cm, D: 87cm. Scale 9ft to 1 inch.

Finding aids available:

Sir John Soane’s Museum collections online –

Bibliographic note:

J. Soane, A Brief Statement of the Proceedings respecting the New Law Courts at Westminster, 1828; John Wilton-Ely, ‘The Architectural Models of Sir John Soane: A Catalogue’, Architectural History, Vol. 12, 1969, cat. 70, fig. 19a; M. Richardson & M. Stevens (eds), John Soane architect: master of space and light, Royal Academy of Arts, 1999, cat. 209.

Exhibition / display history:

Exhibited in John Soane Architect, Royal Academy, 1999, cat. 209.

Subjects (Getty Art & Arch Thesaurus):

Architectural models; architectural education; model-making


England: London; City of Westminster; Palace of Westminster.


John Soane (1753-1837), architect.