Sir John Soane’s extraordinary home at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, has been a public museum since his death in 1837 and is one of the world’s most celebrated house museums.
Soane (1753-1837), the son of a bricklayer, began his architectural career aged 15 and became one of England’s greatest architects. Among his masterpieces was the Bank of England (which he built over 45 years from 1788) of which only the exterior survives today. He designed Dulwich Picture Gallery and Dining Rooms at 10 and 11 Downing Street and worked on numerous country houses. He was Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy from 1806 until his death. He is regarded as the ‘father’ of the architectural profession in Britain and his work still inspires architects across the world. The iconic red telephone box was inspired by his designs.
To create his house-museum, Soane demolished and re-built three houses in Lincoln’s Inn Fields beginning with No 12 (1792-94), then No 13 (1808-12) and finally No. 14 (1824-25). He created a series of magical and evocative interiors, seeking always to enhance the ‘poetic effects’ and picturesque qualities of the architecture as a setting for his collections. In 1833 he negotiated an Act of Parliament to preserve the museum. The Act requires that Soane’s arrangements of objects are preserved ‘as nearly as possible’ as they were left at his death.
Soane did much to revive and advocate the use of architectural models in his own practice and when teaching his pupils and Royal Academy students, believing that no building should be begun until models had been made. His collections include about 100 models for his own projects as well as cork models of ancient ruins and plaster models of pristine reconstructions of Classical masterpieces, many of them brought together in his extraordinary Model Room, restored in 2015.
Name of Institutional representative in network:
Helen Dorey (OBE)