John Soanes Museum London

Drawing room at the John Soanes museum

On a rainy afternoon in London, we visited the John Soanes Museum at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3B. We took the tube to Tottenham Court Road and walked to the museum. I am not exactly an expert on architecture, so I was unsure if I would enjoy it. Surprisingly, I found it interesting and learned he had designed the first Bank of England building. Sadly, most of his original work has been demolished now.

The museum consists of three houses, NOs 12, 13, and 14 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Over time, Soanes demolished and rebuilt all three. This was his main home, where he lived with his wife until he died in 1837. Soanes was an innovative and trailblazing architect for his time. He traveled extensively through Europe, and the museum contains hundreds of pieces of architecture reflecting the main styles of his time. These styles influenced architecture all over the world. He ran his architecture business from home.  The tools available to his proteges are archaic compared to today, and it is fascinating to see the remarkable work they did with these essential tools and without electricity.  The workshop has been preserved as part of the museum and is a must-see during your visit.  It was also interesting to see how the 18th-century family lived as the home was maintained in pristine condition.  Soanes left the museum to the British people by an act of parliament, and one of the conditions was that the house be kept as it was at his time of death.  It is worth joining one of the guided tours and hearing from the knowledgeable guides of the history firsthand. 

Soanes also designed a tomb for his beloved wife Eliza which can be seen behind Kings Cross St. Pancreas station. He is also buried there with this son. It is a beautiful piece of archhtecture. He never got over the death of his wife according to reports from the time.

About John Soanes

Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was a distinguished English architect whose innovative designs and contributions to the field left an indelible mark on architectural history. Born on September 10, 1753, in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, Soane rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential architects of his time.

Soane’s early education was modest, but his talent was recognized by his mentor, George Dance the Younger, an accomplished architect who played a crucial role in shaping Soane’s career. In 1771, he entered the Royal Academy, where he excelled and won the prestigious Royal Academy Gold Medal in 1776. This award enabled him to embark on a transformative study tour of Italy, where he absorbed the principles of classical architecture that would later inform his unique style.

Upon his return to England, Soane established his architectural practice and quickly gained a reputation for his innovative use of light and space and his skillful incorporation of classical elements. His most celebrated works include the Bank of England (1791-1823), where he implemented pioneering design concepts that influenced modern banking architecture, and his own residence, now the Sir John Soane’s Museum, at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London.

Soane’s architectural philosophy emphasized simplicity, functionality, and the use of natural light. He was a master of the neoclassical style, yet his designs were marked by originality and a departure from strict classical norms. His works often featured ingenious solutions to spatial challenges, exemplified by his use of skylights, mirrored surfaces, and interlocking rooms to create a sense of openness and connectivity.

In addition to his architectural achievements, Soane was a dedicated educator and philanthropist. He was appointed Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806, a position he held for many years, influencing a generation of architects. He was knighted in 1831, recognizing his contributions to architecture and extensive charitable activities.

Sir John Soane’s legacy is preserved in the Sir John Soane’s Museum, which he established through an Act of Parliament in 1833. The museum, housing his vast collection of art, antiquities, and architectural models, remains a testament to his life’s work and his vision for architecture’s educational role.

Soane passed away on January 20, 1837, leaving behind a rich architectural heritage that continues to inspire and educate. His innovative approach and profound impact on architecture make him one of Britain’s greatest architects.

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