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|Sir John Soane (10
September 1753 – 20 January 1837) was an English architect who specialised
in the Neo-Classical tradition. He was born at Goring-On-Thames near
Reading, the son of a bricklayer. He trained as an architect, first under
George Dance the Younger, and then Henry Holland, whilst also studying at
the Royal Academy Schools, which he entered in 1771. During his studies at
the Royal Academy, he won the Academy's silver medal (1772), gold medal
(1776) and finally a travelling scholarship in 1777, which he spent on
developing his style in Italy.
When in Rome, Soane travelled around with his old classmate, the architect Thomas Hardwick Junior, and also met the builder and Bishop of Derry, Frederick Augustus Hervey, whom he accompanied to Ireland. However, he failed to find work there, so returned to England in 1780 and settled in East Anglia where he established a small architectural practice.
In 1788, he succeeded Sir Robert Taylor as Architect and Surveyor to the Bank of England, the exterior of the Bank being his most famous work. Sir Herbert Baker's rebuilding of the Bank, demolishing most of Soane's earlier building was described by Pevsner as "the greatest architectural crime, in the City of London, of the twentieth century". The Bank job, and especially the personal contacts arising from it, increased the success of Soane's practice, and he became Associate Royal Academician (ARA) in 1795, then full Royal Academician (RA) in 1802. He was made Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806, a post which he held until his death. Then, in 1814, he was appointed to the Metropolitan Board of Works, where he remained until his retirement in 1832. In 1831 Soane received a knighthood.
In 1792, Soane bought a house at 12 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London. He used the house as his home and library, but also entertained potential clients in the drawing room. It is now a museum open to the public, packed with goodies.
Soane was commissioned by the Bank of Ireland to design a new headquarters for the triangular site on Westmoreland Street now occupied by the Westin Hotel. However, when the Irish Parliament was abolished in 1800, the Bank abandoned the project and instead bought the former Parliament Buildings.
Between 1794 and 1824 Soane remodelled and extended the house into two neighbouring properties — partly to experiment with architectural ideas, and partly to house his growing collection of antiquities and architectural salvage. As his practice prospered, Soane was able to collect objects worthy of the British Museum, including the sarcophagus of Seti I, Roman bronzes from Pompeii, several Canaletto's and a collection of paintings by Hogarth. In 1833 he obtained an Act of Parliament to bequeath the house and collection to the British Nation to be made into a museum of architecture, now the Sir John Soane's Museum.
During his time in London, Soane ran a lucrative architectural practice, remodelling and designing country homes for the landed gentry. Among Soane's most notable works are the dining rooms of both numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street for the Prime Minister and Chancellor of Britain, the Dulwich Picture Gallery which is the archetype for most modern art galleries, and his country home at Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing.
Soane died in London in 1837 and is buried in a vault of his own design in the churchyard of Old St. Pancras Church.
Selected list of architectural works
Aynhoe Park, Aynhoe, Banbury, Oxfordshire
Bank of England
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Moggerhanger Park, Moggerhanger, Bedfordshire
The Royal Hospital, Chelsea
St John's Bethnal Green
Trinity Church Marylebone
Tyringham Hall, Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire
St. Peter's Church, Walworth
Soane's house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, now a museum
South Hill Park
Wimpole Hall, Arrington, Royston, Cambridgeshire