The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






John Soane

Sir John Soane (10 September 1753 - 20 January 1837) was a British 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 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. The 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, which he held until death. Then, in 1814, he was appointed to the Metropolitan Board of Works, where he remained until 1832, when he retired. 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. 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 obtained an Act of Parliament, to bequethe the house and collection to the British Nation to be made into 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 architype 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

Last updated: 05-21-2005 14:52:24