• Ina

Sir John Soane's Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

Sir John Soane’s Pitzhanger Manor is an extraordinary country retreat that belonged to the neoclassical British architect Sir John Soane (1753-1837). Discover the secret history of the Manor and its rich significance for its founder, one of Britain’s most influential architects.


A Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy, Sir John Soane was one of the leading architects of the Regency era, as well as a devoted collector of sculpture, paintings, drawings, books, architectural models and fragments, and furniture.

The Serpentine pond (Walpole Park) where John Soane would sit and fish with his friend J. M. W. Turner (the artist).
The Serpentine pond (Walpole Park) where John Soane would sit and fish with his friend J. M. W. Turner (the artist).

Becoming a brilliant architectural innovator


Born in 1753, the fourth son of a bricklayer, Soane's own natural talent for drawing and his father’s professional connections with architects won him the chance to train as an architect. A hard-working and talented student, Soane received the Royal Academy’s highly esteemed Gold Medal for Architecture and as a result, he was awarded the King’s Travelling Studentship in 1778.

The tall façade of the Pitzhanger house, articulated by caryatids standing on its four Portland stone Ionic columns.
The tall façade of the Pitzhanger house, articulated by caryatids standing on its four Portland stone Ionic columns.

This bursary, funded by King George III, allowed him to embark on a 2-year Grand Tour of Europe. His life-changing voyages to the ruins of Ancient Rome, Paestum, and Pompeii would inspire his lifelong interest in Classical architecture and art.


Soane’s ingenious use of space, light, his highly personal interpretations of the Neoclassical style, and his original, notable, experimentation with the forms of Classical architecture earned him great success as an architect.

The tall façade of the Pitzhanger house, articulated by caryatids standing on its four Portland stone Ionic columns.
The tall façade of the Pitzhanger house, articulated by caryatids standing on its four Portland stone Ionic columns.

After training in the office of Henry Holland, his career took off, winning him various high-profile projects, including the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Bank of England (where he served as Architect and Surveyor for 45 years) and he also created his own astonishing home and Museum at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.


His fascination with the history of architecture and his achievements as an architect led to his appointment as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806.

The tall façade of the Pitzhanger house, articulated by caryatids standing on its four Portland stone Ionic columns.
The tall façade of the Pitzhanger house, articulated by caryatids standing on its four Portland stone Ionic columns.

The Pitzhanger Manor Chapter


By 1800 Soane was prosperous enough to purchase Pitzhanger Manor Ealing as his dream country house, for £4,500. Built between 1800 and 1804 in Walpole Park Ealing, the Manor is a rare and remarkable example of a building designed, built, and lived in by Sir John Soane himself.

The top-lit staircase, running from the basement floor and exploding with light on the upper levels.
The top-lit staircase, running from a rather gloomy basement level to an explosion of daylight on the upper levels.

Apart from a wing designed by George Dance, Soane demolished the building to rebuild it to his own design that combined Greek Revival architecture with Georgian architecture. Soane used it to entertain his influential friends, host clients at large garden parties and dinners, and used it as a retreat when angling in the local streams.

The upper-floor view towards Ealing Green
The panoramic upper-floor view towards Ealing Green.

The building located in then-rural Ealing was intended to showcase Soane's skills as an architect, reflect his new-found social status, as well as provide an educational environment for both of his sons, hoping they would become architects. Intended as a portfolio piece, the villa was his architectural laboratory and offered a distinguished home to his imposing collection of art and antiquities.


The upper-floor view towards Ealing Green
The panoramic upper-floor view towards Ealing Green.

"With these delightful prospects in view, I wished to make Pitzhanger Manor-house as complete as possible for the future residence of the young Architect, whose classical education and the facilities and advantages he possessed would enable him to distinguish himself above his fellows in the practice of a profession calculated to increase domestic comfort and the refinements of civilised society." (Sir John Soane, 1835)

Repurposing The Manor


Soane wished that at least his young son George would follow in his professional footsteps. For Soane, Pitzhanger was the foundation for what he yearned would become the Soane dynasty of architects. To his utter disappointment, both sons developed an increasingly wayward behaviour, showing not the slightest interest in architecture.

The luminous conservatory overlooking Walpole Park.
The luminous, glazed conservatory overlooking Walpole Park.

As George had an uncontrollable temper and John suffered from ill health and laziness, Soane decided to sell Pitzhanger in July 1810 and move back to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, together with library and his growing, eclectic collection of art and antiquities that included Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress” series of paintings.

Undeterred by his children's unwillingness and already a passionate collector, he began to repurpose his home at Lincoln’s Inn Fields as a Museum for students of architecture, growing more enthusiastic about creating a professional legacy. He purchased his house at Lincoln's Inn Fields, in London and started to establish an official program of architecture education.

The façade, with tall ground floor and compressed upper was inspired by the two-storey proportions of the Arch of Constantine
The façade's tall ground floor & compressed upper, inspired by the two-storey proportions of the Arch of Constantine .

Modernizing Monumentality


The entrance façade, modelled with lion-adorned medallions and pillars, majestically watched over by four Greek muses resembles the triumphal Arch of the Emperor Constantine in Rome. For Sir John Soane, Pitzhanger was invested with such a deeply personal significance that in a lecture at the Royal Academy, he described its façade as a self-portrait.


The luxurious front garden
The luxurious front garden, photographed in early March.

A rather dramatically-edited shot of the staircase and the ceiling taken in March 2020, as England'sfirst Covid Lockdown loomed in.
A dramatically-edited shot of the staircase and the ceiling taken in March 2020, as the first Covid Lockdown loomed in.

The majestic drawing room is without a doubt the centrepiece, with its superb pastel-coloured ceiling and the delightful flower and bird-adorned wallpaper restored by hand.

The charmingly restored Chinese Wallpaper in the Manor’s Drawing Room. The symbolism of flowers and birds has been used as a visual staple in China for many centuries to express aspirations and wishes.

The luxurious front garden
The luxurious front garden, photographed in early March.

Chinese wallpaper became prevalent in the 18th century following the import of Chinese lacquers, porcelains, and silks with bird and flower motifs which debuted a century earlier.


Soane's "ancient colonnade" with its exposed wooden roof structure and simple columns evokes the "primitive hut" believed to have inspired the evolution of the Greek orders of architecture.

Demolished in Victorian times, this beautiful, shady colonnade was restored in 2018 to its Soane-era splendour, providing a walkway between the Gallery and the Manor today,

Charming summer evening vibes
Summer nights smell like Levander
Summer nights at Soane's Kitchen are imbued by the tranquil smell of Levander.
Sir John Soane's Garden
Original walled kitchen garden, now sourcing the freshest ingredients for Soane's Kitchen, the restaurant on site.
Beautifully lit bench in the Soane Kitchen's walled garden.
Beautifully lit bench in the walled garden, part of Soane's Kitchen.
First guests of the "Anish Kapoor in conversation at Pitzhanger."
First guests of the "Anish Kapoor in conversation at Pitzhanger" event held in 2019.

A spectacularly rare Soane building, Pitzhanger stands today as a largely intact testament to his grand ambitions and his impressive creative genius, whose strong influence will stand the test of time for many centuries to come.

Artist Anish Kapoor in conversation at Pitzhanger, 24 Jun 2019
Artist Anish Kapoor in conversation at Pitzhanger, 24 Jun 2019

Pizthanger Manor needs our help


Now, more than ever, Pitzhanger needs our help, dear Londoners (and Ealingers in particular). Together, we can keep the manor's pretty doors open and enjoy its exciting series of events, exhibitions, and enriching learning programmes. All it takes is just a small donation that makes such a grand gesture for an even greater impact on our community. Kindly show your much-appreciated support by clicking on the banner below:

Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery opening times: temporarily closed due to covid 19.

🚇 The closest London Underground Station to Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery is Ealing Broadway, on the District, Central, and Elizabeth lines.

📌 Nearby London Attractions:

  • Walpole Park (0 m).

  • Lammas Park (1 km).

  • Gunnersbury Park (2.3 km).

_______________________

Did you enjoy this article? Great! If you'd like to contribute to the running costs of WithinLondon, click the button below:


99 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All