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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
"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.
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 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 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.
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,
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.
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).
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