His vision and execution of the new greatly enlarged Bank
of England building – of which today only the surrounding
outer wall commonly referred to as ‘the curtain’ survives –
is still considered a masterpiece of architecture. Sir Herbert
Baker’s Bank of England, completed in 1928, which
demolished most of Sir John Soane’s earlier building, has
been described as “the greatest architectural crime, in the
City of London, of the twentieth century” (Pevsner).
In 1802 he became a full Royal Academician and was
made the third Professor of Architecture at the Royal
Academy in 1806, a post that he held until his death.
In his long and illustrious career John Soane was responsible
for many remarkable works. Among some of the notable ones
are the dining rooms of both numbers 10 and 11 Downing
Street, some buildings in Westminster and Whitehall, the
Royal Hospital in Chelsea and Freemasons’ Hall in Great
Queen Street, London, which had originally been built by
Thomas Sandby (1721–1798), a Freemason and the first
Professor of Architecture at the Academy, in 1775–76.
As the agreement for a Union of the two Grand Lodges
(achieved on 27 December 1813) was reaching its final stages
in October 1812, Grand Lodge, under the supervision of the
Deputy Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex, decided on the
acquisition of properties next to the existing Freemasons’ Hall.
The first step was for a survey and valuation of the property
involved and the Grand Treasurer at the time, John Bayford,
was instructed to approach John Soane for that purpose.
Prior to March 1813, when Bayford finally made contact
with Soane, there is no evidence at all to suggest that the
architect had any interest in becoming a Freemason.
He would have certainly had a passing knowledge of
some of his eminent colleagues and predecessors having
been members of the Craft. However, considering this was
a time when Soane was at the peak of his professional career,
the chances of his finding time for Freemasonry were clearly
Nonetheless, on 19 November 1813, James Perry,
Past Deputy Grand Master (1787–90) and a radical journalist
and friend of Soane and Thomas Harper, Deputy Grand
Master of the Antient, or Atholl Grand Lodge, proposed
and seconded John Soane into Freemasonry in the Grand
Master’s Lodge No. 1.
Photo: Martin Charles
Sir John Soane portrait by
Sir Thomas Lawrence, almost
the last picture painted by the
artist and completed in 1829
when Soane was in his 70s
Web site created by Mark Griffin