The Dome Room at the Soane
Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields
The Picture Room, which
contains the Hogarth prints
Photos: Martin Charles
The two properties were placed in auction on 23 June
1814 and bid for and purchased on behalf of Grand Lodge
by Soane, for less than one-third of the original price.
Furthermore, the payment for the acquisition was made
by Soane personally, who began to finance Grand Lodge.
At one stage Soane was convinced that he would not be
paid at all for the work. These were no mean sums of money
and it took until 1820 for Grand Lodge to disburse their
debts to him in full – far longer than it should have done.
In 1833, John Soane bequeathed to the nation, by a private
Act of Paliament, his house at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields in
central London which contained his museum and library. He
had made extensions to his home during a period of 30 years
since 1794, having purchased the two adjoining properties.
This allowed him to fulfil, in practice, architectural concepts
with which he wanted to experiment, whilst allowing for the
housing of his vast and growing collection of classical
antiquities and architectural paraphernalia salvaged from
historical sites, all objects worthy of the British Museum.
They are on view today at his museum: a sarcophagus of
Seti I, Pharaoh of Egypt of c.1294 BC, dramatically situated
beneath the dome; Roman bronzes from Pompeii from
79 AD; several Canalettos and a collection of paintings by
Hogarth, including An Election which came directly from
Hogarth’s family through the estate of David Garrick,
among many other fascinating objects and paintings.
The culmination of his achievements are reflected in the
knighthood he received in 1831 and the special gold medal
presentation made to him, three years after his retirement in
1835, by his colleagues in the newly founded Royal Institute
of British Architects.
Grand Lodge presented him with a Certificate of Thanks
in March 1832, signed by the two Grand Secretaries. In the
same year, he commissioned John Jackson to paint a full length
portrait of himself in full Masonic regalia as Grand
Superintendent of Works. The painting hangs prominently
today in the Picture Room of the John Soane Museum.
On 20 January 1837 Sir John Soane, now 84 years old,
died, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Pancras Old
Church in the vault which he himself had designed for his
wife and himself in anticipation of their inevitable mortality.
The design of the vault was a direct influence on Giles
Gilbert Scott’s (1880–1960) design for the red telephone
box of 1926 – a permanent and visual tribute to a long and
distinguished professional and Masonic career.
Credits and Bibliography
My sincerest thanks to Bruce Hogg for his kind skilled improvements to my
written words. Also John Bhone, whose unpublished article submitted to
QC’s London Education Initiative in June 2002 has been of assistance.
Burford, Douglas, The Ark of the Masonic Covenant, AQC 105 (1992).
Stroud, Dorothy, Sir John Soane, Architect, De la Mare, 1996.
Taylor, John E., Sir John Soane: Architect and Freemason, AQC 95 (1982).
Thornton, Peter and Dorey, Helen, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Laurence King, 1992.
Web site created by Mark Griffin