Sir John Soane was born in 1753, he was an English architect, best known for his work on the Bank of England and the design of Dulwich Picture House. He was also a Professor at the Royal Academy where he taught a series of architecture courses.
His work was of a Neo-Classicist style (a very classical Greek and Roman style) attributing to a variety of buildings in and around London. His intent for the museum was to double up as ahouse to live in, buying Number 12 in 1792 and a few years later, attaining next door (Number 13). After which he re-built and re-designed it into one. His intent was to have a place to call home, but also to house his magnificent collection of art and antiques. He also promoted it as a place for his (and other) students to visit and study the collection. He also opened a library for his students to easily access text books.
The museum, as it stands now, is a beautiful London talking point. Not-so-secret, but not so prominent, it houses a large collection of architectural drawings, sculpture, art works and the house itself is preserved as it was and is just as interesting to simply wander around. Its tight squeeze is worth the maze of antiquities you will encounter. Enjoy exploring and examining the cluttered rooms and be sure to look up, down and around or you will miss something!
My favourite part of this museum, is the secret wall of Hogarth’s. Artist William Hogarth’s famous ‘A Rake’s Progress’ lives here, hidden behind a secret wall, one that is only opened every half an or hour or so, to preserve them. Rake’s Progress follows Tom Rakewell through his life over 8 paintings. It begins with him coming into some money, it continues with him spending said money irresponsibly (if you think drink, orgies and gambling is irresponsible of course) and it ends with him in the confines of Bedlam or Bethlem Hospital. There’s also a small Fuseli in there too. (I love his work!)
The guides there are full of information and will help answer any questions you may have with no trouble at all. Once the secret wall is opened up, a guide walks you through each of the paintings in chronological order and then allows for time to take a closer look. Look out for Z-list celebrity Jonty from Channel 4’s Big Brother 8 (the one with dipshit Brian). Jonty is also, I hear, a qualified London guide.
They have a newly opened shop which has lots of quite nifty London-y gifts but also some good books and fancy, quirky gifts you might actually give someone. They also sell the book based on his wife’s dog – Fanny, entitled ‘The Journal of Mrs Soane’s Dog Fanny, by Herself’
The museum is handily across the park (Lincoln Fields -beautiful, serene) from the Hunterian Museum ( another weird one -post to come!)
Enjoy this museum – it’s what the word “exquisite” was invented for!
HOW TO GET THERE:
Nearest tube: Holborn (take a left out the station and then another left down Lincoln Inn Fields)
- The museum does not allow photography….so be stealthy
- You cant take a lot of bags/luggage in with you
- What you do have with you, has to be put into a see-through plastic bag
- Make sure you go to Lincoln Fields Park, it’s beautiful – especially on a weekend – the bandstand is usually packed with musicians!
- Go see the Hunterian Museum (dead animals with their guts hanging out, preserved in jars) which is across the park!