I’ve been mulling this post over in my mind and debating what to cover. My collection of vintage tins, royal merchandise (my Charles and Di tin is the best), piles of old magazines, nail polish, fabrics that I love so much I can’t use them, vintage shot glasses. The list goes on, but the point I am trying to get to is that I collect a lot of different things, without really intending to be ‘collecting’ them if that makes sense? It just sort of happens.

So what to talk about instead? My favourite collector, Sir John Soane.

Seriously, I may hoard but I have NOTHING on this guy.


You may recall in my Bank Holiday Fun Part 1 post, that I recently revisited the Sir John Soane’s museum based at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. I am in no way an expert, and the museum’s website has a whole host of information available, but I’d like to give you a little overview of what to expect if you choose to make a visit yourself.

Who was Sir John Soane?

English architect Sir John Soane lived from 1753 until 1837, and his home at Lincoln’s Inn Fields was a constant project. Soane began training as an architect aged just 15, and having received a travelling scholarship from the Royal Academy in 1777, set off on his Grand Tour in March 1778. Taking a Grand Tour was relatively common practice for architecture students at this time as a way of seeing the world (or at least Europe) and it’s architectural treasures. Soane set off for Paris, followed by the Palace of Versailles, onto Rome and its ancient wonders before visiting Naples. Soane’s travels later took him back to Rome, on to Sicily and various other mediterranean islands, Lombardy and a whole host of Italian cities. The preferred style in England at the time was the neo-classical- heavily influenced by the Palladian and Roman villas seen by Soane and his contemporaries on their travels.

What is the museum all about?

The museum represents Soane’s surviving legacy, given that much of his work at the Bank of England has been destroyed. Soane was appointed as a Professor of Architecture in 1806 at the Royal Academy, and he began to arrange his home so that his students might be able to make use of his books, models and artefacts for study outside of lectures. Within 20 years, the collection had grown and became referred to as an ‘Academy of Architecture’

I first visited the museum when I was at university. Being an architecture student myself, I was expecting the museum to be of interest, but I had no idea just how interesting and inspiring I would find this place to be when I actually visited it.

A litle bit of background on Soane’s works at Lincoln’s Inn Fields from the Soane museum’s website (who know it a lot better than me!):

Soane demolished and rebuilt three houses in succession on the north side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, beginning with No. 12 between 1792 and 1794, moving on to No. 13, re-built in two phases in 1808-9 and 1812, and concluding with No. 14, rebuilt in 1823-24. The main area of the museum is based at No. 13, but on my most recent visit, the exhibition has spilled out into the neighbouring property.

In 1833 Soane negotiated an Act of Parliament to settle and preserve the house and collection for the benefit of ‘amateurs and students’ in architecture, painting and sculpture. On his death in 1837 the Act came into force, vesting the Museum in a board of Trustees who were to continue to uphold Soane’s own aims and objectives. A crucial part of their brief was to maintain the fabric of the Museum, keeping it ‘as nearly as circumstances will admit in the state’ in which it was left at the time of Soane’s death in 1837 and to allow free access for students and the public to ‘consult, inspect and benefit’ from the collections. Since 1837, each successive Curator has sought to preserve and maintain Soane’s arrangements as he wished. However, over the years changes have been made and the recent Five-Year Restoration programme sought to restore Soane’s arrangements and effects where they had been lost.  

Today, the museum is a fascinating insight into the mind of an avid collector of all kinds of interesting items. Every room, is filled to the brim with interesting artefacts, books, models, drawings and plans. My favourite part of the museum is the collection right at the back of the building, where the collection spreads over 3 interconnected floors, all culminating around an alabaster Egyptian sarcophagus. The infamous Picture Gallery is so filled with paintings and drawings on all 4 walls, that two of the walls have been covered in moveable partitions to the extent that these allow the room to accommodate 3 times as much hanging space as a room of that size ordinarily would. In short, the whole place is crammed full of treasure, which cannot be fully appreciated without a visit to the museum itself.

Sounds great, when can I go?

The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10:00-17:00 (last entry at 16:30) and is a short walk from Holborn tube station and is easy to find. It took me around 20 minutes to walk there from Waterloo station. It is free to visit, although please leave a voluntary donation- the museum costs a small fortune to keep running and conserve the collection for future generations.

I would really recommend making time for a visit if you are ever in London, even if you only have time for a quick look round. The collection really does have to be seen to be believed.

This post represents day twelve of Blog Every Day in May #BEDM with Rosalilium

Some information on this page was obtained from the Sir John Soane’s Museum’s website, Photography is not permitted inside the museum, hence why these photographs are not my own- click each image for a link to their source.

One thought on “Collecting

  1. Pingback: One whole month | Tales From the Finch's Beak

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