Even if you have never heard of him, wherever you go in London, you’ll be seeing the influence of Sir John Soane. He was an architect in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in London and designed many famous buildings such as Dulwich Picture Gallery (England’s first purpose built art gallery) and the influential original Bank Of England building. His tomb, which he designed himself, was the model for London’s iconic red telephone boxes.
But the most influential building he left with us was his own house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Soane lectured on architecture and collected books, artworks, and antiquities to rival the British Museum – he had over 700 Egyptian, Roman, and Greek objects as well as paintings by English artists such as Hogarth.
Before Soane died in 1837 he secured an Act of Parliament to leave the house in trust and open to the public. He wanted people to be able to come and see and learn from the objects he had collected. Today we have this wonderful, well-preserved house in the middle of London which is almost exactly as it was in the 1830s.
To further this impression, on the first Tuesday of every month, the house is lit only by candlelight. As well as the permanent collection, the museum has changing exhibitions. Not surprisingly, this year from July until September it will be about Sport and Vision in Architecture. Sir John Soane Museum is at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A.