Tuesday - 22 July 2014

Sir John Soane’s view of Bucks… all the way from Guernsey

23 October 2006Written by ATG Reporter

“A MOMENT of European importance” is how architects acknowledge Tyringham Hall in Buckinghamshire. It is one of the greatest country houses designed by Sir John Soane (1753-1837), the leading architect of his generation.

Soane drawings are not a common sight in the saleroom. So when three Soane designs for the entrance front of Tyringham and a floorplan for Lincoln’s Inn Fields came up at Martel Maides’ (15% buyer’s premium) sale in St Peter Port, Guernsey on September 28, they generated more interest than the auctioneers could handle.

Offered as separate lots, they created a new high for Soane drawings.

Director of Martel Maides Norman Wilkinson told ATG that they had to close their estate agency office in order to free up extra staff needed to man the telephones. Bids came in from the USA and Italy but, in the end, all were sold to the same buyer, a collector who flew over especially for the sale.

Tim Knox, director of the Sir John Soane Museum (whose endowment does not prescribe funds to add to the collection) said that these were the best Soane designs to come on the market for a number of years.

“The market bottomed out a bit,” he said. “About a decade ago architectural drawings were something of a vogue among interior designers. However, these examples were always going to make a strong price.”

The watercolour, pen and ink drawings for the entrance front showed three possible designs that Soane presented to the wealthy banker William Praed who commissioned the building in 1793. They each measured 10 x 17in (26 x 44cm) and were in good condition other than suffering from a few wormholes and needing a clean. They sold at £8000, £7500 and £7000 respectively. The Lincoln’s Inn floorplan made £2600.

The museum has other designs for Tyringham as well as an elaborate architect’s model made for the house.

The actual construction was a modification of these various designs. The drawings are seen as steps toward the final version, but they possess the stripped-down classicism for which Tyringham is still highly regarded by architectural historians.

The Praeds later sold Tyringham to the Koenigs, a German family who made substantial additions to the house and transformed the interior. During the Second World War, the Koenig family moved to Guernsey, taking these Soane drawings with them. Tyringham then became a maternity hospital and later a health clinic. It is now back in private ownership.

ATG understands that the buyer may well make his collection public in the future.

By Alex Capon

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