Saturday - 25 October 2014

Soane’s weekend retreat to be restored in £9m project

09 June 2014Written by Tom Derbyshire

While Sir John Soane’s labyrinthine central London treasure trove of a house is very well known, less familiar is his country home to the west of the city.

But it seems that is about to change. Pitzhanger Manor House in now-suburban Ealing has been awarded nearly £9m in grants for a restoration programme which will see the property closed for three years to recreate Sir John's original vision of his weekend residence.

Pitzhanger was his 'dream home', a Regency villa created by the architect and surveyor to the Bank of England after he bought the property in 1800. He demolished most of the existing manor, apart from an extension designed in 1768 by his first employer, George Dance.

Following its completion in 1804, the Soanes used Pitzhanger as a weekend retreat and a place of entertainment. It also accommodated a growing collection of paintings, books, architectural drawings and fragments, later to form the collection which you can now see at Sir John Soane's Museum at 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields.

In 1810 Sir John sold the house and it passed through a succession of owners until 1843 when it became home to the daughters of Britain's only assassinated Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval. In 1901, the building was sold to Ealing District Council and extended to become Ealing's Public Library. An art gallery extension was built in 1939. Since 1985, when the library moved, the interiors have been undergoing restoration.

Now, it has been confirmed that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is providing £4.42m and a £275,000 development grant, while Ealing council has earmarked £4.14m in support. The manor house will close in January next year and is due to reopen in 2018.

Glasshouse reinstated

A council spokesman said: "Important areas such as the north side of the building and the west elevation of Soane's eating rooms, which are currently hidden by unsympathetic later additions to the building, will be revealed; original rooms, now closed to the public and used as offices, will be opened up and important illustrations of Soane's design genius, notably his glasshouse, will be reinstated."

The project will also see the house and gallery re-integrated with the adjoining Walpole Park, originally the grounds of Soane's home, in which he used to stroll and go fishing with his friend J.M.W. Turner.

A major project to restore the historic landscape and build new facilities in the park is also under way.

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