Lincoln's Inn Fields: No. 13 (Sir John Soane's Museum)

Pages 26-31

Survey of London: Volume 3, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt I: Lincoln's Inn Fields. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1912.

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In this section


Ground landlords.

Trustees of Sir John Soane's Museum.

Description and date of structure.

The original houses from No. 13 onwards on the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields were built in accordance with the agreement come to in 1657 between the Society of Lincoln's Inn and Sir William Cowper, Robert Henley and James Cowper. (fn. 1) Faithorne and Newcourt's map (Plate 4), dated 1658, shows the houses as completed, and they may, therefore, be assigned to that year.

The house is thus described in a deed of 1737 (fn. 2) :—"That messuage scituate in the North Row, called Holborn Row or Turnstile Row, in the north part of Cupfield in St. Giles, being the eighteenth house westward from the corner house next to Lincoln's Inn inclusive …, which said messuage contains in front from east to west 32 feet 7 inches and in depth from north to south 47 feet, with coach-house and stables standing behind, and fronting to a place called Whetstone Park, containing in length from east to west in front 44 feet 7 inches; also the courtyard lying in front with walls encompassing the same, and the two brick piers topt or covered with a pineapple cut in stone on each side the passage or gateway entering into the courtyard."

From the above it is evident that this was the house known as "The Pineapples" in the days before the numbering of Lincoln's Inn Fields, in the same way as No. 44 on the south side was known as "The Two Black Griffins." (fn. 3)

The house was rebuilt in 1753 after the occupation of Sir Thomas Burnet. (fn. 4)

In 1792 (fn. 5) Sir John Soane purchased and rebuilt No. 12 and resided there until 1812. In the meantime he had purchased No. 13, which covered a larger area. This house he now pulled down and rebuilt to suit his requirements as a residence. Later still he designed and rebuilt No. 14, and on the site of the stables which formerly existed behind the three houses constructed a museum connected with No. 13.

Sir John Soane, being an ardent collector of architectural objects, sculpture, plaster casts, pictures, rare books and objects of art generally, arranged his house and museum to accommodate his acquisitions, which eventually grew into a large and valuable collection. It was his earnest desire that this collection should not be dispersed at his death, but be permanently preserved and accessible to the public, especially to architectural students. With this intention, in 1833 he obtained an Act of Parliament, and, on his death in 1837, the trustees therein named carried its provisions into effect.

Plate 13 (fn. 6) shows the disposition of Sir John Soane's house and museum. The party wall between this and No. 12 marks the former boundary between Cup Field and Purse Field, and accounts for the peculiar angle on plan of that wall, the rear of the house No. 13 being considerably wider than the front.

The exterior (Plate 12) is characteristic of Sir John Soane's adaptation of the Grecian style. It is constructed in stone and brick, the stone having been subsequently painted for preservation. Projecting about 3 feet beyond the main building is a portion of the front which originally formed open loggias, as shown by two views in the Crace Collection at the British Museum. (fn. 7) Eventually all the openings were glazed and the additional space thrown into the rooms.

Surmounting the angles of the projecting portion at the second floor level are two terra cotta figures, which are copies of the caryatides in the portico of the Erechtheum at Athens. The four Gothic corbels attached to the piers came from below the niches in the north front of Westminster Hall, and are of the period of Richard II. (1377–99).

The interior is as characteristic of Sir John Soane as the exterior, and is full of interest. Ingenuity is shown in the planning, for instance, in utilising and masking the slope of the western wall, in the general plan of the Museum, and in the recess affording light to the basement.

Plate 14 shows the dining room and library. The design is influenced by Pompeian art. The bookcases form part of the constructive design, and it will be noticed that no projecting mouldings have been employed. The ceilings of the rooms are divided into panels. The central one in the library contains a painting by Henry Howard, R.A., executed in 1837, representing "Aurora preceded by the Morning Star and followed by the Sun God surrounded by the Hours."

In the Hogarth room may be seen Soane's ingenious device for hanging his pictures on quadruple swing panels with pictures on each panel. Although each panel weighs nearly four hundredweight, the mechanical construction is so effective that each is moved with ease.

The breakfast room (Plate 15) is interesting. The centre square of the ceiling takes the form of a saucer dome. In the centre of the dome is a small octagonal lantern light, the sides of which are filled with painted glass. The dome rests upon pendentives, decorated with circular convex mirrors, they in their turn supported by arches springing from small piers. The north and south ends of the room have skylights, skilfully arranged to throw vertical light on the pictures on the upper part of the walls.

The south drawing room on the first floor has a simple decorative treatment, with a semi-circular end and deep recesses to the windows, giving access to the projecting front, which was originally an open loggia.

The staircase is an ingenious piece of planning and construction, containing items of interest such as the Shakespeare recess, a bay window, and the Tivoli recess.

The Council is indebted to the Curator, Mr. Walter L. Spiers, A.R.I.B.A., for much of the information regarding this house. He has also kindly given facilities for the study and copying of Sir John Soane's valuable collection of drawings and MSS. respecting houses in Lincoln's Inn Fields.

The Museum should be visited by all architectural students and those interested in objects of classical art.

Condition of repair.

The house is in excellent repair.

Historical notes.

The occupants of No. 13, as ascertained from the ratebooks and other sources, were as follows:—

1666. (fn. 8) Countess of Middlesex, and (subsequently) Lady Fanshawe.
1675. (fn. 9) Sir William Brownlowe.
Before 1683 to after 1695. (fn. 10) Lady Brownlowe.
1699. (fn. 11) "Widow" Holstead.
1703. Madame Drake.
1708. Spencer Cowper.
1715. Henry Bertie.
1723. William Fellowes.
Before 1730 to 1734. Mrs. Jane Mitchell. (fn. 12)
1737–40. W. Bigg.
1741–45. Mrs. Jane Holden.
1746–53. "Mr. Justice Burnett."
1754–55. Arthur Sturt.
1756. R. Roper.
1757–65. Hen. Wilmot.
1766–87. Sir Thos. Heathcote.
1788–97. Lady Heathcote.
1798–1802. Miss Heathcote.
1803–11. G. B. Tyndale.
1812– Sir John Soane.

Of the above the undermentioned deserve special notice.

Lady Fanshawe resided at various times in four different houses in Lincoln's Inn Fields, in two on the south side with her husband, Sir Richard, and in two on the north side after she became a widow. It will be convenient here to deal with all four residences.

Sir Richard, the fifth son of Sir Henry Fanshawe, of Ware Park, Herts, was at first intended for the Bar, but the study of law proving distasteful, he went abroad and obtained experience in diplomacy, at the same time acquiring some repute as a linguist. In the Civil War he attached himself to the royal cause and joined Charles I. at Oxford, where he met and married Anne Harrison, a royalist's daughter, and a not very distant relation. At the time of the marriage in May, 1644, "they had not twenty pounds between them, but the union proved exceptionally happy." (fn. 13) During the war they at times suffered considerable hardship. In 1646 Lady Fanshawe came to London without her husband and lodged in Fleet Street. After a while Sir Richard joined her, and they lived for some little time in Lincoln's Inn Fields. (fn. 14) There is no means of identifying the house where they lodged. The next three years were spent out of England. In February 1651 Sir Richard proceeded to Scotland to join Prince Charles, and Lady Fanshawe repaired to London. Sir Richard was taken prisoner at the Battle of Worcester on 3rd September, 1651, and was lodged in prison at Whitehall for nearly three months, being allowed out on bail on 28th November, 1651. Seven years elapsed before he could obtain a definite release. On the Restoration Sir Richard was appointed "master of requests," and they took "a house in Portugal Row, in Lincoln's Inn Fields." (fn. 15) From the evidence of the ratebooks it would appear that the house in question was one of the two occupying the site of the present No. 35, Lincoln's Inn Fields. In 1661 the king was crowned, with Sir Richard in waiting, and the Fanshawes took the opportunity to furnish their house and pay the debts which they had contracted during the war. (fn. 16) Later in the year Sir Richard was sent on a mission to Lisbon in connection with the king's approaching marriage, Lady Fanshawe remaining in Portugal Row. In August, 1662, Sir Richard was appointed ambassador to Portugal, and their second period of residence in Portugal Row came to an end. They returned to England in September, 1663, and in the following January Sir Richard was appointed ambassador to Spain, and he and his family sailed to Cadiz. In 1666 he was superseded by Lord Sandwich on the ground that he had exceeded his instructions, but, before he could leave Spain, he was seized with a fatal illness and died on 26th June. In the intervals of his diplomatic career he had busied himself with literature and has obtained a considerable reputation as a translator, whether from Latin, Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese. His chief work was the translation of Camoens' Lusiad. The few English works of his authorship that remain show exceptional talent.


The bereaved widow returned to London with her children, and, after a short stay at her father's on Tower Hill, on 13th November, 1666, "we went all to my own house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, on the north side, where the widow Countess of Middlesex (fn. 17) had lived before." (fn. 18) This house is identified in the notes to the Fanshawe Memoirs, p. 376, as "The Pineapples," (fn. 19) and though no authority is given for the statement, the identification is certainly correct, for the Hearth Tax Roll for 1667 (representing the state of things in 1666) shows the Countess of Middlesex at that house. Three days after Lady Fanshawe's arrival her husband's body, which she had brought all the way from Spain, was buried at Hertford. In the following year Lady Fanshawe took another house on the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields, for 21 years, of a Mr. Cole. (fn. 20) This was No. 26, Lincoln's Inn Fields, for the Hearth Tax Roll for 1667 shows "Cole, Esq." in occupation of that house, while the Rolls for circ. 1673 and 1675 give Lady Fanshawe as the occupier. In 1668 Lady Fanshawe hired a house at Hertingfordbury, Hertfordshire, so as to be near her father, but she evidently retained the house in Lincoln's Inn Fields for some time longer. She died at Little Grove at East Barnet in January, 1680.

Spencer Cowper, who was born in 1669, was the younger brother of William Cowper, the chancellor. Like him, he adopted the profession of the law. At the age of thirty he was faced with an ordeal which might have had a tragic ending. The Cowpers were acquainted with a Quaker family, named Stout, residing at Hertford, and the daughter, Sarah, fell in love with him, and not meeting with encouragement (Cowper was already married) drowned herself. It was the time of the spring assizes and Cowper was in Hertford; in fact, he had been to her house on business that same evening. The facts were so clear that they hardly admitted of doubt, but the Hertfordshire Tories were desirous of seeing a member of an eminent Whig family hanged, and the Quakers did not wish the imputation of suicide to rest upon any of their body. It was, therefore, asserted that, as the corpse had floated, it must have been put into the water after death, and Cowper, and three lawyers who had spent the night at Hertford and had talked about the girl, were accused of murdering her. Scientific evidence was brought forward to refute the vulgar belief, and in the end, in spite of the judge's adverse summing up, the defendants were acquitted. Cowper entered Parliament in 1705 as member for Beeralston, sat for the same borough in 1708, and in 1715 represented Truro. In the last-mentioned year he was made king's counsel, in 1717 he was appointed chief justice of Chester, and in 1727 justice of the common pleas. His residence at No. 13 centred round the year 1708, and was apparently not of long duration. He died in 1728.

Sir Thomas Burnet, third and youngest son of Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, was born in 1694. After a few years spent on the Continent, he entered at the Middle Temple in 1709, and was called to the Bar in 1715. He devoted himself, however, to other pursuits besides that of the law, and acquired a reputation for profligacy and wit. After a time he accepted the consulship at Lisbon, and was absent from England for some years. On his return he took up the law in earnest, was made a serjeant-at-law in 1736, and king's serjeant in 1740. In 1741 he was appointed judge of the court of common pleas and in 1745 was knighted. He was a member of the Royal Society, and something of an author. He purchased No. 13, Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1745, and in that house he died on 8th January, 1753, of gout in the stomach.

Sir John Soane, the son of a humble builder, was born in 1753, near Reading. (fn. 21) His artistic talent was noticed by George Dance, the younger, in whose employ he was as an errand boy, and he was taken into his office. In 1772 he gained the Royal Academy's silver medal, and in 1776 the gold medal and the travelling studentship. The next three years he spent abroad, principally in Rome, returning in 1780. In 1788 he was appointed architect to the Bank of England, and on the practically new structure which was the result of his labours his reputation chiefly rests. In subsequent years he obtained many official appointments, and designed a large number of buildings in London, most of which have since been altered or removed. In 1806 he succeeded George Dance as professor of architecture at the Academy, and in connection with this appointment he began a collection of antiquities, books and works of art for the benefit of his pupils and other students. This collection, with many other objects, he arranged in his own house in Lincoln's Inn Fields (see above). Soane died in No. 13 on 20th January, 1837. (fn. 22)

Bibliographical references.

Pugin and Britton, Illustrations of the public buildings of London. Second edition, greatly enlarged, by W. H. Leeds. 1838. (Vol. II.)

Sir John Soane, Description of the House and Museum on the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields, the residence of Sir John Soane. 1835.

John Britton, The union of architecture, sculpture and painting, exemplified by a series of illustrations with descriptive accounts of the house and gallerie; of John Soane. 1827.

Old prints, views, etc.

View of front. Published for European Magazine, by Asperne. 1814. Engraving preserved in Crace Collection.

View of front (as altered) in 1836. Engraving preserved in Crace Collection.

In the Council's collection are—

* Facade (photograph).
Ground floor plan of No. 12 in 1792 (drawing).
[Ground floor plan of] No. 13 in 1810 (drawing).
* [Ground floor plan of] No. 14 in 1792 (drawing).
* Library and dining room (photograph).
Hogarth room, quadruple swing panels (photograph).
Gallery under pupils' room (photograph).
[Gallery under] dome, looking east (photograph).
* Breakfast room (photograph).
Flaxman recess in basement (photograph).
South drawing room on first floor (photograph).
Staircase (photograph).


  • 1. See pp. 11–12.
  • 2. Enrolled Deeds, Common Pleas, 10–11 George II., Trinity (1). Indenture between Robt. Smith, Robert Henley and others and Giles Eyre.
  • 3. See p. 59. It may be mentioned that from the same deed it appears that the gateway of No. 14 was flanked by two white balls and was probably so designated. Another instance of this method of identification is found in a letter written by the Earl of Oxford in 1722 from "One Black Ball in Lincoln's Inn Fields" (Historical MSS. Commission, Report XI., part V., p. 327).
  • 4. MS. note in sewer ratebook for December, 1752.
  • 5. This and the following statements as to the rebuilding of the three houses are taken from the Introduction to the General Description of Sir John Soane's Museum. It should be pointed out, however, that the ratebooks show Soane as occupying No. 12 in 1791.
  • 6. From a drawing kindly lent by the Trustees of Sir John Soane's Museum.
  • 7. Views Portfolio, XXVIII. No. 44 made in 1812 shows all the loggias open, and No. 45 shows the house as altered in 1836, with the ground floor loggia filled in.
  • 8. See next page.
  • 9. The Hearth Tax Roll for 1675 has "Wm. Brounland, Esq.," but this is probably a mistake, as the undated Roll, circ. 1673, has "Sir William Brownelowe."
  • 10. Jury Presentment Lists for 1683 and 1695.
  • 11. Jury Presentment List for 1700.
  • 12. From the deed of 1737, mentioned above, it appears that the occupier of the house was previously Mr. William Mitchell.
  • 13. Dictionary of National Biography.
  • 14. "And when your father was come he was very private in London, for he was in daily fear to be imprisoned in London before he could raise money to go back again to his master. … Thus upon thorns he stayed the October, 1647." (Lady Fanshawe's Memoirs (edn. 1907, p. 45). "The 30th of May, [1647] I was delivered of a son called Henry, in lodgings in Portugal Row, in Lincoln's Inn Fields" (Ibid., p. 45.)
  • 15. Ibid., p. 95.
  • 16. Ibid., p. 96.
  • 17. Anne Bret married Lionel Cranfield, afterwards Earl of Middlesex, in 1621. She died in 1670.
  • 18. Lady Fanshawe's Memoirs, p. 201.
  • 19. "The house on the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields, known as the 'Pineapples,' where Lady Fanshawe was living at the time of her husband's death, has disappeared with the other old residences on that side of the square." (Fanshawe Memoirs (edn. 1905), Allan Fea's Notes on the Illustrations, xviii.) The Dictionary of National Biography incorrectly identifies "The Pineapples" with the house in Portugal Row which the Fanshawes occupied in 1661.
  • 20. Ibid., p. 206.
  • 21. Donaldson's Review of the Professional Life of Sir John Soane, p. 81.
  • 22. Chronological summary by G. Bailey at the end of Donaldson's Review, etc.