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Soane's Ealing Home

Crispin Robinson looks into one of Sir John Soanes restoration of of Pitschanger Manor.

For most people the name Ealing conjures up images of the once-famous film studios, several stations on the Tube or, more recently, a radical Borough Council and the London Home of the Leader of the Labour Party. For architectural historians, however, Ealing is the home of Pitshanger Manor, rebuilt as a country retreat in 1800 – 9 by Sir John Soane, architect of the museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields and Dulwich Picture Gallery. Recently, the interior of Pitshanger Manor has been restored, after eighty-five years of service as a public library, and its fine proportions, ceilings and decorations can now be more fully appreciated in its new role as a local museum, gallery and art centre.

Soane bought the estate for £4,500 as a country home for his wife and two sons, these last showing an initial, though not long-lasting, interest in the fine arts and architecture. He immediately set about demolishing the existing, early-eighteenth century house. He retained, however, the two-storey, red-brick extension which had been added to the house in 1768 by George Dance the Younger, perhaps because Soane had worked on the extension as a pupil of Dance's and also because it would have been too costly to replace such fine rooms, only recently constructed. Adjoining Dance's block, which contains an Eating Room on the ground floor, with the Drawing Room above, Soane built a square yellow-brick house, its impressive east front modelled after the Arch of Constantine, by way of Robert Adam's Garden façade at Kedleston Hall. To the north of the house Soane constructed a colonnade of antique fragments and a ruined Roman temple to a house some of his collection of antique remains, both levelled, unfortunately, at the end of the last century.

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