Soane’s Manor has returned to its splendour | Tatler
Sir John Soane’s dream house has been painstakingly restored and re-opens to the public this weekend.
In the early 1800s, Sir John Soane used to walk in the mornings from his house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields to his country house Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing. The journey’s a little easier these days, and for those willing to ride the Central Line to the end, Soane’s newly restored Neoclassical gem awaits.
Soane bought Pitzhanger Manor in 1800, shortly after he’d made his name – and his fortune – as the architect and surveyor to the Bank of England. Having risen from humble beginnings, he was set on acquiring a country house to befit his new social standing – and to show off his architectural talents to potential clients. Pitzhanger Manor was essentially his portfolio. He knocked down most of the existing house (apart from a wing designed by George Dance, to whom he’d been apprenticed as a teenager) and built himself a dream house, showcasing both his astounding collection of art and antiquities, and his impressive architectural designs.
After a three-year, £12m restoration, Pitzhanger has been returned to its Soane-era splendour. The façade of the main house, inspired by the Arch of Constantine in Rome, is a medley of pillars and lion-adorned medallions, watched over by four austere Greek muses. Classical touches abound within, from a stern Athena in the stairwell to Grecian beauties peering out from friezes and doorways. The house’s original paintwork has been painstakingly restored by Hare and Humphreys – from burnt-orange and Harrods-green marbling to a botanical design on the library ceiling.
The highlight, though, is without a doubt the glorious drawing room, in which the exquisite pastel-coloured ceiling has been restored, and the delightful bird and flower-adorned wallpaper recreated by hand. Soane left extensive plans, which has allowed for the restoration of features of the house that were removed over the years. These include the light roof (a gorgeous, stain-glassed beacon above the manor), a colonnade and airy conservatory overlooking the parkland beyond.