Sir John Soane's Museum
020 7405 2107
Sir John Soane's Museum London Reviews
Sir John Soane's Museum Jul 08, 2010
Basically, Sir John Soane was an architect in the 18th and early 19th century. A lot of the graceful, neoclassical architecture you see around London is either his or inspired by him, and the guy who invented the classic red phone box copied his style too. He was very rich, and very interested in travel, classical architecture, and educating young people about antiquities. And he was estranged from his son, who had written some very cruel things about his architecture in the papers and who Sir John blamed for his wife’s death. So instead of letting his son inherit his house, he got an Act of Parliament made so that everything he had in his personal collection and his house itselfwere left as a free museum forever, “to be as little touched as possible”.
Sir John had roamed all over Europe collecting books, bits of ancient marble, reproductions of other works of ancient art, paintings and presents for his wife. This makes the museum interesting on two levels. One is for the objects themselves, which include early clocks and watches, architectural drawings, an ancient sarcophagus from Egypt, a couple of Turner paintings, some original Hogarth paintings and several rooms worth of statues and urns. The other level it is interesting in is for an insight into the mind of the architect himself; what his breakfast parlous was like, where he did his actual work, and the paintings of his family he kept in his actual living room rather than the separate room he had for displaying art. There is an inscription in French under a sketch of his wife, who died (probably of gall bladder problems) after a horrible row with his son, which says something like “my dear love, I don’t understand your voice, please tell me what I must do to grant your wishes” which is very poignant given that her portrait is everywhere and he obviously loved her. You half expect him to come round the corner and tell you all about where he was travelling when he bought the model of a sphinx that you are looking at.
Entrance to the museum is free, but there is often a queue because they don’t let very many people in at once. Disabled access is currently pretty much impossible, because they didn’t really think of these things in the 18th century, but the trust that runs the museum is working to improve matters. There is a shop. I only had a lunch break, and plan to return in many more lunchbreaks to explore the corners I had to miss.
Part of the 2010 - random weekends and things travel blog
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