Sir John Soane's Museum Drawings

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Design, 15 to 24 August 1809 (3)  


31 Rough plan of the ground floor, with block plan of adjacent buildings

32 Rough plan of the ground floor and elevation, with block plan of adjacent buildings and details of staircase plans

33 Chelsea Hospital / Plan of the Ground floor / of a Design for a New Infirmary / according to the original outline volunteered to the Lords & other Commissioners for / managing the affairs of Chelsea Hospital / in (blank) last



(31-33) bar scale


31 labelled (Soane) Pull down, Physician, dead (twice), Surgery, Mat / ron, N. (four times), A, foul Ward (twice), 1st floor, G[rou]nd floor, roof_ _ _ [illegible] and some dimensions given

32 labelled (Soane) an under Gr[oun]d Storey / if no other use than / to keep that part of the building opposite the sick perfectly / dry- wood etc as see H, Basement, Matrons, Kitchen, Hot & Cold Baths, dead, area (three times), Surgeon, Nurse, Surgery, Area, Matron, Phy[sician], apoth[ecary] / Shop and some dimensions and calculations given

33 as above, labelled This design was begun on the 10th: of august 1809 & finished before the 24th of the same Month / by order of the Board communicated in the Secretary's letter dated 9th of augst / by John Soane R.A., MIHI-TVRPE RELINQVI EST, Foul Ward / for / Six Patients, arcade / of / separation, Ward / for / Four Patients (five times), Lobby (four times), Nurse (four times), Washouse, Corridor (three times), Water / Closet (twice), Coals (three times), Stairwell (twice), area (four times), (Soane) Entrance to the / Infirmary for the P[hysician?], Ward / for / Eight Patients (twice), Whitster, Reservoir, apothecary, Entrance to the / Infirmary for the Surgeon, Sink (twice), Entrance / Hall, Surgery (twice), Bed (three times), Closet (three times), Physician, Waiting Room, (pencil) dead etc (twice) and some dimensions given

Dated/date range

(31) Aug: 15: 1809 (32) Augst. 16: 1809 (33) 10-24 August 1809 (as per inscription)


(31-32) Soane (33) office, Soane


Papers, presented to the House of Commons, relating to the Building of a New Infirmary, and the Leasing of Ground at Chelsea Hospital (ordered by the House of Commons) to be Printed, 20th April 1809; M. Richardson, 'Soane in Chelsea', pp.45-51, The Chelsea Society Report, 1992


SM (31) 67/5/19 (32) 67/5/18 (33) 67/5/24


This group of plans sets out the position intended (by Soane) for the Infirmary at this stage - block plans on both show the proposed structure completely separate from Yarborough House, replacing the Whitster's residence and on ground intended for Colonel Gordon's house.


The plan indicates a long narrow building with two slightly projecting wings on either end, forming an elongated 'H'. There appears to be an outer wall added to the north side however, which would account for the different shape shown in the block plan. The design indicates space for 42 patients on one floor (drawing 32 shows only 38 berths, although some of the rooms are un-named). There are also circles marked out within the corridor, at each end, which may possibly indicate skylights. Rooms for the dead are labelled, slightly detached from the main building, presumably for control of infection. For the same reason the 'foul ward' (used for the treatment of patients with venereal diseases) is also slightly detached on the other side. 


Drawing 32 also shows a rough elevation with a rusticated basement (which appears almost to be dug out), and small side buildings. In connection with the plan and its position, Soane noted in his report to the Commissioners of 13 April 1809 'After consulting the Physician and Surgeon of the Hospital, respecting what they conceive necessary to be done to carry the intentions of the Board into effect, and having attentively considered the subject, I have made a general Plan accordingly, which I beg leave to submit to the Board, trusting it will embrace the different objects in contemplation, and be at the same time attended with as little expence as the nature and extent of the accommodations required will allow of'.


The Latin inscription 'mihi turpe relinque est' translates as ' it is shameful for me to be left behind'.  This was the motto adopted by George Dance for the Parma Academy Gold Medal competition of 1763. It was used again by Soane for his (unsuccessful) entries for the competition for St Luke's Hospital for Lunatics, 1777 and for a competition for prisons, 1781-2. A motto was used as competition entries had to be anonymous. Obviously this is not the case here but Soane must have felt it appropriate in some way.

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03 09 2010

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