Sir John Soane's Museum Drawings

As has been mentioned in the note to the previous scheme, in 1809 Colonel Gordon acquired an 80-year lease of what had been a part of Yarborough House grounds, on which he was to build himself a villa. The lease was a mere formality at £52 14s 0d per annum but he obtained it on the understanding that he spend £3,500 on building his villa. Very eager to start work, Gordon commissioned Thomas Leverton to draw up designs (even before the lease was granted on 11 March) and set about pulling down an existing pavilion that projected into his land in preparation.


Unfortunately, Gordon’s over-eager demolition left the Whitster’s residence, which was attached to the pavilion, exposed to the effects of the weather. (A Whitster was a washerwoman or man, particularly involved with bleaching). Soane himself reported the damage and its likely effects to the Board on 13 April 1809 (as recorded in the meeting minutes). Alongside his report, Soane presented watercolour views to show the state of the buildings (drawings 19 to 24). The Whitster’s residence was at this point adjacent to the laundry and airing grounds, but part of the Yarborough House gardens.


Despite the damage caused to the Whitster’s residence, a new house was not built until1821 (adjoined to the Surgeon’s new house).


The remainder of the drawings in this group (drawings 25-30) show Colonel Gordon’s House and must be copies, made by a Soane pupil, of Thomas Leverton’s originals. Under pressure from Soane, Gordon did alter his plans for a villa slightly, but not enough to make a substantial impact on the fate of Soane’s new Infirmary.


The lease of Colonel Gordon’s villa ran out in 1889, at which point it was let for the Royal Military and Naval Exhibitions and two years later converted into a residence for the Infirmary nurses. Gordon House is now much altered but still provides accommodation for staff.

Reference Number:

SM (18) volume 78/6 (19) volume 78/3 (20) volume 77/4 (21) volume 78/7 (22) volume 78/4 (23) volume 77/5 (24) volume 78/5


Record drawings of the partly demolished Whitsters' residence, 12 April 1809 (7)



18 North elevation

19 View of the West End of the / Whitsters Dwelling etc / in its present state

20 View of the West End of the / Whitsters Dwelling etc. / in its present state with a rough pencil plan

21 Elevation of the west end of the Whitster's Dwelling with rough pencil detail of the chimney stack  

22 South View of part of the Whitsters Dwelling in its present state

23 South View of part of the / Whitsters Dwelling in / its present state

24 Elevation of the south side of the Whitster's Dwelling with plan outline  


(18, 19, 22) Charles Malton (pupil 1802-1809) or J. Adams (1788-1879, pupil 1806-1809) (20-21, 23) office








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Reference Number:

SM (25) 67/2/14 (26) 67/2/15 (27) 67/2/11 (28) 67/2/13 (29) 67/2/10 (30) 67/2/12


Copies of Thomas Leverton's design for Gordon House (6)


25 Plans of Sir Willoughby Gordon's House at Chelsea, Principal Floor

26 Plan of the Chamber Floor

27 Sketch of the River Front Designed for Colonel Gordon

28 (Copy) Sketch of River Front Designed, for Colonel Gordon (adjoining Chelsea Hospital)

29 Sketch of Entrance Front Designed For Colonel Gordon

30 Copy / Sketch of Entrance Front, Designed for Colonel Gordon. (adjoining Chelsea Hospital)    


(25-30) office







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