Tired of London, Tired of Life - A website about things to do in London



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23 January 2009

See Sir John Soane's collection of tat

It was good being a rich gentleman in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Life consisted mainly of touring the world collecting and killing stuff and everything had a price. One chap who certainly exemplified this attitude was the Architect Sir John Soane.

Famous for his work on the Bank of England and the dining rooms at Number Ten and Number Eleven Downing Street, Soane spent most of his spare time pottering round the world buying stuff which the natives thought was worth a lot less than it actually was.

In his latter years he bought 12 Lincoln's Inn Fields, and the neighbouring house, and used them to experiment on architecturally and as home for his mountains of stuff. By the time he died in 1837 he had so much he arranged for an act of Parliament to allow him to bequeath it to the nation.

You have to hand it to him though, it is interesting. Unlike other museums and collections it's not all packed away in cases and everything is piled in on top of each other. You don't know what will be next, be it a unique Egyptian sarcophagus or a famed collection of Hogarth's works, it will be packed in with barely enough room to breathe.

The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am-5pm and on the first Tuesday of each month until 9 pm. Entry is free and the nearest tube is probably Holborn, though there are loads around. For more information visit the website at http://www.soane.org/.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of graham ^


  1. You can't help pitying his wife.

    There she is trying to dust, and there he is bringing back another four crates of Etruscan terracotta fragments.

    "But, darling, there's plenty of room... all I have to do is bunch up those Northern Renaissance bronzes, and move the sarcophagus of Seti I a bit to the right..."

    And, of course, there's the bizarre (and free) Hunterian museum opposite - maybe a future blog post!

  2. While I usually look down my nose at folks who insist on re-creating a country in their drawing room, his collection did prove useful. When he was a professor, English architects were no longer able to actually travel to Rome to study the real thing, due to some little man trying to take over the world.

  3. Thanks for the interest guys and Rob - I have the Hunterian Museum on my big list of things to post when I get a bout of writer's block!