Secret second floor rooms of Sir John Soane's Museum to open after £813,000 Lottery win

By Culture24 Staff | 15 March 2010
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A picture of a painting of the inside of a room full of miniature models of buildings

More than 150 years since the doors were locked on Sir John Soane's private apartments for the last time, organisers at the neo-classical architect's museum could be about to re-open them after winning £813,000 for an ambitious regeneration campaign.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given the grant to Opening up the Soane, a £6 million project aiming to overhaul the visionary craftsman's Holborn homage by 2012, as specific provision towards the £1 million bid to restore the hidden second floor of the Museum.

The maze of rooms feature Soane's lavish bedchamber, his wife's "Morning Room" boudoir and staff facilities and quarters, but the recreation of the creative brilliance sparked inside the sanctum – described as "an architectural museum in miniature" by the Sir John Soane's Foundation – will be of most interest to design fans.

Soane's Model Room will be remade, allowing access to the staggering realm of architectural mock-ups used by Soane to educate students and inform his own idiosyncratic creations across the capital, including the rebuilding of the Bank of England's Threadneedle Street headquarters at the end of the 18th century.

A mix of watercolours (top of page), descriptions and inventories will be used to replicate the look of the original rooms, increasing access to the entire building along the way.

A photo of the inside of a library inside a grand ancient house

The Library Dining Room at the Sir John Soane's Museum

Visitors have been able to glimpse inside the rooms by special appointment with the Museum, but a resounding 98% of guests asked for full restoration to be pursued.

"The project enables us to deliver far more to the public," said Museum Director Tim Knox, whose blueprints will ensure the existing melee of classic paintings, artefacts from around the world and architectural models downstairs will remain unaffected by building works.

"Visitor capacity will be increased by a third, so we can do more to attract a wider audience, work with harder-to-reach groups in the community and greatly increase volunteer involvement while reducing the adverse impact of large visitor numbers on this fragile building."

A photo of the outside of a mansion on grassland

The Grade-I listed Forty Hall was built for former Lord Mayor of London Sir Nicholas Rainton in the 17th century

The award is part of a £4.4 million investment announced by the HLF for seven “key heritage projects” in separate London boroughs, creating 19 new jobs alongside hundreds of volunteer positions and £11 million in partnership funding.

Other winners include 17th century Enfield mansion Forty Hall, which will use some of a £1.8 million windfall to interpret the remains of a "lost" Tudor palace in the grounds, and Severndroog Castle, the Shooters Hill site which narrowly lost out in a BBC restoration competition five years ago. The Grade II-listed landmark has been closed to the public for 20 years.

A photo of a black windmill on grass

The interior of Brixton Windmill, which was built in 1816 and ceased production in 1934, will be opened to the public

The 200-year-old Brixton Windmill will be restored with a £400,000 grant, along with new community and archive projects at Sutton’s Honeywood House (£335,000) and The George Padmore Institute in Haringey (£206,000), which holds a vast archive from the life of black activist John La Rose.

An organ which is the only surviving kind of its era, the Walker Organ at The Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in Wimbledon, will also be fully resurrected at a cost of £237,000, introducing two organ apprenticeships in the process.

A photo of the outside of a large house on a lake

Honeywood House contains 6,000 items from the borough of Sutton during the 19th and 20th centuries, which it will re-interpret with an accompanying education programme

"This astonishing array of places and projects reminds us that every London borough is steeped in history," said Wesley Kerr, the HLF's London Chair.

"These awards will make that history more accessible to millions of people by broadening horizons and opening opportunities. We are thrilled to support these projects which demonstrate how central heritage is to London’s economy and spirit in all its wonderful immensity."

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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