It’s hard to believe that Ealing was once considered the countryside and a suitable place for a weekend escape for Sir John Soane and his family – whose town house stands tall in Lincoln’s Inn Fields just over eight miles away. When Soane bought Pitzhanger Manor in 1800 he demolished the existing building nearly in its entirety in order to showcase his own architectural vision and create a fantasy neoclassical manor where he could entertain clients and friends. Yet it was not in the family for long – just until 1810 – when Soane sold it allegedly after a major bust up with his sons who both rebelled against their father’s intentions of a career in architecture. After changing hands many times over the years from private families and eventually to Ealing Council, the magnificent Regency building has undergone a £12 million redevelopment and opened to the public this March for the first time in its history.
Under 10 minutes walk from Ealing Broadway tube, you’ll find the house – distinctively Soane (who also designed the Bank of England and Dulwich Picture Gallery) – sitting within the green surrounds of Walpole Park. Restored to its former glory by architecture firm Jestico + Whiles, discover Soane’s classical design with domed ceilings and inventive uses of space and light – and interiors that feature dramatic marbling in the entrance hall and hand-painted Chinese wallpaper in the Upper Drawing Room – recovered from snippets found beneath layers of Victorian white-wash.
The house and gallery space is going to host three exhibitions per year, starting with a solo show from Anish Kapoor. The artist’s use of material and form echo Soane’s complex use of mirrors and light to double and dissolve space. The exhibition includes new works that use the surface of the mirror to alter and shift perspective.
Tours of the house run on Thursday’s at 1pm and as well as the exhibitions there will be a full program of talks and events at Pitzhanger – starting with charming Easter activities for children this April. We’ve got our eyes on Emile de Bruijn on Chinese Wallpaper on 23 May – where the interiors expert and National Trust curator will be discussing the spectacular restored wallpaper in the Upper Drawing Room.