It’s a long time since I visited Sir John Soane’s Museum, so I decided to pop in on Saturday. As usual there was a bit of a queue to get in, but considering it’s free, I was happy to wait – I only had to hang around for a few minutes, anyway.
Sir John Soane was a distinguished 19th century architect who turned his Lincoln’s Inn Fields townhouse into a museum full of famous artworks, sculptures, artefacts and furniture, most of it relating to the classical world. It was fairly famous during Soane’s lifetime, and has remained largely untouched since his death almost two centuries ago.
You start in the library, then head to the back of the house, which is covered from head to foot with classical artefacts. The basement is possibly the most exciting space, particularly the Monks’ Parlour and the huge sarcophagus. Back upstairs, there are more beautiful eighteenth century rooms to look around. Whatever your level of interest in history, there is something to see and enthuse over here.
A temporary exhibition, Charlotte Brontë at the Soane, is currently taking place. Though the museum existed when the writer of Jane Eyre visited London, there is no evidence that she ever went. Curator Charlotte Cory has decided to bring her to the Soane for her 200th birthday, and on display are some of Brontë’s possessions, including the beautiful blue and white dress she wore to attend a dinner with Thackeray, as well as some less authentic artefacts.
Another temporary exhibition refers to Soane’s relationship to the works of Shakespeare, and displays, among other things, the first four folios: it’s incredibly rare to see all four displayed together.
The Museum is open for occasional evening tours, and every so often the top floor – Soane’s private apartments – opens for tours (the latter do charge for entry). It’s a lovely, unique little museum that is well worth visiting.
Address: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3BP
Opening Hours: 10-5 Tues-Sat