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  • Drawing
    Sir William Chambers, born 1723 - died 1796
  • Enlarge image


  • Place of origin:

    Britain (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1770s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sir William Chambers, born 1723 - died 1796 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen and ink, pencil and grey washes

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case A, shelf 229, box B

Somerset House was the largest British commission for a single building in the eighteenth century. The intention was to provide new accommodation for the Navy office and other, smaller, revenue-raising government offices that were scattered around London. The site was provided when in 1774 parts of the already dilapidated Somerset House collapsed and other parts threatened to follow. Plans were made for the construction of the offices and the embanking of the river by the Secretary to the Board of Works, William Robinson. Robinson died suddenly in October 1775 and Chambers was appointed. Only three quarters of Chambers's scheme was built.

Chambers was born in Sweden and died in London. He travelled widely, visiting China, and studied architecture at the Ecole des Arts, Paris, from 1749 and in Italy from 1750 to 1755. Many of his drawings from this period are contained in his important 'Franco-Italian' album, held in the V&A. Chambers moved to London in 1755 and published his influential Treatise on Civil Architecture in 1759. Chambers demonstrated the breadth of his style in buildings such as Gower (later Carrington) House and Melbourne House, London, in such country houses as Duddingston, Scotland, and in the garden architecture he designed for Wilton House, Wiltshire, and at Kew Gardens. He became head of government building in 1782, and in this capacity built Somerset House, London.

Physical description

Full-size elevation and section of the cornice for the Hackney Coach Board Room and Hawker's Office at Somerset House.

Place of Origin

Britain (probably, made)


1770s (made)


Sir William Chambers, born 1723 - died 1796 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Pen and ink, pencil and grey washes

Marks and inscriptions

crossed through


'four flat'


Height: 261 mm, Width: 445 mm

Descriptive line

Full-size elevation and section of the cornice; William Chambers.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Snodin Catalogue Number: 697


Pen and ink; Pencil; Wash



Subjects depicted





Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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