Historic records and architectural histories: drawings and models

By Tim Hudson (guest blogger)

What types of historic documents do architectural historians use? Continuing with our guest written series, the once Editor of the Sussex Victoria County History and co author of the updated Pevsner guide to West Sussex, Tim Hudson, will be exploring the types of records used when researching built heritage. Each blog, Tim will look at a significant West Sussex building through a variety of historic documents available at the Record Office.

Today we look at architectural drawings and models.

Transverse drawing of a proposed structure for Goodwood House. Drawn in black and white, the structure has a large dome as a centre point, and classical doorways and columns, as well as a grand staircase to the front entrance of the house.
Unexecuted design for Goodwood, West Sussex: transverse section, courtesy of RIBA collections (reference RIBA65973)

Architectural historians are always eager to find original drawings for architects’ projects. These can reveal the stages of a design, sometimes including features that weren’t incorporated in the end result. They can also show schemes never carried out. The drawings for Goodwood House made in 1724 by the Scots architect Colen Campbell, one of the originators of the ultra-classical Palladian movement in English architecture, are an example.

The Record Office holds photographs of the originals, which are in the Royal Institute of British Architects’ collection. Campbell’s design alludes to Palladio’s Villa Rotonda near Vicenza in Italy, including a central circular and domed hall with other rooms around it.

Colour photograph of the front entrance to the stables, with a neo-classical design of columns and an archway. Fauna grows up the walls either side of the main arch entrance.
Goodwood House, stables, by William Chambers, 17575-1763, image copyright James O Davies

The architectural history of Goodwood is complicated, and is fully explained in the revised edition of Pevsner’s guidebook for West Sussex, by Elizabeth Williamson and others (2019). A greater architect than Campbell who later worked at the house was Sir William Chambers, best known for Somerset House by Waterloo Bridge in London. His contribution at Goodwood was the Stables of 1757-63, which to some visitors at least seem much grander than the house itself.

A prolific architect in the early 20th century in Mid Sussex was Leonard Kier Hett (1887-1978), described in the revised Pevsner as sometimes ‘cautiously progressive’ in style. His working papers have recently been deposited at WSRO (AM 818). Much of Hett’s work involved the restoration and enlargement of 16th- and 17th-century houses, for instance Broadhurst Manor in Horsted Keynes.

Broadhurst Manor, Horsted Keynes, perspective and plan by L. Keir Hett, 1930. Taken from the Pevsner page 453

More exciting survivals than drawings, though rarer, are architectural models. Two famous ones for buildings outside Sussex are Sir Christopher Wren’s ‘Great Model’ for St Paul’s Cathedral in London (viewable there by appointment) and Lutyens’s for Liverpool Roman Catholic Cathedral, described as ‘the greatest cathedral never built’ (to be seen at the Walker Art Gallery in that city).

The Record Office is lucky to have two models relating to the Chichester Festival Theatre, built in 1961-2; they form part of the large collection of the Theatre’s archives given from 1994 onwards. Both illustrate planning applications. One, by the building’s original architects Powell & Moya, shows early alterations to be made in 1967. The other shows extensions proposed in 2011 by the firm of Haworth Tompkins, which were carried out in 2012-14. The new West Sussex Pevsner describes the ingenious construction of the theatre, its account illustrated by a plan and cross section taken from a contemporary architectural magazine.

For anyone interested to see more architects’ drawings and models, the two best national repositories, both in London, are the V & A Architecture Department (which incorporates the RIBA collection) and the quirky Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Both are free to enter and well worth the visit.

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