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'Like a Roman sepulchre': John Soane's design for a Castello d'acqua at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, and its Italian origins.

In July 2002, under the watchful gaze of the visiting public, members of the Cambridge Archaeology Field Group exposed the substantial foundations of a curious structure in the gardens of Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire (Fig. 1). (1) The brick footings are all that remains of a late-eighteenth-century conduit house designed by the architect John Soane (1753-1837), and, exotically, described by him as a 'Castello d'Acqua'. Although constructed in 1793, the design origins of this idiosyncratic building lie in the fantastical neo-classical projects which--like the architects Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) and Robert Adam (1728-1792) before him--Soane had been inspired to invent when confronted in Italy by the remains of classical antiquity. Remains that, emerging from the overburden of centuries of rubbish, were themselves the object of intense archaeological interest.


In 1776 Soane--then an assistant in the office of the architect Henry Holland (1745-1806)--won the gold medal for architecture of the Royal Academy Schools, and was awarded a three-year travelling scholarship to Rome in December of the following year. (2) The glories of the Eternal City were to have a powerful impact on the young architect, as his first letter from Rome reveals: 'my attention, entirely taken up in the seeing & examining the numerous and inestimable remains of Antiquity ... with what impatience I have waited for the scenes I now enjoy.' (3) In later life Soane was to re-emphasise the significance of his having been 'sent to Italy to pursue my studies', adding: 'This was the most fortunate event of my life.' (4) In practice, however, Soane took up just a little over two years of his scholarship funding, travelling in Italy between May 1778 and May 1780. If he had been impatient to see the remains of Roman civilisation, he was equally impatient to establish himself as one of Britain's leading architects, returning home prematurely in order to capitalise on the promises of patronage he had received whilst in Italy, most notably from the capricious Bishop of Derry, Frederick Augustus Hervey (1730-1803), later 4th Earl of Bristol. (5)

The first fourteen months of Soane's Italian tour were spent in Rome, nurturing contacts with fellow artists and possible patrons, and visiting the cities and ancient sites of the southern part of the country; and it was during this period, amidst the ruins of Paestum, that Soane met his future client at Wimpole, Philip Yorke (1757-1834), later 3rd Earl of Hardwicke. (6) In August 1779, Soane turned his attention to the north and 'the classic cities of Lombardy', as his friend, travelling companion, and future client Rowland Burdon (c. 1757-1838), was later to describe them. (7) Their itinerary included Bologna, Parma, Milan, Brescia, Verona, Mantua, Vicenza, Padua, and Venice. (8)

As has been explained by Pierre de la Ruffiniere du Prey and other scholars, Soane's principal reason for visiting Parma appears to have been to establish what rules had been prescribed for the annual prize competition, or Concorso, of the city's art academy, the Accademia di Belle Arti Parmense. (9) In 1763, Soane's master, the architect George Dance junior (1741-1825), had won the Parma Accademia's gold medal, a distinction that Soane must have hoped to emulate. (10) Affiliation with the Italian fine art academies (at Rome, Parma, Bologna and Florence), if not victory in their concorsi, had proved to be of considerable benefit to the careers of foreign architects on their return home. (11) Dance need hardly have laboured this point to the ambitious Soane, but he does appear to have provided him with an introduction to one of the teaching staff at Parma, Simon-Francois Ravenet le Jeune (1748-c. 1813), who served as the Professor of Engraving there from 1776 to 1796. (12) Soane learnt that the task set for the 1780 Concorso was to design a 'Castello d'acqua', as detailed in the following text:

Un Castello d'acqua decorato d'una pubblica fontana. Si domandano il Piano, l'Elevazione, e lo Spaccato d'un serbatoio d'acque, che in grandissima copia si supporranno in esso raccolte per comodo, ed ornamento d'una metropoli. La facciata adunque di questo edificio sara posta nel fondo d'una larga piazza, ed ornerassi con tutta la magnificenza di una pubblica fontana, che si vedra divisa in piu polle scaturire da statue, da rupi, o da animali, come vorra la fantasia dell'Architetto, che rappresentando qualche Favola, o qualche Istoria puo distinguerli nell'invenzione. Si vuole eziandio un alloggio unito al serbatoio per gli idraulici, e custodi dell'edificio. (13)

Apparently uncertain about how best to develop his design ideas, Soane immediately sought the advice of Thomas Pitt (1737-93), later 1st Baron Camelford, an amateur or gentleman architect, sixteen years his senior, who had befriended him in Rome, (14) and whose 'classical taste and profound architectural knowledge' Soane admired. (15) A draft of the letter that Soane sent to Pitt explains the brief for the Parma competition, seeks encouragement for his candidature, and voices concern about the appropriateness of his accompanying sketch ideas:

... I am flattered by the friendship you have honour'd me with, of not being too intrusive by informing you of my conduct. Mr. Burdon, for whose friendship I can never be sufficiently grateful having brought me with him to Parma, I informed myself of the subject of the Premium in architecture to be given by the Royal Academy of this place in 1780 (May) for which I wish to become a candidate if it meet with your approbation. I have therefore taken the liberty of enclosing you two designs for 'Un Castello d'acqua decorato d'una pubblica fontana ...' [Soane continues with a transcript of the first paragraph of the competition specification quoted above] ... I must beg leave to request your assistance to point out the most exceptionable parts & to inform me if I have conceived it in any degree agreable [sic] to the proposition if you should think my request unfair I wish you to know that I then cease to desire your Ideas on the subject, tho' most sensible to the want of your assistance: I must confess I am very doubtful of the propriety of my Ideas respecting it ...

Soane added as a postscript:

I must trouble you to enclose me this letter as the Sketches contain'd in it are the first ideas, of which time will not allow me to take Copies, I have only to wish to have the honour of hearing from you, at Florence, a la Posta Restante, which will determine my future plan, & to express my hopes of not breaking in too much on your repose. (16)

Pitt's potential future patronage was important to Soane and he would have been well aware how a plea for guidance from the older architect might flatter. Nevertheless, the brief, with its suggestion that the building might be ornamented with all the magnificence of a public fountain--an architectural fantasy with springs flowing from rockwork, figure or animal statuary drawn from mythology or history, no less--may genuinely have given Soane some cause for concern. (17) Du Prey's detailed analysis of these initial sketches shows that Soane's hesitancy was certainly not born of a paucity of ideas (Fig. 2). (18) Rather he had generated an embarrassment of alternative design possibilities, and his quandary was about choice and appropriateness of form and decoration. Should he plough a conservative furrow and present an all'antica scheme or offer a 'modern' design solution that would show him to be in step with international neo-classicism? (19) How might Soane second-guess which approach the Academy's professors would favour? And what, he might further, and very legitimately, have wondered, was meant, and understood, by a castello d'acqua in late-eighteenth-century Italy, or, indeed, by a castellum aquae in ancient Rome?


Both in Rome and elsewhere in Italy, Soane would have seen the remains of Roman engineering structures specifically designed for the collection, storage, transportation and distribution of water. And greatest of these were certainly the aqueducts that brought water from the spring, lake and river sources in Rome's hinterland, and which, as they approached the city across the Campagna, were lofted on arcaded structures of Cyclopean proportions. Ancient Rome must have brimmed to overflowing with water, that most vital of natural resources: certainly Pliny the Elder, Gaius Plinius Secundus (23-79 AD), thought 'the whole terrestrial orb offers nothing more marvellous' than the plashy display he saw there. (20) Wildly disproportionate to the essential needs of her populace, this great volume of water not only fed the eleven imperial thermae, and nine hundred and twenty-six public baths, but also the city's one thousand, two hundred and twelve fountains. (21)

At the city end of the Roman aqueducts were nodal castella aquae, monumental structures so-called because of their superficial likeness to towers or 'castles'. Their practical function was to serve as distribution points for the lead or earthenware pipes that took the water on: first to the imperial baths and then to other users--whether public, industrial or domestic. (22) But they had a celebratory and decorative function too, for the bringing of constantly flowing water to cities was a cause for great civic pride. The modern authority on Roman hydraulic systems, A.T. Hodge, explains that this aspect of the castellum aquae reached its ultimate expression 'in the practice, especially common in the cities of Turkey during the second and third centuries, of terminating the aqueduct upon its arrival ... in a massive decorative facade some two or three storeys high, heavily embellished with sculpture and with fountains spurting and cascading in all directions.' (23)

At the time of Soane's tour, and without the benefit of our accumulated archaeological knowledge, the remains of Roman hydraulic systems would have been difficult to read, and the only terminal castellum and associated fountain complex to have survived from antiquity to any recognisable degree--at least in Rome--was the first-century BC Aqua Julia, built by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (c. 63-12 BC) in honour of his wife. In 1761 Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78), whom Soane appears to have met, albeit fleetingly, documented these spectacular remains in a volume of nineteen engraved plates entitled Le rovine del castello dell'Acqua Giulia situato in Roma. (24) In this publication, characteristic Piranesian vedute sit beside extraordinary representations of sluice systems, lead plumbing, nozzles, and measures for the regulation of water--technical diagrams raised to the level of an art form. (25) A castellum-cumnymphaeum such as this, with its architectural fantasy, statuary, jets and cascades of water was intended to evoke the watery haunts beloved of Naiads and Nereids, and the realm of river gods, evoking in the minds of city-dwellers the sacred springs of mountain and forest.

Easier to study and comprehend were Rome's exuberant display fountains of the early to late baroque: the late sixteenth-century Acqua Felice, built on the Quirinal by Pope Sixtus v (1521-90); the Acqua Paola, built on the Janiculum by Pope Paul v (1550-1621) in the early seventeenth century; and the elaborate Fontana di Trevi, eventually completed in 1762 to the design of Niccolo Salvi (1697-1751). All three, with their tripartite facades derived from the idea of the triumphal arch, served as the showy terminations to aqueducts--ancient, restored and modern. The mostra terminale--the celebratory facade of a terminal castellum--was a revival, or perhaps more accurately a reinterpretation, of an ancient building type whose conception and construction had been encouraged by the rediscovery in the early fifteenth century of an important Roman text, the De aquis urbis Romae, whose author, Sextus Julius Frontinus (c. 34-104 AD), had been Rome's Curator aquarum. (26)

Despite such promising source material, these precedents--ancient and revived--appear to have had relatively little influence on Soane's design deliberations for the Parma Castello d'acqua. Idealised, geometric plans and an architectural vocabulary drawn from quite different building types--mausolea and monuments--were to preoccupy him. Soane's first six pages of sketches show him experimenting with variants of two unusual plan forms (Fig. 2) that he had used previously, and which drew on the published designs of the French neo-classical architect Marie-Joseph Peyre (1730-85). The gander of Soane's two schemes--of a 'Roman' flavour, with giant parades of columns delineating outlying, semi-circular courtyards reminiscent of Bernini's Piazza di S Pietro--was abandoned, perhaps following Pitt's advice, in favour of an x-shaped plan, which the architect worked up in a set of presentation drawings on his return to Rome. (28) Soane had used exactly the same plan for a design made in 1777, during his last year at the Royal Academy Schools, for a mausoleum intended to commemorate the life of his friend and fellow RA student, James King, who drowned in a boating accident. Water, the giver of life, could be its taker too, and Soane thought nothing of recycling his design to serve quite a different purpose.

Michael McCarthy has suggested that if Peyre's publication inspired the form of Soane's x-shaped plan, then Piranesi's fantastical Pianta di un ampio magnifico collegio, or 'Plan for a Magnificent College', published in 1750, may have prompted the architect to include a sequence of interconnecting rooms of different shapes--circular, elliptical, and octagonal--in the radiating arms of the Castello. (29) The central, circular chapel of the King mausoleum is substituted in the Parma drawings by a reservoir, and the radiating sepulchres with rooms for the housing of hydraulic machinery, committee meetings, and the Keeper of the Waterworks.

Soane's presentation drawings for the Parma competition--a plan, a section, and two elevations (one in the requested metropolitan setting of a piazza, and one against the backdrop of an arboretum that recalls nothing so much as the Pleasure Ground at Wimpole)--represent an extraordinarily bold and progressive scheme (Figs. 3 and 4). The central reservoir--circular with four large apsidal lobes--was to be filled to the level of the building's cornice, where the up-welling water, escaping via pipes, would cascade down the faces of the convex exterior walls. The constantly flowing sheet of water would have appeared between the planted Doric columns, as if falling behind them. Between the radiating arms of the building were to be shield-shaped reflecting pools edged with statues of water-bearers. (30) The Parma scheme also draws on other dream-schemes that Soane had experimented with: the ill-fated canile or canine residence, designed for the Bishop of Derry in 1778-79, and the National Mausoleum that in 1779 Soane proposed might be erected to house the mortal remains of William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (1708-78), Thomas Pitt's kinsman.


Whilst neither on the scale of the Parma scheme nor as architecturally complex, the Castello d'acqua that Soane was to design for the 3rd Earl of Hardwicke at Wimpole thirteen years later clearly derives from this competition exercise. Appropriately scaled for the estate, the Wimpole Castello was a sophisticated if idiosyncratic essay in geometry and ornament, and--although stripped of the grandiloquent decoration of the earliest Parma sketches--echoes some of the ideas they explored (Figs. 5 and 6). It conjures up images of the drum-shaped mausolea that Soane had admired in Italy (notably along the Via Appia), is capped with a saucer dome derived from the roof of the Pantheon, is dressed in sepulchral ornament, and has outlying fountains or urns. This commission provided Soane with an opportunity to translate into bricks and mortar what would otherwise have remained an architectural fantasy: 'finally one of the academic set pieces from his youth was to be constructed'. (32)


Soane included a lithograph version of the Wimpole design (Fig. 8) in his 1793 publication, Sketches in Architecture; containing Plans and Elevations of Cottages, Villas and other Useful Buildings, with characteristic Scenery, adding the explanation: 'Its exterior representation is that of a mausoleum. The snakes are cut in the solid, and do not project, as shown by mistake in this view'. (33) David Watkin has noted that Soane's 'special emphasis on the use of serpents, particularly as "emblems of eternal duration" ... explains his incorporation of them in the design of funerary monuments'. (34) While critical of the inappropriate use of classical ornament, it was charcteristic of Soane to have revived the use of the ancient symbol of eternity, the ouroboros, or snake biting its tail. The arch-headed niches that Soane employs in the three pedimented projections of the Wimpole building are reminiscent of the loculi found in ancient columbaria, a motif that Soane had used in the deep plinths to the pyramidal extremities of the King mausoleum. In that scheme they were to contain sarcophagi, whereas those for Wimpole consist of simple, footed plinths supporting two-handled vessels of equivocal meaning. Are they vases, for water bearers, or lachrymae, symbolic funerary vessels for the catching of tears? The niches perhaps also recall Roman lararia, and the snakes the protective genii associated with such household shrines. The strigillation, or curvilinear fluting, of the frieze immediately below the Pantheon-domed roof is a type of enrichment associated with classical sarcophagi.


The 'characteristic scenery' which frames the Castello d'acqua in this view--a generic arcadian 'dream landscape'--has led to some confusion about the siting of the building at Wimpole. In the Royal Academy's 1999 exhibition, 'John Soane: Master of Space and Light', Wimpole's Castello d'acqua was described in both caption and catalogue as 'standing on a wooded hill in the grounds'. (35) In reality the building occupied an entirely fiat, though none the less strategic, site at the western entrance to the Pleasure Grounds which the landscape designer William Emes (1729-1803) had laid out in 1790. Those walking from the house to, or around, the Walled Garden, and beyond to the eastern end of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown's (1716-83) lower lake, would most probably have passed by the building. The position of the Castello d'acqua can be made out in an anonymous survey plan of 1800 and in Humphry Repton's Red Book plan of the following year which is directly based on it. (36) Surprisingly, perhaps, Repton makes no mention of the building in his accompanying text. In December 1810, during a nine-day stay at Wimpole with her friends, the Yorkes, the diarist and assiduous correspondent Mary Berry (1763-1852) recorded the following observation in her Journal: 'Began cutting down the trees, and clearing away about the reservoir, the only building in real good taste about this place. It is like a Roman sepulchre, and will look well when no longer choked up with trees--two beautiful yews behind and a fine cedar in front excepted.' (37) A line of five yew trees survives immediately to the south of the site of the Castello d'acqua, but these are thought to date from the early twentieth century, planted, as their predecessors would have been, to screen from the gardens the lean-to garden bothies that run along the east courtyard wall.

The only plan that shows the Castello d'acqua, and its central reservoir, in any detail dates from 1856--a 'Block Plan showing External Drains from the mansion, Rectory and Stables' (Fig. 9). The line of the underground pipe between the reservoir and the house--marked 'from the Water House'--is also indicated. (38) A remarkably similar drawing--'A Plan of the Water Pipes and Dreins at Wimpole, with the House, Offices, Church &c. 1749' (39)--made by the architect Henry Flitcroft (1697-1769) a hundred years earlier shows that a square water reservoir (marked 'A') occupied a site to the north of the church a matter of yards to the west of that Soane was to build on (Fig. 10). It seems that the architect was exploiting a pre-existing hydraulic system. Water from the lakes, and from what appears to be a holding pond on the top of Johnson's hill, was presumably directed south towards the house and gardens--which in the previous century at least had contained ornamental fountains and ponds--but quite how this worked is as yet little understood). (40) One spirited suggestion is that the Castello d'acqua served as a boiler house in which water was heated for the plunge bath that Soane placed in an open area to the north of James Gibbs's (1682-1754) chapel, but it is unlikely that hot water would have been piped from such a distance, and there is further evidence of there having been a boiler room in close proximity to the bath. (41) Contemporary with the plunge bath, the Castello may none the less have been necessary to provide the two thousand, one hundred and ninety-nine gallons of water to fill it.


Surprisingly, perhaps, Mary Berry's brief description of the Castello d'acqua is the only known visitor's account of this unusual garden building, and as yet no topographical views or early photographs of it in its picturesque setting have come to light. An intriguing wooden model, hinged to divide vertically and reveal the bell-shaped reservoir chamber in section, survives in the Soane Museum (Fig. 7), together with drawings and accounts. (42) In July 1793, Soane recorded in his Account Book: 'Sent per post to Provis a Plan Elevation & Section of intended Water House on a sheet of foolscap'. (43) The structure was subsequently built by the London bricklayer Thomas Poynder and the plasterer John Bayley. A final image of this unusual building, which must have transported Soane back to the halcyon days of his Italian tour, appears in Joseph Michael Gandy's (1771-1843) extraordinary capriccio Public and private buildings executed by Sir John Soane between 1780 and 1815, rendered as architectural models crowded into a typically Soanian interior. The painting, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1818, includes--balanced on the cornice of a columnar screen at top right--a diminutive version of the Wimpole Castello d'acqua (Figs. 11 and 12). It is not known when the building was demolished, but it last appears on the Second Series Ordnance Survey map of 1903, oddly of an elongated shape as if its pure geometry had been compromised with some form of extension at the west end. The exact fate of this eccentric neoclassical conduit house--an ephemeral garden building that probably lasted less than a hundred years--must have been a truly melancholic object when its end came, perhaps with the construction of a new reservoir on high ground to the west of the house or the arrival of 'mains' water. (44) But unlike the enduring brickwork of the antique mausolea that inspired its design Wimpole's Castello d'aqua now survives only as a memory--in the archive and in the earth.


I would like to thank various friends and colleagues for their help during the preparation of this article: Peter Howell, who very kindly translated the Parma specification in note 13; Stephen Astley and Susan Palmer of Sir John Soane's Museum; Michael Coles of the Cambridge Archaeology Field Group; and Edward Diestelkamp, Tim Knox, and Angus Wainwright of the National Trust.

(1) This exercise was undertaken as part of National Archaeology Day with the aim of establishing the position of the Castello d'acqua, and the condition of any surviving brickwork. The Group plans to publish a report on the dig in the Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society.

(2) For an account of Soane's time at the Royal Academy Schools, see Gillian Darley, John Soane: An Accidental Romantic, New Haven and London, 1999, Chapter 1, pp. 1-20. The scholarship--the 'Travelling Studentship of the Royal Academy'--was worth 60 [pounds sterling] per annum, a sum that exactly matched the salary Soane received in Holland's office. Robert Adam, in contrast, reckoned to have spent between 800 [pounds sterling] and 900 [pounds sterling] per annum on his Grand Tour.

(3) Letter from John Soane to the London carver Henry Wood, from the Caffe Inglese, Rome, 1 August 1778. See Arthur T. Bolton (ed.), The Portrait of Sir John Soane, PA, set forth in letters from his friends, Frome and London, 1927, p. 16.

(4) Quoted in John Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800, compiled from the Brinsley Ford Archive, New Haven and London, 1997, p. 876. The entry is by the Soane authority Pierre de la Ruffiniere du Prey.

(5) Soane had received a letter from the Earl-Bishop requesting his 'immediate attendance' in Suffolk, where he planned to build a new family house at Ickworth. Five years later Soane was to write frankly of his disappointment: '... the Bishop prevented me many enjoyments & deprived me of the means of acquiring many comforts--indeed he used me most cruelly ...', letter to Thomas Pitt, 8 November 1785, British Library (hereafter BL), Add MS 69328, art. 2, fol. 44.

(6) Soane's travels in the southern half of Italy, and beyond, included visits to Naples, Pompeii and Paestum, and the islands of Sicily and Malta. For an account of Soane's meeting with Philip Yorke at Paestum, see Darley, op. cit., p. 38.

(7) Bolton, op. cit., p. 532. Letter from Rowland Burdon to Sir John Soane, from Castle Eden, 13 August 1836.

(8) At Venice, Burdon embarked for England while Soane returned to Rome via Bologna and Florence. In Rome and in the southern part of Italy, Soane's studies focussed almost exclusively on ancient architecture, but in the northern cities his interest extended to the work of renaissance and later architects such as Michele Sanmicheli (c. 1484-1559)--whose Veronese buildings Burdon commissioned him to measure--and Andrea Palladio (1508-80).

(9) See particularly, Pierre de la Ruffiniere du Prey, 'John Soane's Architectural Education 1753-80', PhD thesis, Princeton University, August 1972, New York and London, 1977, Chapter VI, pp. 237-64; idem, John Soane: The Making of an Architect, Chicago and London, 1982; and Michael McCarthy, 'Thomas Pitt, Piranesi and John Soane: English Architects in Italy in the 1770s', APOLLO, vol. CXXXIV, no. 358 (December 1991), pp. 380-86.

(10) Dance's winning scheme, for a Public Gallery, was highly acclaimed. Soane was later to use (copies of) Dance's designs--elevation, plan and section--to illustrate the eighth of his series of Royal Academy lectures; see David Watkin, Sir John Soane: Enlightenment Thought and the Royal Academy Lectures, Cambridge, 1996, pp. 367-68, plate 102.

(11) On 7 June 1763, Dance had written to his father George Dance Senior (1695-1768): 'There could not be a better opportunity than that which offer'd itself at Parma ... where all Italy nay all Europe may concur', Sir John Soane's Museum, Dance Cabinet, Slider 4, Set 11, Item 1 (verso), cited in du Prey, op. cit. in n. 9 above (1982), p. 177, note 13. For a discussion of the importance placed by British architects on membership of the Italian academies, see Damie Stillman, 'British Architects and Italian Architectural Competitions, 1758-70', Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. XXXII, March 1973, pp. 43-66; Frank Salmon, 'Charles Heathcote Tahtham and the Accademia di S Luca, Rome', Burlington Magazine, vol. CXL, no. 1139 (February 1998), pp. 85-92, and idem, Building on Ruins: The Rediscovery of Rome and English Architecture, London, 2001, pp. 32-35.

(12) Dance was a friend of Ravenet's father, Simon Francois l'Ancien (1706-74) who, possibly brought from France to work with William Hogarth (1697-1764) on his 'Marriage a la Mode' series, settled in London in c. 1750.

(13) See Marco Pellegri, Concorsi dell'Accademia Reale di Belle Arti di Parma dal 1757 al 1796, Parma, 1988. For an account of the Progetti for 1780, see ibid., pp. 167-76. The 'first Palm' was won by the Parisian architect Auguste Chevalle de Saint Hubert, while the second prize went to the Milanese architect Vicenzo Poma. The Castello d'acqua was not the first of the Academy's competitions to have a watery theme; in 1765, the architectural section of the Parma Concorso had called for a Cascata d'acque, or cascade, and in 1772 Bagni pubblici, or public baths. In translation, the Parma specification reads: 'A Castello d'acqua decorated with a public fountain. The plan, elevation and section are required of a resevoir for water, which will be supposed to be collected in it in the greatest abundance for the convenience and ornament of a metropolis. The facade, then, of this building will be set at the end of a wide piazza, and will be adorned with all the magnificence of a public fountain, divided into several springs and flowing from statues, rocks or animals, as the fantasy of the architect decrees: his invention may be distinguished by the representation of some myth or history. Accomodation is also required, linked to the reservoir, for the hydraulic engineers and the custodians of the building.'

(14) Soane's draft letter, with the date left blank until the fair copy could be sent off, was written at 'Milan, Augst. 1779'. Soane and Burdon went directly from Parma to Milan.

(15) Sir John Soane, Memoirs of the Professional Life of an Architect, London, 1835, p. 14. Soane was subsequently to help Pitt with the repair and alteration of his house at Boconnoc, Cornwall--for their correspondence, see BL, Add MS 69328, art. 2, fols. 1-72 (1786-88).

(16) Sir John Soane's Museum (hereafter SM), vol. XLII, Original Sketches: Miscellaneous Architectural Subjects. The letter is at fol. 182, while the various sketch schemes cover both sides of fols. 183 and 184--the second, folded sheet is twice the size of the first, so there are, effectively, six pages of drawings. Soane must either never have sent the letter or been disingenuous about not making copies of his 'first ideas'.

(17) In a marginal note on one of the sketches (SM, vol. XLII, fol. 184), Soane muses, perhaps hopefully, 'supposing there to be no absolute necessity for the introducing of Rocks &c.'

(18) Du Prey, op. cit. in n. 9 above (1982), Chapter 9, pp. 168-93, 'Soane and International Classicism'.

(19) Soane was later to publish contrasting antique and neo-classical versions of the Bishop of Derry's canile. An explanation accompanying one of the drawings (SM, vol. XLII, fol. 184) reads: 'the temples [to the River Gods] are omitted being doubtful of being at Liberty to treat the subject as an Antique edifice'.

(20) The architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (active 46-30 BC) stresses the importance of water in Book viii of his De architectura: '... without the influence of moisture, living creatures will be bloodless and, having the liquid element sucked out of them, will wither away ... it is held by physicists and philosophers and priests that all things depend upon the power of water ... it is the chief requisite for life, for happiness, and for everyday use'. See Vitruvius, The Ten Books on Architecture, translated by Morris Hicky Morgan, Cambridge, MA, 1914, reprinted New York, 1960, pp. 225-26.

(21) These statistics were recorded at the Sack of Rome in 410 AD. With a combined length of more than two hundred and fifty miles (four hundred kilometres) and the capacity to deliver an equal number of millions of gallons of water per day, they were a quite astonishing technical accomplishment and a visible indicator of Rome's wealth and sophistication. See H.V. Morton, The Waters of Rome, London, 1966, p. 46.

(22) It is not entirely clear whether these were one and the same as the castellum divisorium, as described by Vittuvius.

(23) A. Trevor Hodge, Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply, London, 1992, pp. 8-9. He cites the terminal nymphaea at Miletos, Aspendos, Side and Perge as being the best examples.

(24) Le Rovine del Castello dell'Acqua Giulia situato in Roma presso S Eusebio, e falsamente detto dell'Acqua Marcia, colla dichiarazione di uno de'celebri passi del comentario Frontiniaro e sposizione della maniera con cui gli antichi Romani distribuivan le acque per uso della citta, Rome, 1761.

(25) Piranesi's interest in ancient hydraulic structures was perhaps partly due to his architectural training at the hands of his uncle, Matteo Lucchesi, who was both an architect and hydraulic engineer. Piranesi engraved many other views and details of aqueducts and fountains, and was particularly fascinated by the underground emissarium which controlled the outflow of water from Lake Albano.

(26) The rediscovery, in 1429, of Frontinus's text in the library of the monastery of Monte Cassino was made by Poggio Bracciolini--one of Pope Martin v's (1417-31) secretaries. This detailed explanation of the working and management of Rome's water supply systems was very much fuller and less confused than that given by Vitruvius in his more celebrated De architectura.

(27) Du Prey, op. cit. in n. 9 above (1982), Chapter 9, suggests that the four pages of drawings, recto and verso, of the folded sheet SM, vol. XLII, fol. 184, are the earliest, and that the slightly neater, more developed sketches on fol. 183 may be those that Soane sent to Pitt. The inspiration for both schemes can be found in Peyre's plan for a vast complex of teaching academies. See Oeuvres d'Architecture de MarieJoseph Peyre, Architecte, ancien Pensionnaire du Roi a Rome, Inspecteur des Batimens de Sa Majeste, Paris, 1765, plate 3.

(28) The drawings--which include a plan--are at SM, 45/1/20-22. A reworked version, with a tiled roof, by Soane's assistant Charles James Richardson (1806-71) is at the Victoria and Albert Museum (hereafter V&A), nos. 3307.19 and 3307.20. See the V&A architectural drawings catalogue by Pierre de la Ruffiniere du Prey, Sir John Soane, London, 1985, p. 31, nos. 12 and 13. This version, 'Drawn on stone by C.J. Richardson' appeared as plate XXXIV, figs. 3 and 4, 'Design for a Castello d'Acqua Rome 1778', in John Soane, Designs for Public & Private Buildings, London, second edition, 1832. See the extra-illustrated copy SM, Case 125.

(29) See McCarthy, op. cit., pp. 380-86.

(30) Du Prey suggests that the figures in this, and some of Soane's other Parma sketches were drawn--in contravention of the Concorso's rules--by another hand, that of the Italian artist Carlo Labruzzi (1748-1817).

(31) Designed to serve a city, at different stages in its evolution the Parma scheme was to hold fifty-five, thirty, and fifteen thousand hogsheads of water.

(32) Darley, op. cit., p. 104.

(33) Milking his Italian academic credentials for all they were worth, Soane proudly proclaimed his authorship on the title page in the following terms: 'by John Soane, Architect to the Bank of England and Member of the Royal Academies of Parma and Florence'.

(34) See Watkin, op. cit., p. 267.

(35) Margaret Richardson and Mary-Anne Stevens (eds.), John Soane Architect: Master of Space and Light, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, 11 September-3 December 1999, pp. 122-27, no. 50, 'Wimpole Hall' (entry by Christopher Woodward).

(36) See Cambridge University Library, Ms Plans 609. The text leaves and watercolour plates of Repton's Red Book survive at Wimpole.

(37) Lady Theresa Lewis (ed.), Extracts of the Journals and Correspondence of Miss Berry from the year 1783 to 1852, 3 vols., London, 1865, vol. II, p. 446, Journal entry for 8 December 1810.

(38) Cambridge Record Office, DDCL (P) 260. The drawing is at a scale of twenty-four feet to the inch. Another pipe, marked 'pipe from Brewhouse' connects the Brewhouse in the east service wing to the north cellars by H.E Kendall (1776-1875).

(39) SM, 6/1/18. This square basin appears on drawings made by Charles Bridgeman (d. 1738) around 1720. A further, detailed drawing by Henry Flitcroft (SM, 6/1/20), inscribed 'Scetch of the Water & ca. in the Best Part of the Park', shows the architect making repairs and improvements to the water drainage system.

(40) Darley, op. cit., Chapter 6, note 24, observes that 'Soane's preparation [at Wimpole] included careful investigation of water courses and levels'.

(41) See Ptolemy Dean, Soane and the Country, House, Aldershot, 1999, p. 21, 'The bath at Wimpole was served by water heated in an ornamental boiler house in the park which Soane dressed up as a classical folly and called the "Castello d'Aqua"'.

(42) SM, 1148 M. See John Wilton-Ely, 'The architectural models of Sir John Soane: A catalogue', Architectural History, vol. XII, 1969, p. 13, fig. 16; and Richardson and Stevens, op. cit., p. 126 (catalogue entry by Christopher Woodward).

(43) In 1898, a covered concrete-walled structure was built to the design of J.W. Jenkins & Son, Civil Engineers, Liskeard, Cornwall. The drawings are at the Cambridge Record Office, DDCL (P) 386/4 and 386/8.

(44) Hertford, Hertfordshire Record Office, 'Abstract of the Bills & Expenditures for the several works done at Wimpole in 1791, 1792, 1793 & 1794', records that H. Provis 'Paid his Men at Wimpole' for various works at the 'Water-house'.

David Adshead is Architectural Historian and Deputy Head Curator to the National Trust. He has made a particular study of the design history of Wimpole, Cambridgeshire.
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