The Eating Room

 

Passing through the double doors to the north of the Saloon, one enters the former dining room. Soane cleared away the remains of two smaller rooms in order to create a grander space. Probably with thermal efficiency in mind (and incidentally saving window tax) he bricked in the old windows in the north wall. In the far corner smaller double doors lead out to the new North Entrance Hall and, through that, down a curved staircase to the cellars. Food was brought from the Clock (Kitchen) Pavilion through the linking underground corridor into the cellars of the house and then up this staircase. On formal occasions the dishes would have been carried through the Saloon into the Dining Room once all the guests were seated and the smaller doors would be used for clearing away the meal once the guests had moved out.

The cornice has two characteristic Soane motifs, a Greek key pattern on the ceiling and a string of gilded beads in the corner. The quite elaborate decorative pattern on the wall on the other hand seems to be unique. It is not known exactly how the room was decorated in Soane’s day, from the woodwork which was – throughout the house – grained either in oak or satinwood. There are grounds for believing that the clients – Buckingham or his son – arranged their own decorative scheme in the principal rooms and that the Eating Room like the other public rooms was wallpapered. But red was the traditional colour for dining rooms in the Regency period and Soane’s own dining room in Lincoln’s Inn Fields was painted red (which was also the favoured colour for picture galleries). In general, Soane favoured strong, dramatic colours.

There would originally having been two pairs of doors leading into the Saloon. The pair opening into the Saloon were the same height as the present mahogany doors, but the second pair, opening into the Eating Room, were about a foot lower, marking a downward progression from the larger room to the smaller.

The fireplace probably dates From Soane’s reconstruction but was not designed by him.

The chandelier is modern, the bookcase c. 1900 by Holland and Sons and the gilt mirror late 18th century. The portrait of Lady Hales Bt, is attributed to Sir Peter Lely. She was probably Frances, wife of Sir Edward Hales Bt, a follower of James II (and exiled with the king) and daughter of Sir Francis Windebank.