On the ground floor, in place of a series of subdivided smaller rooms, Soane designed three grand interlinking reception rooms, starting with the Eating Room at the north end and progressing through the central Saloon to the Drawing Room at the south end. He did away with the original doors in the corners of the rooms and opened up grand double doors giving a straight view from one end of the house to the other. Unfortunately, the plan of the house meant that the views to north and south terminate in a wall rather than a window.
The Saloon served as the principal reception room. As seen today it is dominated by Butler’s rather overpowering porticoes, mahogany doors and remodelled door surrounds. The doorway into the Hall was originally the same height as the doorway leading into the garden.
The fireplaces appear to be 18th century but their provenance is unknown. We know that Soane designed a new fireplace for the Eating Room, but the Duke preferred to buy ready-made ones. The large gilt chair is Italian, probably from Venice.
The shutters in the Saloon, as throughout the house, have small oval holes cut in one of the leaves. These have come to be called “dream holes”, and probably served to let in just enough dawn light to allow the maids to get to open the shutters or light a fire without disturbing the occupant of the bedroom.
The Saloon now serves as a concert hall, Soane’s Coved ceiling giving it a fine acoustic.
The flamboyant portrait of George Grenville, First Marquess of Buckingham, is by John Jackson, RA. The portrait of an elderly gentleman is by Sir William Beechey, RA, best known for his painting of the death of Nelson, now in the Victory. The sitter was Thomas Dyke, of whom nothing is known.