Knight's old haunt to receive pounds 500,000 share of bounty

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The Independent Online
Thousands of sketches and designs by the 18th-century architects Robert and James Adam will go on public display following a lottery grant of more than pounds 500,000 to Sir John Soane's Museum, one of the unsung gems of London.

The second anniversary of the National Lottery was also marked by an award of pounds 1.4m towards the purchase by the Woodland Trust of a 10,000- acre Highland estate.

The second largest-ever land acquisition aided by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the grant for Glen Finglas in Perthshire, will enable the creation of Scotland's largest broad-leaved forest and guarantee public access. The estate stretches from the shore of Loch Venachar to the 2,883ft (879m) summit of Ben Ledi.

Taking the anniversary total to more than pounds 2m, there were also HLF grants of pounds 42,700 to the Yorkshire Museum for the purchase of a rare collection of 289 mineral specimens and pounds 108,000 towards the repair of Skenfrith Parish Hall in Gwent. Built in 1843 as a National School, the hall is now the focal point for a population of just 50 villagers.

Lauding the lottery at a press launch in the former home of the architect Sir John Soane in the City of London, Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, stressed the importance of investing in museums and galleries at times of rapid change in technology and society.

"There is a sense of turbulence and insecurity," Mrs Bottomley said. "That is why there is an ever greater desire to understand our roots, to actually stop and stare and wonder and learn."

There is little sense of turbulence at the museum, which was visited by 76,000 people last year. Sir John stipulated that numbers 12 and 13 on Lincoln's Inn Fields, houses he designed and turned into a museum himself, should be left "as nearly as possible" in the state in which he left them on his death 1837.

The collection includes two famous series of pictures by William Hogarth - The Rake's Progress and The Election - and an alabaster sarcophagus discovered in the tomb chamber of Seti I, King of Egypt in 1300BC.

The pounds 533,816 lottery grant has enabled the Sir John Soane's Museum Society to buy the house he built in 1823 next door to his museum. Together, the three buildings form a fine symmetrical composition on the north side of the fields.

No 14 has never been opened to the public and is the only one of the many London town houses designed by Sir John with its interiors substantially intact. The present tenants, a firm of solicitors, can admire the ceiling mouldings but might regret the lack of lift in the Grade I listed building.

The extra space will enable the museum to display parts of the collection never seen before and provide educational facilities. In particular, there will be a proper study centre for 9,000 Adam drawings. Stored in 57 bound volumes in a large former wardrobe, the collection ranges from light sketches to coloured designs for chimney pieces and ceilings.

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