Monday, 24 Jan 2022

Somerset House, Central London

Somerset House is a large Neoclassical building situated in central London, overlooking the River Thames. Take a river boat to Embankment Pier and enjoy this historic building in a key cultural destination.

The purpose of the new Somerset House was to unite several scattered government offices under one roof. Designed by William Chambers (1723-96), Comptroller of the Works, building commenced in 1776 and most of the offices were ready for occupation by 1788. Government departments included the Navy and Stamp Offices, the Salt Office, the Victualing Office, the Lottery Office and others. In the middle of the east wing were the Exchequer Offices and the office of the Duchy of Cornwall, to which Soane made interior alterations in 1795.

Chambers died in 1796, meaning that he was still alive when Soane was asked to enlarge the Exchequer Offices in May 1795. It is unclear why Soane was asked to make the alterations, but Chambers’ age must have been one consideration. Soane was also by this point well acquainted with several officers of the Treasury, having completed designs for William Pitt (Holwood q.v.), George Rose (Cuffnels q.v.) and William Mitford (Pitshill q.v.). Soane’s alterations were all internal and concerned the Pipe Office, the Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer’s Office and the office of the Clerk of Estreats. The function of each of these offices is described on the website of the National Archives, which also holds the Records of the Exchequer, 1086-1994.



“London: Somerset House, Lords Commissioners of the Treasury: designs for alterations to offices, 1795”Sir John Soane’s Museum Collection online. Retrieved 4 April 2018.

“New Wing”. Somerset House. Retrieved 14 July 2018.


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