Sir John Soane’s very first job as a 15-year old apprentice was to build an extension at Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, West London. When the building later came up for sale in 1800, Soane was by now a renowned architect who had just designed the Bank of England and was looking for the perfect country house for his young family – Pitzhanger was not only his dream home but also his ‘Grand Design.’
The famously energetic Soane would often wake up early at his house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and walk the eight miles to Pitzhanger, to go fishing on his lake. He also embarked on an ambitious progamme of pulling down rooms and extensions (except for the one that he had worked on), to showcase his new work and designs. The ‘starfish’ Library ceiling of the eventually reappeared at his own house in Lincolns Inn fields and on the dining-room ceiling of No.10 Downing Street. Soane's two sons were told very clearly that they were also expected to be architects – and perhaps Soane was also hoping that they would be inspired by the work he did at Pitzhanger as a teenager.