What is the Collection?
The Architectural Drawings Collection holds drawings of the five historic royal palaces, dating from the 18th century to the present day. This collection of over 20,000 drawings is complemented by historical photographs and copies of even earlier drawings. The drawings themselves range from architectural designs, site surveys, geological surveys, technical plans and maintenance drawings to modern interior design drawings such as those created for Kew Palace. The range and depth of these drawings show how the five royal palaces have evolved and changed, and also how their use differs, over very long periods of time.
The drawings cover the Tower of London and its immediate environs: Kensington Palace from the original villa to the present palace, including the State Apartments and Orangery; Hampton Court Palace, including the State Apartments, Great Hall and the Chapel Royal and much of the Park; Kew Palace, which includes the designs for the representation work carried out prior to its reopening by Prince Charles in 2006, together with 1960s drawings used in the reconstruction of the 17th century garden; Queen Charlotte’s Cottage; and the Banqueting House at Whitehall, including the adjoining Royal United Services Institution and the roof structure which spans the banqueting area below and supports the spectacular ceiling paintings by Sir Peter Paul Rubens.
How is the Collection is used?
Many departments within the Historic Royal Palaces already use the Architectural Drawings Collection for very many different reasons. Surveyors and Conservation teams use them to find out what work has been done in the past; Retail have used historical drawings to inspire the contemporary design of modern merchandise; Curators use them to help find out how the spaces were used in the past, and in some cases, who lived in the different apartments; Maintenance departments use them to find out where electrical cables, gas pipes and fire alarms have already been installed in obscure, out of the way spaces; Wardens use the drawings to establish boundaries and find out where underground services are; people who live in the palaces are often very interested to see how their homes may have been in the past.
Outside the organisation, researchers, printers, publishers, artists, graphic designers, education specialists and sculptors have all viewed the drawings.
Who manages the Collection?
As well as the many people who use the collection, many other people have been, and are also involved in the creation, care and presentation of the drawings.
The collection has primarily come from two sources: English Heritage, and the former Public Services Agency. The PSA was the successor to the Office of the Kings Works, which since Richard II established it in 1378, had built and maintained royal palaces, and later, public and military buildings. Famous architects including Inigo Jones, (Banqueting House, Whitehall), Sir Christopher Wren (Hampton Court Palace), and Nicholas Hawksmoor (Kensington Palace) have all held senior posts within the organisation of the Office of the King’s Works, although their original drawings are held in other collections. Other drawings have also been bequeathed to us, and still more drawings are constantly being produced by the Surveying, Conservation and Maintenance departments.
The Architectural Drawings Collection is in the care of Christopher Warleigh-Lack, Curator (Architectural Drawings). A team of volunteers work with Christopher in the continuous cataloguing, care and presentation of the drawings.
Please click here to download the catalogue of drawings >