Victoria And Albert Museum


Sketch for the north side of the inner quadrangle

Architect: Francis Fowke (1823-65)
Copyright: V&A Images. Museum number: E.1318-1927

This simple but attractive watercolour by Francis Fowke shows the Lecture Theatre block he designed for the South Kensington Museum in 1864-5 (it now forms the north side of the Quadrangle). Following Fowke's sudden death in December 1865 the project was completed by General H.D.Y. Scott, with the assistance of J.W. Wild.

Sheepshanks Gallery

Fowke, originally a captain in the Royal Engineers, had been appointed by Henry Cole in 1862 as superintendent for the construction of the museum. His first building for the site was the Sheepshanks Gallery, which lay to the south east of the Lecture Theatre block.

Fowke had designed the Sheepshanks Gallery in his own red-brick version of 'rundbogenstil', a round arched Germanic style he'd already used at the Museum of Science and Art (now Royal Museum) at Edinburgh. He continued with this style in the new gallery, using terracotta for decoration since it had proved such a success at the RHS Gardens.

Lecture Theatre building

The Lecture Theatre building formed a link between the Sheepshanks Gallery to the east, and the residences to the west. It also acted as the main entrance the museum, hence it was given a grand doorway and rich decoration modelled by Godfrey Sykes.

In the pediment above is a mosaic by Reuben Townroe celebrating the joining of Science and Art at the Great Exhibition. A frieze to the left of the pediment shows some of the leading figures in the museum and those responsible for what became known as the South Kensington Style, including Cole, Fowke and Sykes.

The interior of the building was also lavishly decorated: in the ceramics gallery on the first floor; the Lecture Theatre above; and on the ground floor the ornate Refreshment Rooms.