The major characteristic that was gradually revealed to me and Stephen Gee as we researched Moggerhanger is that it is an intensely personal design by Soane. Although some mid-18thcentury fabric survives concealed, in its south-east corner, the house is essentially a building of 1808-12, incorporating interior work from an earlier enlargement by Soane in 1790-92 for a previous generation. The clients were directors of the Bank of England and the - rst commission for Moggerhanger came comparatively soon after Soane had been appointed surveyor to the bank. It led to a profound friendship with the Thornton family, and Moggerhanger reects Soane's deep involvement with the site, which lasted for 40 years.
For most of the 20th century, the house was unrecognised as one of his most sophisticated designs, and little was thought to have survived within. The design of the interior had been confused by a series of neo-Soanian alterations in the late-19th century, and the use of Moggerhanger as the county tuberculosis sanatorium after the First World War had resulted not only in the conversion of the reception rooms to hospital accommodation, but also in the building being surrounded by single-storey ward blocks that extended diagonally from each corner. Car parks engulfed the building, and planning consent for housing across Repton's park had been granted to the developers who bought the house to convert to ats.
Fortunately, the cost of infrastructure proved that such development was not viable in the economic climate of the 1990s and the house was sold to Harvest Vision, an evangelical Christian group in search of space for a conference centre. Once Harvest Vision realised the importance of the house, it transferred the property to the Moggerhanger House Preservation Trust, a single-building preservation trust, which has restored the house and opened it to the public. Its availability as a conference centre ensures the long-term future of the building.
The basis of our approach to the restoration was the preparation of a detailed analysis of fabric, from which we developed a conservation plan. This close examination of the building was coordinated with our analysis of Soane's bill-books, journals and drawings; it proved to be one of the most comprehensively documented houses in the Soane archive and the staff at the Soane Museum gave us unfailing support. In addition, the hospital records in Bedford's County Record Office told us much about later changes.
Peeling back hospital wallpaper revealed the presence of Soane's favourite sunk mouldings, and careful removal of modern paint layers recovered intact the original oak graining in the hall, complete with the graphite lines that marked out the boards.
Searching through barns uncovered the Ionic columns removed from the eating room in 1964 to provide more bed space. Where details had been lost, the residual imprint of a moulding coupled with the archival evidence ensured that nothing was conjectural.
Archaeological investigations by Albion Archaeology not only established original ground levels (which revealed that the house was set on a plinth), but also recovered Soane's culverts, that allowed the damp cellar storey to be successfully drained rather than be tanked in concrete. There was a close collaboration with the contractor, E. Bowman & Son, and its vigilant site agent discovered examples of original door handles among debris swept into oor voids in late-19th-century alterations.
Our most important colleague was Catherine Hassall, whose microscopic paint stratigraphy was crucial to our understanding of Moggerhanger. Not only did it reveal Soane's decorative scheme of lilacs, pinks and fawns, held together with grey joinery, that contrasts so strongly with the deep reds and yellows that we know from the museum, but coupling the paint stratigraphy with the historic records demonstrated how much the architect had altered the design on site visits during construction, and that 18th-century architects' drawings have to be approached with as much caution as those of the 20th century. It was paint analysis and the billed accounts that really quantified matters and resulted in reconstructing walls that had been removed, blocking later openings, and uncovering one of Soane's remarkable tribunes.
The whole project, of course, hung on how it was funded.
English Heritage provided emergency grant aid to secure the roof and carry out holding works while the project was developed, but it also reassessed the listed status in the light of our initial research.
Having the house listed Grade I made it eligible for an award from the Getty Grant Program, and this international recognition of the importance of Moggerhanger convinced the building's owners that the building should be restored.
The Heritage Lottery Fund provided a very substantial grant, but raising the partnership funding is a considerable task for any singlebuilding preservation trust. The architectural importance led to the support of the Pilgrim, Leche and Coles Trusts, as well as the World Monument Fund; the significance to the region secured funds from local benefactors. As noted above, the quality of Soane's house emanates from the relationship between architect and client; 200 years later, the restoration reects a similar collaboration with the dedicated trustees of the Moggerhanger House Preservation Trust, whose tenacity made it possible.
Peter Inskip, Inskip + Jenkins