Thomas Sandby

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Portrait of Thomas Sandby by Sir William Beechey Thomas Sandby by Sir William Beechey.jpg
Portrait of Thomas Sandby by Sir William Beechey

Thomas Sandby RA (1721 – 25 June 1798) was an English draughtsman, watercolour artist, architect and teacher. In 1743 he was appointed private secretary to the Duke of Cumberland, who later appointed him Deputy Ranger of Windsor Great Park, where he was responsible for considerable landscaping work.

Duke of Cumberland is a peerage title that was conferred upon junior members of the British Royal Family, named after the historic county of Cumberland.


Along with his younger brother Paul, he was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768, and was its first professor of architecture. [1] His most notable architectural work was the Freemason's Hall in London (now demolished).

Paul Sandby British artist

Paul Sandby was an English map-maker turned landscape painter in watercolours, who, along with his older brother Thomas, became one of the founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768.

Freemasons Tavern

The Freemasons' Tavern was established in 1775 at 61-65 Great Queen Street in the West End of London. It served as a meeting place for a variety of notable organisations from the eighteenth century until it was demolished to make way for the Connaught Hotel in 1909.

Life and work

Wollaton Hall (Engraving by M A Rooker after a drawing by Sandby) Wollaton Hall late 18th century print by M A Rooker after a drawing by Thomas Sandby.JPG
Wollaton Hall (Engraving by M A Rooker after a drawing by Sandby)
Luttrell's Tower, Calshot - designed by Thomas Sandby for T. S. Luttrell (c.1738-1803) Luttrell's Tower, Calshot - - 178731.jpg
Luttrell's Tower, Calshot – designed by Thomas Sandby for T. S. Luttrell (c.1738–1803)

Early years

Sandby was born in Nottingham, the son of Thomas Sandby, a textile worker, [2] and was self-taught as a draughtsman and architect. Paul Sandby was his brother.

Nottingham City and unitary authority area in England

Nottingham is a city and unitary authority area in Nottinghamshire, England, 128 miles (206 km) north of London, 45 miles (72 km) northeast of Birmingham and 56 miles (90 km) southeast of Manchester, in the East Midlands.

According to the autobiography of the architect James Gandon, Thomas and his brother Paul ran a drawing academy in Nottingham before they went to London in 1741, to take up employment in the military drawing department at the Tower of London (a post procured for them by John Plumptre, MP for Nottingham). [3] Another source says that Thomas initially went to London for the purpose of having one of his pictures – a view of Nottingham – engraved. [4]

James Gandon British architect

James Gandon (1743–1823) is today recognised as one of the leading architects to have worked in Ireland in the late 18th century and early 19th century. His better known works include The Custom House, the Four Courts, King's Inns in Dublin and Emo Court in County Laois.

Tower of London A historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London

The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard I, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.

Employment by the Duke of Cumberland

In 1743 Sandby was appointed private secretary and draughtsman to William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, and accompanied him in his campaigns in Flanders and Scotland (1743–1748). Sandby was at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. Pasquin [4] says that he was appointed draughtsman to the chief engineer of Scotland, in which capacity he was at Fort William in the highlands when the Young Pretender landed, and was the first person to convey intelligence of the event to the government in 1745.

Flanders Community and region of Belgium

Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels, although the Brussels Capital Region has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees the community aspects of Flanders life in Brussels such as (Flemish) culture and education.

Scotland country in Northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Sharing a border with England to the southeast, Scotland is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, by the North Sea to the northeast and by the Irish Sea to the south. In addition to the mainland, situated on the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has over 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

Battle of Dettingen battle

The Battle of Dettingen took place on 27 June 1743 at Dettingen on the River Main, Germany, during the War of the Austrian Succession. The British forces, in alliance with those of Hanover and Hesse, defeated a French army under the duc de Noailles. George II commanded his troops in the battle, and this marked the last time a British monarch personally led his troops on the field. The battle straddled the river about 18 miles east of Frankfurt, with guns on the Hessian bank but most of the combat on the flat Bavarian bank. The village of Dettingen is today the town of Karlstein am Main, in the extreme northwest of Bavaria.

Sandby accompanied Cumberland in his expeditions against the rebels, and made a sketch of the Battle of Culloden, together with three panoramic views of Fort Augustus and the surrounding scenery, showing the encampments, in 1746, and a drawing of the triumphal arch erected in St. James's Park to commemorate the victories. In this year the Duke was appointed ranger of Windsor Great Park, and selected Sandby to be deputy ranger. Sandby again accompanied the duke to the Netherlands during the War of the Austrian Succession, and probably remained there till the conclusion of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in October 1748. He drew four views of the camps in the Low Countries, covering extensive tracts of country, and another inscribed 'Abbaye près de Sarlouis'.

Battle of Culloden Final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745

The Battle of Culloden was the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745. On 16 April 1746, the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart were decisively defeated by Hanoverian forces commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.

Fort Augustus human settlement in the United Kingdom

Fort Augustus is a settlement in the parish of Boleskine and Abertarff, at the south west end of Loch Ness, Scottish Highlands. The village has a population of around 646 (2001); its economy is heavily reliant on tourism.

Windsor Great Park Royal Park near the town of Windsor, England

Windsor Great Park is a Royal Park of 2,020 hectares, including a deer park, to the south of the town of Windsor on the border of Berkshire and Surrey in England. The park was, for many centuries, the private hunting ground of Windsor Castle and dates primarily from the mid-13th century. Historically the park covered an area many times the current size known as Windsor Forest, Windsor Royal Park or its current name. The park is managed and funded by the Crown Estate. Most parts of the park are open to the public, free of charge, from dawn to dusk, although there is a charge to enter Savill Garden.

Sandby continued to draw a salary from the Board of Ordnance, [5] and this, together with his appointment as deputy ranger of Windsor Great Park, which he held till his death, placed Sandby in a position of independence, and afforded scope for his talent both as an artist and as an architect. The Great Lodge (now known as Cumberland Lodge) was enlarged under his supervision as a residence for the Duke. The lower lodge was occupied by himself. His time was now principally spent in extensive alterations of the park, and in the formation of the Virginia Water Lake, in which he was assisted by his younger brother, Paul, who came to live with him. [6] In 1754, Thomas made eight drawings of the lake which were engraved on copper by Paul Sandby and other engravers and dedicated to the Duke of Cumberland. They were republished by John Boydell in 1772. George III, who took great interest in the undertaking, honoured Sandby with his confidence and personal friendship, and on the death of Cumberland in 1765, the king's brother, Henry Frederick (also Duke of Cumberland, and ranger of the park), retained Sandby as deputy.

Artist and professor of architecture

Grand Hall, Freemason's Hall, London (Designed by Thomas Sandby and built in 1776) Grand Hall, Freemason's Hall, London 1776.jpg
Grand Hall, Freemason's Hall, London (Designed by Thomas Sandby and built in 1776)

Although devoted to his work at Windsor and preferring a retired life, Sandby spent part of each year in London. He rented a house in Great Marlborough Street from 1760 to 1766. He was on the committee of the St. Martin's Lane Academy, which issued a pamphlet in 1755 proposing the formation of an academy of art, and he exhibited drawings at the Society of Artists' exhibition in 1767, and afterwards for some years at the Royal Academy. Both he and his brother Paul were among the 28 original members of the Royal Academy who were nominated by George III in 1768. He was elected Academy's first professor of architecture, delivering the first of a series of six lectures in that capacity on 8 October 1770. He continued these lectures with alterations and additions annually till his death. They were never published, but the manuscripts were held in the library of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The illustrations were sold with his other drawings after his death.


St. Leonard's Hill, Clewer (extended by Sandby in the late 1760s) St. Leonard's Hill.jpg
St. Leonard's Hill, Clewer (extended by Sandby in the late 1760s)

In February 1769 Sandby entered a competition to design the Royal Exchange at Dublin, winning third prize of £40. Perhaps his most notable architectural commission was the design of the (first) Freemason's Hall at Great Queen Street in central London, linking two houses purchased by the United Grand Lodge of England The building was opened with great ceremony on 23 May 1776, when the title of 'Grand Architect' was conferred on him by the Freemasons. [7] The Hall was extended in the 1820s by Sir John Soane, but was demolished in 1930 after suffering irreparable structural damage in a fire in 1883.

Sandby designed a carved oak altar-screen for St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, and a stone bridge over the Thames at Staines, opened in 1796, but removed a few years afterwards on account of its insecurity. He built several houses in the neighbourhood of Windsor, including St Leonard's Hill [8] for the Duchess of Gloucester, and one for a Colonel Deacon, later known as "Holly Grove". Designs exist for many others of his architectural works which cannot now be identified. In 1777 he was appointed, jointly with James Adam, architect of his majesty's works, and in 1780 master-carpenter of his majesty's works in England.


Sandby was twice married. The name of his first wife is stated to have been Schultz. He married his second wife, Elizabeth Venables (1733–82), on 26 April 1753. She had a dowry of £2,000, and bore him ten children, six of whom (five daughters and one son) survived him. In his will, and in some simple verses addressed to his daughters after their mother's death, he named only four daughters, Harriott, Charlotte, Maria, and Ann, omitting his eldest girl, Elizabeth, who was twice married, and is said to have died in about 1809. [9] His daughter Harriott married (1786) Thomas Paul, the second son of his brother Paul, and kept house for her father after her mother's death. Eight of her thirteen children were born at the deputy ranger's lodge.


Sandby died at the deputy ranger's lodge in Windsor Park on Monday, 25 June 1798, and was buried in the churchyard of Old Windsor.


Though he was self-educated as an architect, and left few buildings by which his capacity can be tested, the Freemasons' Hall showed no ordinary taste, while of his skill as an engineer and landscape-gardener Windsor Great Park and Virginia Water are a permanent record. He was an excellent and versatile draughtsman, and so skilful in the use of watercolour that his name deserves to be associated with that of his brother Paul in the history of that branch of art.

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  1. Lambirth, Andrew (24 April 2010). "Arboreal glory". The Spectator . 312 (9478): 41.
  2. Thomas Sandby Snr. was described in Thomas Bailey's History of the County of Nottingham as 'of Babworth in this county' but appears to have taken up his residence at Nottingham early in the 18th century. The Sandbys of Babworth are said to have been a branch of the family of Saundeby or De Saundeby of Saundby in Lincolnshire (see Robert Thoroton's "History of Nottinghamshire").
  3. James Gandon. The life of James Gandon, Esq (Hodges and Smith, 1846).
  4. 1 2 Anthony Pasquin. Memoirs of the Royal Academicians (H.D. Symonds, P. M'Queen, and T. Bellamy, 1796).
  5. Michael Charlesworth, "Thomas Sandby climbs the Hoober Stand", Art History 19, 2, (June 1996)
  6. G. M. Hughes History of Windsor Forest (1890).
  7. Augustus Pugin & John Britton. Illustrations of the Public Buildings of London (J. Weale, 1838).
  8. St. Leonard's Hill, Windsor Archived 5 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine .
  9. William Sandby. "Thomas and Paul Sandby", pp. 176–80.

Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : "Sandby, Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

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