The Great Court of the British Museum, £9.99
Charles Townley's sketch for a proposed Museum extension
London, AD 1803
In 1791 the collector Charles Townley was elected onto the Board of Trustees of the British Museum. He took an active part in the management of the Museum until his death in 1805. At the very beginning of the nineteenth century the Trustees decided that the Museum needed a modern extension to house the growing collections. In 1802 they formed a committee to plan a building programme. This comprised Sir Joseph Banks, Sir William Hamilton and Charles Townley. They met regularly at Townley's house in Park Street, Westminster where his collection of classical sculpture was displayed, which provided 'abundant opportunities of studying the most approved methods of exhibiting sculpture to advantage'.
The committee recommended that a new wing should be built. Drawings were prepared by the Museum's architect George Saunders in 1803 and building began in 1804. Although intended primarily for Egyptian antiquities acquired in 1802, the building was enlarged during construction to accommodate Townley's classical sculptures acquired on his death. This sketch by Townley confirms that he was a driving force behind this project.
B.F. Cook, The Townley Marbles (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)
M. Caygill and C. Date, Building the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)