Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sandby, Thomas

SANDBY, THOMAS (1721–1798), draughtsman and architect, was born at Nottingham in 1721. His father, Thomas, is described in Thomas Bailey's ‘History of the County of Nottingham’ as ‘of Babworth in this county,’ but he appears to have taken up his residence at Nottingham early in the eighteenth century. Paul Sandby [q. v.] was his brother. The Sandbys of Babworth are said to have been a branch of the family of Saundeby or De Saundeby of Saundby in Lincolnshire (see Thoroton, History of Nottinghamshire). As a draughtsman and architect Sandby was self-taught. At the Nottingham Museum is a drawing by him of the old town-hall at Nottingham, dated 1741, and a south view of Nottingham, dated 1742; and Deering's ‘History of the Town’ contains engravings of the castle and town-hall, after drawings executed by him in 1741.

According to the ‘Memoirs’ of James Gandon the architect (Dublin, 1846), he and his brother Paul kept an academy in Nottingham before they came up to London in this year. They were then of the respective ages of twenty and sixteen. According to Antony Pasquin (John Williams), in his ‘Memoirs of the Royal Academicians’ (1796) Thomas Sandby came to London for the purpose of having a view of Nottingham engraved, which had been executed on principles of perspective perfected by himself, and had won him reputation in his native town. According to Gandon, on the other hand, both he and his brother left Nottingham in order to take up situations in the military drawing department at the Tower of London, which had been procured for them by John Plumptre, the member for Nottingham. 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 says that he was appointed draughtsman to the chief engineer of Scotland, in which situation he was at Fort William in the highlands when the Pretender landed, and was the first person who conveyed intelligence of the event to the government in 1745. He accompanied the duke in his expeditions to check the rebels, and made a sketch of the battle of Culloden which is now in the royal library at Windsor Castle, 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; but Sandby again accompanied the duke to the war in the Netherlands, and probably remained there till the conclusion of the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in October 1748. In the British Museum are four views by Sandby of the camps in the Low Countries, covering extensive tracts of country, and another inscribed ‘Abbaye près de Sarlouis.’ Two of the former are dated 22 June 1748, and in the royal collection at Windsor is a very elaborate drawing of ‘Diest from the Camp at Mildart, 1747.’

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 (of which two rooms are preserved in the royal conservatory) was occupied by himself. His time was now principally spent in extensive alterations of the park, and in the formation of the Virginia Water, in which he was assisted by his younger brother, Paul, who came to live with him (see Hughes's History of Windsor Forest). A number of his plans and drawings illustrating these works are preserved in the royal library at Windsor Castle and in the Soane Museum. In December 1754 a prospectus, etched by Paul Sandby, was issued for the publication of eight folio plates, dedicated to the Duke of Cumberland, illustrating the works at Virginia Water. They were drawn by Thomas Sandby, and engraved on copper by his brother Paul and the best engravers of the day. They were republished by Boydell in 1772. A number of the original plans and designs for these works are preserved at Windsor Castle and the Soane Museum. George III, who took great interest in the undertaking, honoured Sandby with his confidence and personal friendship, and on the death of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, in 1765, the king's brother, Henry Frederick (also Duke of Cumberland, and ranger of the park), retained Sandby as deputy.

Although devoted to his work at Windsor and preferring a retired life, it was Sandby's custom to spend a portion of each year in London. He rented a house in Great Marlborough Street from 1760 to 1766. He was one of the committee of the St. Martin's Lane school, 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 twenty-eight of the original members of the Royal Academy who were nominated by George III in 1768. He was elected the first professor of architecture to the academy, and delivered the first of a series of six lectures in that capacity on Monday, 8 Oct. 1770. The sixth was illustrated by about forty drawings of buildings, ancient and modern, including original designs for a ‘Bridge of Magnificence,’ which attracted much attention. He continued these lectures with alterations and additions annually till his death. They were never published, but the manuscript is in the library of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The illustrations were sold with his other drawings after his death.

In February 1769 he competed for the Royal Exchange at Dublin, and obtained the third premium, 40l. (see Builder, 2 Oct. 1869). As far as can now be discovered, his only architectural work in London was Freemasons' Hall in Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, which was opened with great ceremony on 23 May 1776, when the title of ‘Grand Architect’ was conferred on Sandby (see Britton and Pugin's Illustrations of the Public Buildings of London). The building was partially destroyed by fire on 3 May 1883, but has since been restored. Sandby designed a carved oak altar-screen for St. George's Chapel, Windsor, now replaced by a reredos, 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 for the Duchess of Gloucester, and one for Colonel Deacon, now 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 [q. v.], architect of his majesty's works, and in 1780 master-carpenter of the same in England. Sandby died at the deputy ranger's lodge in Windsor Park on Monday, 25 June 1798. He was buried in the churchyard of Old Windsor.

Sandby was twice married. The name of his first wife is stated to have been Schultz. His second wife was Elizabeth Venables (1733–1782), to whom he was married on 26 April 1753. She had a dowry of 2,000l., and bore him ten children, six of whom (five daughters and one son) survived him. It is to be observed that in his will, and in some simple verses addressed to his daughters after their mother's death, he names four only, Harriott, Charlotte, Maria, and Ann, omitting his eldest girl, Elizabeth, who was twice married, and is said to have died about 1809 (see William Sandby's Thomas and Paul Sandby, pp. 176–80). 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.

Though he was self-educated as an architect, and left few buildings by which his capacity can be tested, the hall of the freemasons shows 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.

[Sandby's Thomas and Paul Sandby, 1892.]

C. M.