It was 1998 when Tim Knox, director of the Sir John Soane’s Museum, and the landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan decided to move in Malplaquet House in East End London, a rare but battered example of a City merchant’s house dating from 1741, owned by the Spitalfields Trust, which was keen to hand over restoration. Despite being a complete tip and infested with pigeons, they saw the building’s plainness, nobility and lack of pretension as the perfect backdrop to their collection.
Tim says that they are both collectors since they were little and they have collected assiduously, with remarkable coincidence of taste, since they met 23 years ago. Malplaquet House, if a place of such eclecticism can be said to resemble anything, has come to look like a slice of the Soane. Their philosophy was to try to keep the atmosphere and get it back to about 1800, arranging narrowly their collection of old paintings, stuffed animals, religious art, skeletons, death masks, wonders and other odds in the form of a modern Wunderkammer.