Study Day | Owen Hopkins on Hawksmoor

Posted in on site by Editor on April 29, 2017

Study day arranged by Martin Randall Travel:

Owen Hopkins | Hawksmoor: The Six London Churches (LD296)
London and Greenwich, 16 May 2017

Christ Church Spitalfields (Hawksmoor), from Some London Churches, illustrated by G. M. Ellwood (1911).

From the West End to Greenwich by coach to see all six extant churches: St George’s Bloomsbury, St Mary Woolnoth, Christ Church Spitalfields, St George-in-the-East, St Anne’s Limehouse, and St Alfege. Also visit Thomas Archer’s contemporaneous St Paul’s Deptford. 9:20am to approximately 5:20pm; return to central London by river bus; from £210.

Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661–1736) dropped from public consciousness while Wren and Vanbrugh did not. In so far as he was known before the 20th century he was reviled for just those qualities which lead to passionate attachment to his creations now—boldness, massiveness, Baroque vigour, dissident classicism, and sculptural imagination.

Yet he is probably an even greater architect than his documented buildings show; it is highly likely that he is the author of some of the finer parts of buildings long attributed to others. He was Wren’s assistant for over twenty years and also collaborated with Vanbrugh. The Baroque flowering of Wren’s late works should probably be ascribed to Hawksmoor, while his professionalism and artistry were key to turning the soldier-playwright into a great architect.

Taken together, his greatest achievement remains the six London churches built in accordance with the 1711 Act of Parliament. This specified fifty new churches; only twelve were built, not least because Hawksmoor’s extravagant ambition absorbed an undue proportion of the funds. Remarkably, they all survive, though one is a (well-preserved) shell after the Blitz. The journey by coach takes in St George’s Bloomsbury, St Mary Woolnoth, Christ Church Spitalfields, St George-in-the-East Stepney, St Anne’s Limehouse, and St Alfege Greenwich. Thomas Archer’s contemporaneous St Paul’s Deptford is also included.

Owen Hopkins is Senior Curator of Exhibitions and Education at Sir John Soane’s Museum and former Architecture Programme Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts where his exhibitions included Urban Jigsaw, Mavericks: Breaking the Mould of British Architecture, and Nicholas Hawksmoor: Architect of the Imagination. He is author of four books including The Architecture and Afterlife of Nicholas Hawksmoor.


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