Friday, 2 December 2011

Hawksmoor

As London expanded in the early eighteenth century, so did the need for new churches. An Act of Parliament was passed in 1711 in order that fifty new churches could be built to serve the population gathering at the fringes. By the time the order ran out in 1731, only twelve had been built, but amongst them are six stunning churches by Nicholas Hawksmoor. This master of the baroque was once Wren's assistant, but his own style is from another world altogether. This is Christ Church, opposite the old Spitalfields wholesale market and heralding the very desirable Huguenot weavers' houses to the north in thoroughfares like Fournier Street. Built between 1714-29, this is one of my all-time favourite buildings, and the view I always enjoy is my top picture, taken from down Brushfield Street, where the distinct impression is given that the tower is a continuation straight up from the immense Tuscan porch with its semi-circular pediment. As you move around the entrance, you discover that it's not. And what looks like it should be a square main tower is in fact a rectangle. There is much more to say, and some of it can be found in More London Peculiars where I've gone on about this and three other Hawksmoor churches.

14 comments:

Philip Wilkinson said...

Cor you do find some good light, don't you? These are fabulous photographs. One of Hawksmoor's other churches, St Mary Woolnoth, also has a curious rectangular-plan tower. But then all his churches are extraordinary, as you know.

Peter Ashley said...

We were indeed very lucky with the light, which only lasted for the ten minutes or so we scooted round.
Then the clouds rolled in. I was with Youngest Boy, who was deeply impressed by not only the church, but the whole area. Whilst I was snapping in Brushfield Street he leaned very nonchalantly against an iron bollard, with his hands in his pockets. "You like this don't you?" I said, from the middle of the street. "Love it" he replied.

Miss Rayne said...

Definately love it.

Hels said...

oh yes!

"Christ Church (1714-29), opposite the old Spitalfields wholesale market and heralding the very desirable Huguenot weavers' houses to the north in thoroughfares like Fournier Street".

Very desirable indeed :) Christ Church was given the perfect location and great design elements.

Martin H. said...

I lived for a short while opposite St. Alphege's in Greenwich, in the old church workshop (used for coffin making!) which my then partner was rebuilding.

St. Alphege's always seemed to me as a rather heavy and forbidding presence, perhaps even sinister, without the grace of Christ Church evident in your splendid photographs. I believe it was the first of the six churches, though, and it has been much altered over the centuries.

Peter Ashley said...

Yes, Martin, St.Alphege isn't the most indicative of Hawksmoor. The ones that stick in my mind apart from Christ Church are St.George in the East and St.Anne's, Limehouse.

Sue said...

That's reminded me to dig out Peter Ackroyd! Splendid photos.

Ron Combo said...

You are always lucky with The Light. Ask The Intrepid One.

teninchwheels said...

Ah, one of my favourite buildings. Up close, it always gave me the impression it was about to fall on the viewer. We lived up the other end of Brick Lane for many years, seeing the area go from near-Dickensian, (still full of Don McCullin's fighting drunks) to the shiny hipster enclave it is now.

Peter Ashley said...

Ooh, wish I'd seen it in its Dickensian period Ten Inch. Mind you, in the late eighties we looked through letterboxes in Fournier Street at vast empty and dusty hallways. That would've been the time to have done one up I expect.

ChrisP said...

I'm in two minds about Hawksmoor. Totally original and incredibly big and bold, but he always manages to put something ugly in. That flat-faced tower is frankly monstrous, and the facade of St Mary Woolnoth is too. And I spent many a sermon at St Alphege staring at the way he breaks the architrave over the altar with an arch that just barges upwards. Wren never committed solecisms like that.

ChrisP said...

Talking of St Alphege, I was at evensong once when the organist fell asleep in the sermon. We had to sing the next hymn a capella while the churchwarden oiled up to the organ loft to give him a discrete prod.

ChrisP said...

By 'discrete' I mean, of course, 'discreet'.

Peter Ashley said...

Interesting (and amusing) comments Chris, thankyou. I have never thought of Hawksmoor's city churches as actually beautiful, and for 'ugly' I would perhaps say 'slightly sinister'. But that might just be the influence of Sinclair and Ackroyd.