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SIR GHPJSTOPHER

WREN



EN A 7W1LMAN



UNIVERSITY Of CALIFORNIA
RIVERSIDE



SIR

CHRISTOPHER

WREN



*' I never yet saw an Historian that was
clear from all Affection ; that it may
be were not so much to be called
Integrity as a stoickal Insensibility."

Sprafs " History of the Royal Society.''^




Photo by EmcTy Walker
ri,ATF, 1.— I'OltTKAIT (tF Silt CllKISTOrUKU WKEN, BV KNELLER

Frontisintct



CHRISTOPHER
WREN

BY

LENA MILMAN




LONDON: DUCKWORTH AND CO.
NEW YORK : CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1908






All right reserved.



Printed by Ballantvke <S- Co. Limited
Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London



THE WRITER

DEDICATES THIS BOOK

TO HER FATHER



PREFACE

In preparing this book I have met with much
kind help, but that of which I have the most
eagerly availed myself has been that afforded me
by my cousins Margaret and Bertha Milman, who
revised my manuscript chapter by chapter, and
by Mr. James Britten, who carefully criticised
it in proof. My thanks are also due to my
cousin Charles Williamson, who kindly translated
Wren's boyish elegiacs into English verse, to
Mrs. Lawrence Pigott, to the Reverend Lewis
Gilbertson of St. Martin's, Ludgate, and to
Mr. Eric Maclagan, who patiently answered many
questions.

LENA MILMAN.

King's House,

The Tower of Londox.
Annunciation of Our Lady, 1908.



CON T E N T S



CIIAl",



I.

II.

III.

IV.

V.

VI.

VII.

VIII.

IX.
X.

XI.

XII.

XIII.

XIV.

XV.

XVI.

XVII.

XVIII.



A XoTE ON Later (Roman) Renaissance
Introduction ....
Childhood and School-days
London .....
Oxford .....
Gresham College .
Oxford : the Royal Society .
Paris .....
Repairing Old St. Paul's

Destruction of Old St. Paul's ; Emmanuel
College Chapel .

First Designs for St. Paul's .

Sheldonian, Temple Bar, Monument

Trinity Library, Cambridge ; Honywood
Library, Lincoln

Observatory, Greenwich ; Royal Hospitals of

Chelsea and Kilmainham .
Brickwork and Domestic Architecture .
St. Paul's ......

Parish Churches .....

Gothic .......

Hampton Court, Kensington, Greenwich
Declining Years and Death .



pa<;e
XV

I

6
i6

27



32



49
69

«5

93
114

126

140

156
182
194
2x9

254
260

279



X CONTENTS

APPENDICES;

a. Genealogy

b. Chronological List of Works

c. Latin Elegiacs

d. Letter from Dr. Sprat, \6QS

e. Letter to Lord Brouncker

f. Letter to a Certain Friend

g. Letter to Sir Paul Neilk
h. Letter from Paris .
i. Report on Salisbury

j. Letter to Treasurer of Christ's Hospital
/•. Letter Concerning Fifty Churches
/. Memorial Concerning Westminster

List of Authorities Chiefly Consulted
Index .......



I'AGE

302

310

3"
318

323

325
328

332
337
339

347



362



365



ILLUSTRATIONS

1. Portrait of Sir C. Wren, by Kueller . Frontispiece

2. Pascal's Problem ......

3. Wren's Solution ......

4. Doorway, North Transept, Ely Cathedral

5. Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge .

6. Exterior of Emmanuel College Chapel, Cambridge

7. Temple Bar .......

8. Trinity College Library, Cambridge

9. River-Front, Trinity College Library, Cambridge

10. Trinity College Library, Cambridge

11. Honywood Library, Lincoln ....

12. a. Doorway, Honywood Library and Cloister, Lin

coin Cathedral .....
h. Honywood Library, Lincoln Cathedral

13. Kilmainham Hospital, North Front

14. Kilmainham Hospital, Cloister

15. Kilmainham Hospital, entrance to Great Hall

16. Kilmainham Hospital, North-eastern Elevation

17. Chelsea Hospital, South Front

18. Chelsea Hospital Chapel, Altar-piece

19. Interior of Trinity College Chapel, Oxford



J



PARK



56
68
108
132
144
146
148

150

152
152
162
164
166
166
172

174
180



xii ILLUSTRATIONS

20. Door of St. Paul's Deanery

2 1 . Storehouse, Tower of Loudon

22. Bishop's Hostel, Cambridge

23. Latin School, Christ's Hospital

24. Doorway in King's Bench Walk

25. Great Schoolroom, Winchester College .

26. St. Benet's, Paul's Wharf

27. a. Middle Temple Gateway .
b. Doorway in Temple ....

28. a. Windsor Town Hall ....
b. Windsor Town Hall ....

29. Morden College, Blackheath .

30. Guildhall, Rochester ....

31. St. Paul's Cathedral, from the West

32. St. Paul's Cathedral, South Door ,

33. St. Paul's Cathedral, Section through the Dome

34. St. Paul's Cathedral, Ground-Plan

35. St. Paul's Cathedral, View across West End of Nave

36. St. Paul's Cathedral, Nave

37. Templum Pacis .....

38. St. Paul's Cathedral, Dome and Choir .

39. St. Paul's Cathedra], Inner Side of Bastion

40. St. Paul's Cathedral, Roof of Lord Mayor's Vestry

41. St. Paul's Cathedral, Dean's Door, Upper Portion

42. St Paul's Cathedral, Within Dean's Door

43. St. Paul's Cathedral, Library ....

44. a. St. Paul's Cathedral, Detail of Carving
b. St. Paul's Cathedral, Detail of Carving



PAGE
182

186

186

188

190

190

190

192

192

192

192

192

192

196

198

202

204

204

206

208

210

210

214

216

216

216

216

216



ILLUSTRATIONS

45. Interior, looking West, St. Stephen's, Walbrook

46. Interior of St. Mary Abchurch

47. Staircase at St. Mary Abchurch

48. Doorway in Vestry of St. Laurence Jewry

49. \'aulting above Gallery, St. Clement Danes

50. Doorway, St. Margaret's, Lothbury

51. Steeple of St. Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside

52. a. St Bride's, Fleet Street
h. Christchurch, Newgate Street .

53. a. Steeple of St. Stephen's, Walbrook
h. Steeple of St. Margaret Pattens .

54. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford .

55. Tom Tower, Christ Church, Oxford

56. Hampton Court Palace .

57. Hampton Court Palace, South Front

58. Hampton Court Palace, Fountain Court

59. Kensington Palace, Doorway .

60. Kensington Palace, Orangery

61. Kensington Palace, Orangery

62. Alcove, Kensington Gardens .

63. Ground-Plan of Greenwich Hospital

64. Greenwich Hospital, Angle of Queen Mary's Quarter



XIU

PAGE
228

236

238
232
242
242
246
248
248
250
250

258
262
264
266
272
272
272
272
276
276



A NOTE ON LATER (ROMAN)
RENAISSANCE

The characteristic features of this style (defined by Mr.
Charles Moore as "that architecture which derived its
character primarily from the influences that were active in
Rome from the beginning of the sixteenth century ") are
the replacing by piers of the pillars whence roof-support was
derived in the buildings of the Early Renaissance and that
adorning of wall-spaces by engaged orders which has led
certain depreciators to desci-ibe it as "surface architecture."
"The columns/' says Mr. VV. Anderson in describing the
nave of a Later Renaissance church, " carry a decorative
entablature backed by an arcade formed in a wall which does
the constructive work, as at the Colosseum and in Roman
work generally."

That the slender pillars of the Early (Florentine) Renais-
sance constantly required the supplementary strength of iron
ties is a fact familiar to travellers in Italy (exemplified in the
cloister of the Badia at Fiesole, in the Palazzo del Consigflio
at Verona, and in the Palazzi Fava and Bevilacqua at
Bologna).

With this extraneous aid it was the aim of Later Renais-
sance architects to dispense, and their careful study of the
remains of Imperial Rome resulted in the securing of perfect
stability : but this could only be achieved by what Mr. Moore



xvi LATER (ROMAN) RENAISSANCE

contemptuously describes as "a use of the orders rarely based
upon any structural need."

There are no great public buildings of the Early Renais-
sance style in England, but it is exemplified in Oxford by the
Laudian cloister at S. John's College, and in Cambridge by
the cloisters of Neville's Court at Trinity and of the Pepysian
Library at Magdalen. Wren, familiar with all these and with
an example now destroyed, i.e., the arcades of Grcsham
College, London, built his Lincoln cloister alone in this
style.

The Roman Renaissance in Italy may be said to have begun
with Bramante's Tempietto (1502) and to have waned on
the death of Palladio in 1580, after which the influence
of Scamozzi (1552-l6l6) and Longhena (1604—1675) brought
about the triumph of Baroque.



INTRODUCTION



The invective of moralists has expended itself in vain on
checking Man's pioneness to draw comparisons, a proneness
which tends to mar the enjoyment of this by a lurking
preference for that, a cynical delight in standing as Paris
of old in the presence of Beauty, to allot the apple to this
one or to that of its rival manifestations. The Arts espe-
cially, appealing as they do to the shifting surface as well
as to the more enduring depths of the soul, are subject to
comparison and contrast according as the moment's mood
incline us to delight chiefly in the brilliance of pigment or
to linger rather over those elusive curves which to seize is
the art of the sculptor. Architecture differs from her sister
arts most conspicuously in this, that, whereas pictures and
statues are obvious beauty-snares, a building has almost
invariably a purpose apart from the creating of aesthetic
impression. It is raised for worship, for shelter ; only
the privileged may enter, and the crowd without, swayed
now by envy, now by contempt, of those within, takes note
rather of the impenetrability of the enclosure than of its
proportions.

It is no doubt j)artly owing to this indifference of the
crowd, the giving or grudging of glory having ever been

I A



2 SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN

its prerogative, that so few names of architects have come
down to us. The name of Phidias, who modelled the great
goddess and the metopes of the Parthenon, is a household
word, but of the designers of those majestic columns, of
the apportioners of those appealing spaces, the names are
rarely on our lips. And yet, for any such artists among
them as are content if only their work meet with ultimate
recognition, there is much compensation for architects in
the indisputable fact that Man has loved his house, the
landmarks about the scene of his early days, more passion-
ately perhaps than any work of painting or sculpture. The
spire of Salisbury, the soaring vault of Kings', the tower of
Magdalen — memories of these and such as these have knit
Englishmen together all the world over, and have stood
for home in the hearts of many. Sentiment and associa-
tion may count for much, but who can say how much the
beauty may have availed to condense the sentiment ;
and though the names of Richard Poore and Alan de
Walsingham be unknown to many who love their
work, was it not for the stimng and maintaining of
emotion that they laboured, and has emotion not been
both stirred and maintained by their labour to this
day?

The man, however, whom we are about to consider has
suffered no such injustice : the name of Christopher Wren
was honoured in his own day as in ours. His it was to
imprint physiognomy on the otherwise amorphous accumu-
lation of London, and more especially on the banks of
her great river. The colonnades of Greenwich, the spires
and towers of the City, the dome of St. Paul's, Chelsea
— are not these among the most conspicuous points of



INTRODUCTION 3

that confused mass which we sum up as London ? Nor
did Wren's influence die when his long life was done,
since it is distinctly traceable in the stern street archi-
tecture of Bloonisbury and Portinan Scjuare in an austerity
which concentrated ornament on fanlights and porches,
and consented to the uncompromising angularity of
sjish-windows as best adapted to England's capricious
climate. It is true indeed that during the Gothic
revival of the early nineteenth century, ecclesiastical
taste-tinkers went so far as to tamper with Wren's
work, and even introduce tracery into the windows of
some of his City churches, but soon the tide of his
reputation was again running high, and it would seem
to be still rising.

Just as we owe the dignity of our national worship to
the zeal of William Laud, so, had it not been for the
genius of Christopher Wren, Later Renaissance might have
remained an exotic in England, since Inigo Jones never
succeeded in acclimatising classical architecture. Those,
therefore, whose admiration for Italian form inclines them
to demand its literal reproduction will prefer Inigo Jones's
Palladian transcriptions to the greater simplicity of Wren's
domestic buildings, although the incomparably wider in-
fluence of the latter is undeniable. The porticoes of
Belgravia, the gables that distinguish the Cadogan estate,
testify to Wren's greatness, those in their failure to
achieve symmetry by unbroken monotony, these by their
vain attempt to enlist interest by means of a commercial
caprice which dictates varied angles on the sky-line and
the squandering of mouldings on fa^-ades.

We have spoken of Man's inherent incapacity for empha-



4 SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN

sising his appreciation of one thing, unless by a vehement
depreciation of another, and just as this leads to heated
argument between the exponents of the rival arts, so to no
less fierce differences between devotees of the several
periods of each of these — between disciples, for instance, of
Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Like most diver-
gences of opinion, the quarrel is that between warring
temperaments : the man who delights in difficulties over-
come, in effort even though it be futile, will " fret himself
because of the ungodly " and extol the aspiration, the
contempt for material limitation, of Gothic, while his
brother " delights himself in fatness " and approves the
cheerful acceptance of the inert and its properties, the
indifference to symbolism which characterises the Renais-
sance. It was natural enough that in an age so essentially
material as that of the later seventeenth and early
eighteenth centuries, an age for which enthusiasm was
anathema, the art of effort should meet with little appre-
ciation. Gothicism became as current a term of reproof
as it had been in the beginning. Christopher Wren was
a typical son of his century, a century which shunned
mystery, which had no quarrel with the inexorable laws of
nature, no longing to escape life's durance, no eagerness
for a higher state of spirituality than is easily compatible
with the life of every day. Gothic belongs to an early
stage of civilisation, when the world was young and loved
to wonder, while Renaissance is a renewal of youth, and
renewals are of necessity self-conscious. As surely as youth
loves to wonder, so surely maturity prefers to understand,
and it is mature man's delight in reason which the art and
literature of that day so admirably illustrate. As in



INTRODUCTION 5

the great Puritan epic, the poet, dealing with matter of
awful import, obviously loves to slip the yoke for a while
and refresh himself by sensuous description and musical
epithet (concessions to a need for recreation which Puri-
tanism was powerless to root out), so, to work as severely
scientific as Wren's, garlands and Y>out\n g putti give relief.
Gothic relaxes effort in grotesque, while the Renaissance
prefers the dimpled limbs and irresponsible laughter of
little children.



CHAPTER I

CHILDHOOD AND SCHOOL-DAYS

The precise date of Christopher Wren's birth is a matter
of dispute, but most authorities agree in setting aside his
baptismal entry dated 1631 as inaccurate, and accepting
October 20, 1632, as the day on which a second son was
born to Christopher Wren, Rector of East Knoyle, in the
county of Wilts. Two years earlier in the register another
son's birth is recorded, but since to both alike there was
given their father's name in baptism, it would seem certain
that the elder died in infancy. There is no mention of
any other son, nor, with one notable exception, is anything
known of five daughters except their names.-^ It is
curious that we should search the pages of registers
and Parentalia ^ in vain for any information respecting

1 Three are known to have married : Anne (1634-67), the Rev. H.
Brunsall ; Catherine, Richard Fulburne, of New Windsor ; and Susan,
the Rev. W. Holder.

2 The chief source of information for the biographers of Sir Chris-
topher Wren is the capriciously selected, carelessly compiled record
known as Parentalia, collected by the great architect's son Christopher,
and published by his grandson Stephen in 1750. It is divided into
three parts, which deal respectively with Matthew Wren, Bishop of Ely ;
Christopher Wren, Dean of Windsor ; and the subject of this book.
An heirloom copy, interleaved with many original manuscripts, (fee, is
in the possession of Sir Christopher Wren's lineal descendant, Mr.
Pigott.

6



CHILDHOOD AND SCHOOL-DAYS 7

the death of the mother of the family (a Cox of Font-
hill Abbey), but she cannot have survived to see her
son through early childhood, since we read of his sister
Susan, but five years his senior, that she stood for him in
the place of a mother.

Of the old rectory in which Christopher Wren spent
those first years, the scanty remains form but a wing of the
present late-Georgian house ; but the church, which stands
high above the road on a hillside, is externally much as it
was in the Wrens' time, with a fifteenth-century tower of
remarkable sta-ength and dignity, and a fine roof of Hors-
ham slate. While a disastrous restoration under Wyatt has
fatally injured the interior, especially in a mischievous
modification of the chancel arch, the north and south
walls of the chancel retain the curious pargetting reliefs
designed by the elder Christopher, and executed when
his son was nine years old, the insidious "Popery" of
which furnished the Puritans some ten years later with
excuse for depriving him of the living. The Ascension
above the arch on the west wall is almost obliterated ; the
symbols of the Blessed Trinity and the crucifix, to which
exception was specially taken, have vanished from over the
altar ; but the figures and texts on the north and south walls
of the Dean's scheme are almost intact, the frames and frieze
exhibiting the strapwork so favourite an ornament in the
domestic architecture of the earlier Renaissance, of which
Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren rarely, if ever, made use.

Susan was nine years old, her brother but four, when,
upon the translation of their uncle, Matthew Wren, from
the See of Norwich to that of Ely, and his consequent
resignation of the Deanery of Windsor and Registrarship



8 SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN

of the Garter, the King confen-ed these two latter offices
upon the Rector of East Knoyle, in his brother's stead, and
accordingly the household moved from Wiltshire to
Windsor. In such favour did Dean Wren stand with
the King that when, shortly after, the rectory of Great
Haseley, in Oxfordshire, also fell vacant, that, too, was
given to him, and, except for a short period in 1643 which
he spent with the Royalist army at Bristol, his life, until
he was forced to retire " because of oppression," was passed
between his parsonages (he did not resign East Knoyle) and
his official residence within the walls of Windsor Castle.

There is little personal record of those early days, but,
in a letter addressed to Charles Louis, Elector Palatine, in
after years, Christopher writes of that devotion which he
conceived " while yet a child, when the Elector was pleased
to honour his father's house with his presence " ; and this
must have been about the year 1637, when little Christopher
was five years old, during the Elector's first visit to Eng-
land, undertaken for the purpose of persuading the King to
espouse his cause and assist him to regain the Palatinate
by force of arms. With England and Scotland equally
disturbed, the King's refusal of aid was a matter of course,
but the Elector spent his time between Theobalds and
Whitehall, and, in the words of Parentalia, occasionally
made use of the Deanery House " for retirement and benefit
of the air," welcome, no doubt, as the King's own nephew,
in that Royalist household, and as yet unsuspected of any
leanings towards that ignoble defection to the side of the
Parliament by which, some five years later, he blackened
his memory for ever.

It was the austere custom of those days to send boys to



CHILDHOOD AND SCHOOL-DAYS 9

school at a very early age, but ParentaUa explains that
little Christopher's first education in classical learning was
(by reason of tender health) "committed to the care of
a domestick tutor, the Reverend WiUiam Shepheard,"
until such a time as he should go to Westminster, which
was not until he had passed what was then considered the
mature age of nine. It is easy to conceive how this pro-
longed sojourn at home served to impress the family tradi-
tions of love for Church and King on a child of unusual
parts, endowed with the precocious mental sensitiveness
which is both cause and effect of physical weakness, and
how the impression must have been subsequently deepened
by the staunch Royalist tone of his school. True that not
until the boy's days of home teaching w-ere over did his
uncle, the Bishop of Ely, enter on his long term of eighteen
years' imprisonment, but already he had been attacked with
the virulent vulgarity rarely separable from Protestant
polemic, and seemed likely to fall a victim to any
violence which should be meted out to Primate and
King. We can imagine the intense interest with which
close relations with many of the principal actors caused
public events to be followed by the family circle at the
Windsor Deanery, for the girls and boy must have
shared in their fathers indignation as news came, now of
an attack on St. Paul's, now of a mob of fanatic insurgents
threatening the Archbishop with violence at Lambeth
Palace, and later of Laud, whom they revered next to the
King's sacred Majesty himself, thrown into the Tower.

It was in the second year of the Long Parliament of 1641,
" that long ungratefull, foolish and fatal Parliament," as
Evelyn calls it, that Christopher Wren, small in stature,



10 SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN

but having apparently outgrown much of his early delicacy,
was entered at Westminster School, of which the atmo-
sphere under the rule of that uncompromising Royalist,
Dr. Richard Busby, must have been entirely sympathetic to
the boy's early prejudices, and the head-master's proverbial
severity surely relaxed a little towards a boy of precocious
talent, especially committed to his care by a family con-
spicuous for their devotion to the house of Stuart.

Lambeth Palace, visible across the river, must have kept
the boy in constant mind of the Archbishop now in the
Tower, and he must have envied his schoolfellow, Philip
Henry,^ who could boast of having often earned smiling
thanks from Laud, " who had taken a particular kindness
to him when he was a child, because he would be very
officious to attend at the water-gate (part of his father's
charge at Whitehall) to let the Archbishop through when
he came late from Council to cross the w ater to Lambeth.""
Near to Christopher Wren, too, in the school, was Robert
South,^ who, whatever of caution he may have learned with
years, was, as a boy, amongst the most zealous for King
Charles, and who has testified " that Westminster School
was so untaintedly loyal that he could truly and knowingly
own that in the very worst of times he and his companions
were really King's scholars as well as called so." " Here,"
he continues, " upon that very day, that black and eternally
infamous day of the King's murder, I myself heard that the
King was publicly prayed for but an hour or two before his
sacred head was cut off."

' Philip Henry (1631-96), a famous Nonconformist divine.
2 Robert South (1634-1716), an Anglican divine, famous as a Court
preacher.



CHILDHOOD AND SCHOOL-DAYS ii

Civil war broke out the very year that Christopher Wren
went to Westminster, and among the scholars none can
have watched history more anxiously than the nephew ot
Matthew, Bishop of Ely, who, during the boy's school-days,
enjoyed but four months of liberty. Nor were the West-
minster boys denied an opportunity of active share in public
events, for they aided the choristers and vicars-choral in
successfully defending the Abbey against the apprentices'
attack in 1642, while, in the same year, the growing power
of Puritanism is traceable in an enactment that " the Col-
leges of Westminster, Eton, and Winchester be added and
comprehended within the order of February 17, concerning
the imposing upon young scholars the wearing of surplices.""
The order was as follows : " That the statute made in the
University of Cambridge which imposeth the wearing of



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