W. J. (William John) Loftie.

Rambles in and near London : or, London afternoons online

. (page 13 of 23)
Online LibraryW. J. (William John) LoftieRambles in and near London : or, London afternoons → online text (page 13 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the students' department, many of them being, so far as
is known, unique in any collection. A fifth general
feature is a large number of examples of skilful taxidermy,


which are arranged on a kind of swinging floor in the
centre. They comprise zebras, both Grevy's, with close,
thin stripes, in a kind of pattern, and Chapman's, on which
the stripes are coarser, and beautifully set up ; near them,
one of the gems of the collection, is a giraffe's head, ex-
quisitely treated to show the gentle expression and the
soft brown eye, with its long eye-lashes. Some antelopes
lead up to the Indian gaur, a gigantic buffalo, which is
most life-like, and seems as if it would leap from the plat-
form. Near it is a very rare " tauriform " antelope lying
down, and next an aard-vark (earth pork) from the same
region of South Africa, with its long tongue out, waiting
at an ant-hill for its prey.

The casual visitor can only pick out here and there
what, for rarity or some other cause, appears worthy
of special note. The ground-floor collection commences,
of course, with marsupials, of which there is a large
and very representative series, including opossums from
America, phalangers, flying squirrels, the miniature
marsupial jerboas (conilurus) ; kangaroos of all sizes,
and more wonderful than any other, the large moiiotreme
from New Guinea (Echidna nigroaculeata), which has
not yet become common in museums ; it is very dark
in colour. Beside most of the stuffed animals are the
skeletons, neatly mounted. The " native water-mole "
(Ornithorhyncus) is also fully represented, as well as the
blind marsupial mole (Notoryctes). Near these archaic
animals is a great case of anthropomorphous apes, gorillas,
the Gibraltar ape (Macacus inuus, as it is here labelled,
but frequently called Inuus ecaudatus), and a female
kooloo kamba, a black ape, absurdly like a negro child
(Anthropithecus calvus). The cat tribe is fully represented
by a tiger and cub ; a lion, lioness, and cub ; several
ocelots, wild cats, hairy leopards, jaguars, and a wonderfully

THING. 159

life-like puma. We can only mention further the wild
boars and peccaries, armadilloes, pangolins, quagga, sloths,
giant red wolf from South America, and the Malayan
binturong ; the cattle and big-horn sheep, rats and
agoutis, dormice and beavers ; and pass on to the birds,
only pausing to admire the fine setting up of a series of
heads of wild buffaloes, and an unwieldy white rhinoceros
from South Africa.

In the departments devoted to birds, the eagle and
falcon tribe fill the first two cases. Opposite to them
are no fewer than twenty-seven ruffs, all in different
plumage, ranging from black to cream colour. A case
full of British finches and warblers seems very complete.
In the corner, and but indifferently lighted, are the
parrots and toucans, among which we cannot pass over
a series of varieties of the common grey parrot, white,
ash-coloured, red-mottled, and finally, almost entirely
red ; nor the contrast presented by a mighty hyacinthine
macaw and a tiny Ara Hahni, no larger than a sparrow.
The rarer Australian parrakeets are to be seen, but not
in any quantity. An owl-parrot and other New Zealand
birds seem to offer a missing link between parrots and the
accipitrine family ; while the birds of Paradise, humming
birds and grass finches, chiefly in cases on the staircase,
rival the parrots in bearing " the bright hues of all glorious
things." The visitor goes forth sadly, feeling sure he
must have missed many of the best and rarest features
of the collection, but mitigating his sorrow with a strong
sense of gratitude to the learned and generous provider
of so much that is calculated to please and instruct his




The First Design Wren's Perplexity The Foundations The
Opening Service The General Plan The Western Portico
The Cupola The Proportions, compared with those of St.
Peter's A Silly Story Wren's Epitaph The Nobility of
the Cathedral The Interior: Carvings and Metal Work
The Organ The Monuments The Wellington Monument
The Crypt Tombs of Nelson and Wellington Decoration
of the Dome and Choir Surges' Designs The Reredos
The Old Railings and their Fate Sir William Richmond's

IN another chapter I have endeavoured to put together
a few notes as to what we know of Old St. Paul's, down
to the time of its ruin in the Great Fire. It was not
wholly destroyed. Much remained, and it might have
been repaired. But there was a want of unity in
the building. Repair, to Wren's mind, might have
meant using what was left and replacing in the same
style what was burnt. But what was the style ? Inigo,
when he put his beautiful Palladian portico on the west
front, " restored " the Norman nave to suit it. But the
east end of the church was in the Pointed style. Which,
then, was Wren to adopt ? Some of his Gothic, such
as the Tom Tower at Oxford, and the Church of St. Mary
Aldermary, is very good though quite unlike nineteenth


century Gothic, because, for one thing, the proportions
are so carefully calculated. At first, he thought of
repairing both ends and of bringing them together, as it
were, by crowning the tower with a dome, which would
have formed a splendid feature in every view of London.
He was, however, forced, after a few experiments, to
recognise the untrustworthy character of the old build-
ing : it was rubblework on a loose foundation, having
been built by what we call "jerry builders," with the
largest possible regard to immediate effect and the least
possible concern for the stability of the edifice.

When it became apparent, after some nine years'
experiments, during which London was without a
cathedral, that a new building must be designed,
Wren prepared the beautiful model which we see in a
chamber of the triforium. But neither Charles II.
nor his brother, afterwards James II., would give any
countenance to a Protestant preaching house without
chapels for masses or even a choir and chancel. Sir
Christopher made three designs of various degrees of
compliance; but the King and the Duke of York cared
nothing for the beauty of the building : it must have
chapels, and be suitable for Komanist worship. Wren
held out as long as he could. He is even said to have
shed tears. But the King was obdurate. " No per-
plexity," says Weale, "that can assail an architect can
well equal the difficulty of Wren's task, between a
Protestant nation and a Catholic future monarch, to
plan a temple that might upon occasions serve for either
religion, and therefore for neither well." He suggested
the building of a long chancel or choir to his original
design. But no ; a totally different arrangement must
be made.

At last Wren produced a drawing, of which it may


safely be said that it was poor in outward aspect
although in plan it was something like the present
church, and had plenty of places for chapels,. There was
hardly about it a trace of Wren's genius, and the western
towers, of the pattern aptly denominated "pepper pots,"
would have formed a frightful eyesore in the view from
Ludgate Hill. Objections were made, and at last Wren,
one of the mildest of men, was nettled. He would exhibit,
he said, no more designs, and having at length obtained
the King's approval of the worst of the series, he de-
termined to trouble himself no more about rival sects
among the clergy or any outside criticism. Mr. Blomfield
(Renaissance Architecture, i. 167) gives us this design
from Wren's drawing at All Souls' College, Oxford.
He distinguishes it as " the warrant design," because
King Charles approved of it as " very artificial, proper,
and useful." It is simply grotesque. The steeple of
St. Bride's, Fleet Street, is placed on the top of a small
dome standing on a drum. The drum again is on a
half-dome. There are no distinctly architectural features,
no order, no kind of ornament, but Inigo Jones's portico
is renewed at the western end. Mr. Blomfield thinks
Wren was serious in offering this drawing, but I cannot
believe that he ever intended to use any part of it,
and, as a fact, he never did. He had begun to recognise
that time was on his side, and that he would have abundant
leisure in which to decide what he would do and how
he would do it. The King graciously allowed him to
introduce such alterations and improvements as he
chose. This leave was all he wanted, and he was hi
no way hampered by the King's command that he
jhould begin with the east end, choir and chancel. This
was hi 1675. Nine years more were to elapse before
much progress had been made. The materials were to


be gathered and tested ; the best workmen in each depart-
ment had to be sought out. Such ironworkers as those
of Lamberhurst ; such masons as the two Strongs ; such
carvers as Gibbons and Gibber ; such artists even as
Thornhill, did not abound.

Clearing the foundation was a heavy task, and the
utter ruin wrought by the Fire may be judged if we
visit the church as it is, and observe how few of the
monuments of which the old church was full have survived.
Contrary to the King's command, Wren set to work where
the ground was cleared, which happened to be at the
west end. He evidently did not wish to delay a single
moment once it was possible to begin. Within two months
after he had the King's approval the first stone was laid,
the foundations being on what was called " the pot earth,"
which had served for the old church. Wren's extreme
care in small matters is exemplified by an anecdote. Gwilt
tells us that when he had completed the circuit of the
new foundation, all but six or seven feet at the north-east
corner, he found a place from which " the pot earth " had
been removed. Not trusting the sand, and having an
ingrained dislike to piling, he built a solid pier ten feet
square, commencing eighteen feet below the surface, and
at fifteen feet he turned a massive arch from the pier to
connect it with the rest of the foundation*

The choir was first ready for use, and was opened for
divine service on the Thanksgiving Day for the Peace of
Ryswiek, the 2nd of December, 1697. Charles and James
were both gone ; so was Queen Mary, who had been a
steady friend to Wren. No one now dared to question the
suitability of his designs, even though he still kept them
in his own mind. He could not revert to his original
plan, but the church he built is the glory of our great
city, a landmark, a picturesque relief to the eye amid


sordid surroundings a subject of congratulation to all
who love good architecture and a sublime scenic effect.

It will be remarked that no consecration service was
held in St. Paul's. The idea of solemn ceremonies of this
kind was wholly foreign to the feelings of citizens who had
risked their lives and their property to expel King James
and to bring in King William, but a special collect was
used, of such beauty and fitness that it must not be omitted
here. It is to be found in the Tendon Gazette (2-6
December, 1697) :

" Most Gracious Father, who hast remembered Thy ancient
loving kindness, and restored to us the public solemnities of
worship in this Thy house ; we offer our devout praises and
thanksgivings to Thee for this Thy mercy, humbly beseeching
Thee to perfect and establish this good work. Thou, O Lord,
dwellest not in a house made with hands ; Heaven and the
Heaven of Heavens cannot contain Thee ; but though Thy
Throne is in Heaven, earth is Thy footstool. Vouchsafe, there-
fore, we beseech Thee, Thy gracious presence in this Thy house,
to hear our prayers and accept our sacrifices of praise and thanks-
givings, and grant that it may never be defiled with idolatrous
worship or profaneness ; but that truth and peace may dwell
in this place ; that sincere piety and devotion may be the glory
of it ; that they who minister, may attend on their ministry ;
they who teach, on teaching ; they who exhort, on exhortation ;
they who rule, with diligence ; that Thy name may be in all
things glorified."

Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury, preached a sermon before
the King, probably at Whitehall, but Elmes one of
Wren's biographers, mixes up the Peace, the sermon, and
the opening of St. Paul's in such a way that he makes us
imagine that the celebration in all three respects took
place at St. Paul's. It only remains here to say that the
first Sunday servicewas held on the 5th, three days later.
Even the briefest description of the cathedral church

i- S


must commence by pointing out its novelty and originality.
Wren can never have seen a domed building of any size
until he was called upon to build one of the largest in
existence. During his visit to Paris, in 1665, he may
have made special observation of Le Mercier's dome of
the Sorbonne, but the fact is not recorded ; and that dome,
commenced in 1629, is neither instructive nor inspiring.
It may, however, have served as a warning. The best
known domes of modern Paris were not then in existence ;
and it is quite likely that both St. Genevieve and the
Invalides were imitated from St. Paul's. Of course
St. Peter's at Rome set the pattern for all, and Wren, in
selecting what was best in that great building and avoiding
its errors, has left a cathedral which compares favourably
with its older and greater rival south of the Alps. The
dome of St. Peter's is hidden in the front view owing
chiefly to Bernini's immense colonnade ; but if Wren
could have colonnaded St. Paul's Churchyard on the
symmetrical plan he used so effectively at Greenwich,
he would have taken good care to avoid this serious fault ;
while the result would have placed his church in the very
front rank, and well ahead of all possible competitors.
Mr. Birch, in his recent book on London Churches, says
that although St. Peter's exceeds St. Paul's " in size, and
in richness of decoration, hi external effect it is admittedly

The best technical account of the architecture of St.
Paul's is that contributed by Gwilt to Britton and Pugin's
"Edifices of London "(i., 8). It may be abridged here.
The plan of St. Paul's is a Lathi cross, to the foot or western
end of which projections are added north and south.
These prolongations give increased width to the west
front, and within leave space on either side for a morning
chapel and a consistory court. At the internal angles


of the crosa are small square bastion-like adjuncts, whose
chief use is in strengthening the piers of the dome, but
which also serve within for staircases and vestries, the
chief staircase being that to the Library, on the south-
western side. The eastern end is slightly curved so as
to form an apse. The nave and the choir are separated
by the space under the dome, and are each flanked by
three arches, clear of the transepts. The transepts
consist of one clear arch each, and end in semi-circular

Within, the eastern and western limbs of the cross
are seen to end in the great piers which support the
dome, similar piers being north and south. There are
four large arches and four smaller, as at Ely Cathedral, a
building which Wren probably studied when his uncle,
Matthew Wren, was bishop of that see. The whole of the
interior is strengthened and at the same time ornamented
by pilasters of the Corinthian order. Two orders appear
on the exterior, the pattern being set by the portico in
its two storeys, one above the other. The lower' order is
Corinthian ; the upper, Wren himself described as " a
composition," but it is only a slight variation of the other.

The western portico was at first, it is believed, intended
to be single, built of marble monolithic pillars of vast size.
We cannot doubt that this feature, which Wren had
first designed for his " preaching house," would have
produced a noble effect. But marble was expensive,
and monoliths were not to be had, and perhaps it is as
well. The portico is most beautiful with its double columns,
which is an arrangement the architect may have learned
in France, where it was employed with such effect by
Perrault in the east front of the Louvre. This was
commenced in the selfsame year 16G6 that saw the
destruction of Old St. Paul's, so that Wren did not see the


building, though he may have seen Perrault's designs,
and must have heard all about them long before he came
to his west front. In the pediment, above the upper
portico, is a sculptured relief by Francis Bird, representing
the conversion of St. Paul. Two exceedingly graceful
towers flank the portico, rising from square pedestals
above the upper order, plain at first, but crowned by steeples
consisting of a group of pillars of great lightness surmounted
by small domes " of contrary flexure, very like bells," as
Gwilt remarks. These towers, like everything in the
exterior of the church, are designed to enhance to the
utmost the effect of the central dome, being each 220 feet
high, or two-thirds the height of the cupola, counting to
the cross on the summit. They are double the height
of the adjacent roofs.

The cupola " rises from the body of the church hi great
majesty." The colonnade which surrounds it has always
been admired. It stands on a great circular base of plain
masonry, by which it is admirably set off. The order
of the colonnade, which is also Composite in style, is
finished at the top with an Italian balustrade, a feature
Wren objected to, but, though incongruous, it is not
altogether unpleasing. Above this balustrade is what
Gwilt calls an attic, being in reality a part of the dome,
which rises directly from it. The inner dome, that visible
from the interior of the church, is, in fact, contained in
this attic storey, and rises but slightly above it. The
exterior of the dome forms a casing to conceal and
strengthen a cone of brickwork which sustains the stone
lantern and the great gilt ball and cross which crown
the edifice. Weale gives us a clear idea of the size of the
lantern. " If placed on the floor of the church, it would
not stand under the ceiling of the nave." The roof is
double, as in all vaulted buildings, the inner structure


being of masonry and the outer of wood. " The beautiful
outer dome," remarks the same writer, " cannot be called
unreal ; it corresponds in structure to the upper roofs
of all the other parts, and is in the most economical as well
as beautiful form for a timber roof to cover such a space.
The waste of internal capacity in the unseen spaces between
the innermost and outermost dome is not nearly so great
as in the roofs of Gothic buildings ; and no part of this
structure can be said to be like a Gothic high roof or spire,
erected for external effect alone, except the lantern." As
to the balustrade just mentioned, Weale is equally clear.
" A late writer on architecture has said, regarding the
effect of scale or no scale on works of nature or art, ' it
takes very little to humble a mountain. A hut will do
it sometimes.' It takes still less to humble a cathedral,
and this little, Wren's contemptible successor contrived to
add, in his mock balustrade over the second cornice."
It is studiously contrived to give a false scale, like the
gigantic cherubs of St. Peter's. " We know that a balus-
trade is meant to lean upon." But this one is nine feet
high, and, if it chanced to be a little more obtrusive, it
would undoubtedly have the effect attributed to it by
Weale, of apparently reducing! the ninety feet of the
whole building to thirty or forty.

This will be the place for a few notes as to the pro-
portions of St. Paul's. The simple ratio of one to two
prevails almost everywhere. The windows, for example,
are 12 feet wide by 24 feet high. The aisles are 19 feet
in clear width by 38 feet in height. The domed vestibule
at the west end of the nave is a square of 47 feet by 94 feet
in height. The space under the great dome is 108 feet
in width, and is 216 feet high. The western towers,
similarly, are in height just double the adjacent roofs.
There is no attempt made in St. Peter's to preserve any


such ratios, but it may be well to quote a few comparative
figures. St. Paul's ball and cross are 365 feet above the
outer ground line ; St. Peter's are 452 feet. The supports
of St. Paul's occupy two-ninths of its plan, while those
of St. Peter's amount to a quarter. The nave of St.
Paul's is 41 feet in width and 82 feet in height. That of
St. Peter's is 84 feet in width and 147 feet in height. It
will easily be seen that, small as the London building appears
to be as compared with the Boman, its proportions are
far more satisfactory, and its beauty is thereby greatly
enhanced. To quote Weale once more to show what
various proportions have been admired : " At the Pantheon
the clear height is equal to the breadth, and at St. Sophia
it is one-third greater. In the two domes of Florence and
of St. Paul's it is twice, and at St. Peter's two and a half
times the breadth."

St. Peter's laboured under the drawback that fourteen
architects, chiefly of divergent views, were employed for
176 years on the building. St. Paul's enjoyed the advan-
tage, in this respect, that only two architects were
employed on it, one for forty-three years and one for
nearly two. There is a silly fiction, repeated solemnly by
Mr. Birch, which tells us that St. Paul's is " the culminating
effort of the genius of a single architect," and was built
under the fostering care of one bishop, and by the " adminis-
trative skill of one master mason." We may leave Wren's
successor as architect, William Benson, almost out of the
account, though he contrived to spoil Wren's work as
much as he could in his short tenure of the office of sur-
veyor, by the erection of the gigantic balustrade round
the dome. But when the first stone of the church was
laid, in the reign of Charles II., Henchman was Bishop.
He died in October, 1675, and was succeeded by Compton,
who lived till July, 1713, so that he saw the new choir


ready for divine service in December, 1697, and the last
stone of masonry laid in 1710. But the church was not
finished even then. He was succeeded by Robinson,
who was Bishop at the time of Wren's dismissal, and who
died in 1723, two months only after the great architect,
when Gibson came into office and saw the finishing touches
put to the cathedral. So, too, with the master masons.
Thomas Strong, the first, died in 1G81, and was succeeded
by his brother, Edward, who died in the same year as
Wren and Bishop Robinson. So that the traditional
tale about a single architect, and the fostering care of one
bishop, and administrative skill of one master mason, has
to be retold as follows : under three architects, three
bishops, or, strictly speaking, four, and three master
masons, at least.

It would be very hard to say when St. Paul's was
completed. It was not in 1697, when the choir was
opened not consecrated, as some say. It was not in
1718, when Wren handed it over to Benson. It was
not in 1720, when Benson was dismissed. Perhaps we
may say that it was when Robert Mylne, a good architect,
born the year after Wren's death, was appointed surveyor,
namely, in 1766. He put a finishing touch to the fabric
when he placed, over the entrance to the choir, the in-
scription which Wren's son had placed on his grave in
the vault below, and which may still be seen in the north
transept : Si monumentum requiris circumspice.

In comparing St. Peter's and St. Paul's, the exaggerated
greatness of particular features dwarfs the apparent size
of the whole and deceives the human eye, at St. Peter's.
The limitations of human sight do not seem to have
been considered by the architects. In St. Paul's
the drum is much lower, and is not broken by the
line of a string course as at St. Peter's. The whole

->. - ...,-_~*r = - -

(p. 177).


composition resolves itself into three equal divisions, of
which one is occupied by the drum and the colonnade
above it. The second division contains the ring of
plain windows in an attic, which takes one quarter,
and the dome itself, which takes three quarters. The
dome has thirty-two ribs. The third division is occupied
by the lantern, ball, and cross, which are not so slender
as those of St. Peter's. The width of the drum and of
the colonnade and of the dome at its springing is two

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryW. J. (William John) LoftieRambles in and near London : or, London afternoons → online text (page 13 of 23)