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image SM volume 111/2

Reference number

SM volume 111/2

Purpose

Presentation design for tower and spire

Aspect

Elevation of west side, facing Gracechurch Street

Scale

50 feet to 4 5/8 inches (drawn scale)

Inscribed

In an unidentified hand, in pen and brown ink, bottom left, over the scale bar, Cr, Wrenn; and by Hooke with numbering 5 to 50 beneath scale bar.

Signed and dated

c. 1681

Medium and dimensions

Pen and brown ink with grey wash over faint pencil under drawing

Hand

Robert Hooke

Watermark

Strasbourg bend

Notes

St Benet Gracechurch Street was rebuilt 1681-85 and demolished in 1867-68 to allow the widening of the street, running down to The Monument and London Bridge. A drawing of the church from the north by W. Niven, c.1885 (P. Jeffrey, The City Churches of Sir Christopher Wren, 1996, Fig. 92), shows the steeple crowned by a tall obelisk resting on a lantern-base of four miniature, pedimented bays, set on a small dome lit by oculus windows, above a square podium at the top of the tower. Below this was the belfry stage of the tower, with louvred arched windows rising into pediments on each face. A shorter, intermediate stage with simple, square-headed windows rose above the main parapet of the church. The fascia band at eaves level ran around the lower stage of the tower where the fenestration of the church nave, with oval windows above tall, segmental-headed aisle windows, was continued. On the west elevation, these windows were set above a door with a simple dressed frame: three openings, one above the other. All these features are reflected, to a greater or lesser degree, in this initial design.
The outline and shading technique of the drawing compares closely with those on designs for City churches in the later 1670s now attributed to Hooke, in particular a preliminary design for the west elevation of St Clement Danes in 1680 (see Geraghty, The Architectural Drawings of Sir Christopher Wren, 2007, p. 103, and J. Summerson, 'Drawings of London churches in the Bute Collection: a catalogue', Architectural History, XIII, no. 28, fig. 13). The tower in the St Clement Danes design shares many features with this proposal: an obelisk spire on an octagonal dome, with a pilastered belfry stage below, and a grand columnar west door. At St Benet Gracechurch Street, as at St Clement Danes, a much less ambitious proposal for the west front and tower was put in hand. The obelisk-spire was greatly reduced in height, the dome was set on a plain square base instead of an octagon, all the ornaments of the three principal stages of the tower were stripped away, and the large west entrance was shrunk to a low door beneath a window.This is the latest known drawing by Hooke for one of the City Churches. The scale bar on the drawing has alternately shaded divisions as on a part long section of the interior of St James Piccadilly, c.1676, almost certainly in his hand; see Geraghty, 2007, no. 128, and Wren Society, IX, pl. 35. This shared trait is one of many that links this drawings to others in an increasingly secure body of drawn work now attributable to Hooke.

Literature

Wren Society, IX (1932), p. 36, pl. 37; P. Jeffery,

Level

Drawing

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