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image SM volume 109/44

Reference number

SM volume 109/44


[6/2] Design for the Great Hall, 1698, incorporating revisions (probably 1699) for the design of the front and side porticoes, the dome and the front steps


North elevation (some detail sketched in perspective)


10 feet to 1 1/10 inches (from vertical scales of pen dots beneath right hand steps, and partly concealed beneath flap)


In pen and brown ink, over graphite, by Hawksmoor, above main elevation, The Manner of the portico and steps into ye Great Hall; and on left side, Refectory Grenvicani facies Septentrionis / cum porticu at scala accessoria / Vestibulum ascend.e (see Notes); and in graphite, vertically on basement wall to right of portico, 14 - 2', between chevrons, and on two right hand doors, 6 - 0, between chevrons; and in C19 hand at top right, 44; and on verso, in pen and brown ink at top centre-right of main sheet, In ye first place Under hall / Infirmery / Bakhouse / party walls stone Dorecases

Signed and dated

  • Undated, but datable l698 (revisions possibly 1699)

Medium and dimensions

Pen and brown ink over graphite under-drawing, with additions in grey wash and graphite. Laid paper, originally laid down on a page in volume 109, now separately mounted, and partly lifted on left side; originally single sheet with central vertical fold, extended on left side with separate sheet, and with several flaps, or patches, pasted over parts of the dome, front and side porticoes and front steps (see Notes); 365 x 820, in two joined sheets, left one 195mm wide




Main sheet: Strasbourg Lily / 4WR; countermark: PVL monogram; left sheet: Strasbourg Lily / 4WR


Hawksmoor probably drew the first version of this elevation in the period from February to April 1698, when Wren prepared and submitted a design for a hall (see [5/2]). However, the amendments which he made to the portico and steps on an additional sheet, attached on the left side, and on several pasted over-lays, are perhaps a year later in date. These amendments must post-date the drawing for the perspective engraving of Greenwich Hospital that the Committee ordered Hawksmoor to prepare on 20 December 1698 and (on 3 January 1699), to engrave (see Wren Society, VIII, pl. 24). The engraving, by Simon Gribelin, shows the hall approached by a single flight of steps on the north side (as in [5/2] and All Souls, Geraghty 2007, no. 201).

In this drawing the single flight has been replaced by a perron, set forward of the colonnade and approached by steps on each side. The left extension to the original sheet illustrates a central flight of steps, in the middle of the avenue. Although this perron is a recurring feature on drawings and engraved plans and perspective views of Greenwich Hospital up to 1735, there is no evidence that it was ever built in this form (see Notes on [6/5]).

Visible beneath the flaps are earlier versions of these features similar to those in Gribelin's engraving. The concealed version of the dome is a hemisphere with twelve ribs, its base ringed by vases resting on the tops of the segmental-headed openings. This is the version of the dome in the engraving and in the All Souls elevation, Geraghty 2007, no. 201. The concealed front steps are identical to those of the engraving, where the four lowest steps overlap the fronts of the pedestals.

The amendments on the pasted overlays are as follows:

1. An inverted L-shaped overlay showing a two-stage colonnade. This projects forward of the main colonnade and creates an attic storey above it. Sketched beneath this flap is a scheme in pen and wash for a portico of giant-order Composite columns projecting beyond the line of the colonnade, into the central avenue space. Perspective lines have been added in graphite to the revision on the flap in an attempt to suggest the appearance of the two-stage projecting portico in raking view. Both ideas, on the main sheet and flap, imply an aggrandisement of the hall range of the three-block scheme, the first with a giant-order portico and the second with a two-stage portico.

2. A square-shaped overlay showing a revised design for the cupola of the dome. It is smaller than the dome on the main sheet beneath. This revision is characteristic of Hawksmoor in its dramatic reduction of scale. He creates an exaggerated effect of recession, reinforced by perspective. Before this overlay was pasted on the drawing, the cornices of these segmental openings carried flaming urns.

3. Two small triangular-shaped overlays either side of the pediment with revisions to the bases of the urns that rest on the corners of the square base of the dome;

4. A long rectangular overlay covering the basement of the portico, from the ground to the bottoms of the column bases. It incorporates a design for a perron approached by flights of steps at each end, and has a central voussoired door surround.

5. A narrow strip over the balustrade of the portico, between the end pedestals and between the basement and cornice of the balustrade. It obscures the balusters of the original design. The balusters have been redrawn in the left-hand bay. An inscription panel has been redrawn over the central three bays;

6. A small rectangular overlay covering the lintel and wall area above the left-hand of the two doors in the right-hand end-pavilion of the elevation.

Save for the addition of the giant order at the east end, the parts of the drawing now obscured by pasted overlays agree closely with the engraved view.

The improvised Latin inscription on the left-hand side of the sheet belongs to the revision stage of the design. It is written in a smaller hand on the left sheet paper, which was added to accommodate the additional projecting portico and the central cross-wall and steps. It refers to the south-facing elevation of the dome and portico. Translated, it reads: 'Refectory at Greenwich, north elevation / with portico and entrance steps / to ascend to the vestibule'.

The inscription on the verso may be linked to Hawksmoor's appointment as Clerk of Works in July 1698. It is a 'to do' list, and begins with the words, In ye first place. This is followed by a list, beginning with Under hall, which implies that work had then already begun on the vaulted hall in the basement of the building. That would be consistent with the chronology set out above, since the lower parts of the elevation are as built (save for the addition of doors at the west end, an amendment not carried out). The reference to the Infirmery would relate to plans that were afoot at the time of the three-block scheme for the building of an infirmary on the ground that the hospital was seeking to acquire on the west side. The earliest such plan is that at Lambeth Palace Library (MS 933/99; Bold 2000, fig. 140), a drawing datable to the latter part of 1698 on the basis of discussions at the Fabric Committee on 15 July that year about ground recently purchased by 'Mr Wise' (marked 'Mr Wise' and 'Blissett's Garden' on the Lambeth Palace plan).


Soane: connoisseur & collector (1995), cat. no. 11; The Triumph of the Baroque, 1999, pp. 74, 544Wren Society, VI, pl. 27, top



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