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  • image SM volume 111/71

Reference number

SM volume 111/71


Plan-proposal for a new precinct around the cathedral, with arcaded frontages on all sides and a rotunda or mausoleum adjoining Ludgate Hill at the west.




50 feet to 1 inch


By Nicholas Hawksmoor, in brown ink at bottom right-hand edge, Scale 50f in An Inch; and in the same hand on plan of arcade on SW side, 11 (twice) for widths of arched bays, and 8 (twice) for depth of arcade; and on verso in a C18 hand, in brown ink, vertically along left edge, This drawing is in the hand of Sir Chris Wren; and below this, closer to the edge, vertically in pencil, in a C19 hand, 3 Model Room; and in right-centre of sheet in pencil (by Soane?), Bought of Mr Boone / ?? 2

Signed and dated

  • c.1696-97

Medium and dimensions

Pen and brown ink over divider marks (no graphite visible); on laid paper, backed with modern tissue; 280 x 464


Nicholas Hawksmoor


Strasbourg Lily/4/WR; Countermark: VX


This unrealised project, neatly drawn as a presentation design, is for rebuilding the frontages around the precinct on a nearly symmetrical plan which narrows to a pair of quadrant ranges framing the entrance to Ludgate Hill, to the south of which is a rotunda on axis with the cathedral. Datable c.1696-97, it is a finished version of Hawksmoor's initial precinct plan in the St Paul's Collection, WRE/7/1/2, which is drawn at double the scale (25 ft to 1 inch); see http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/The-Collections/Architectural-Archive/7-Churchyard-and-paving-c16901713-miscellaneous-drawings. Both plans set arcaded frontages around the perimeter of the churchyard in a wedge-shaped arrangement; the main axes of the cathedral are parallel to the edges of the sheet, and the long axis runs through the middle of the rotunda on the west.

Previously dated around 1710, the precinct scheme must have been prepared before the north and south transept steps were built to modified plans in 1698–99, without the front parapet wall. The completed north transept steps disrupted a previously symmetrical ground plan and are first shown in Jan Kip's engraved plan of 1701. The context for the scheme was probably the completion of the choir in 1696-97.
Variously described as a chapter house and a baptistery, the rotunda at the west end of the precinct is probably a project for a royal mausoleum. Hawksmoor’s plan closely follows that of Wren’s unrealised designs for a mausoleum to King Charles I at Windsor Castle in 1678; see Geraghty 2007, no.293). The project may represent an attempt to resuscitate this scheme, if not for its original purpose, then for Queen Mary II, whose early death in December 1694 had prompted a national outpouring of grief. The formal opening of the choir on 2 December 1697 would have focused attention on the need to improve the ceremonial entrance to the churchyard from Ludgate Hill.

The rotunda has 16 engaged columns on the exterior and a four-apse plan within. A double flight of stairs rises within a curved parapet wall on the east side to give access to a raised principal floor. It could have accommodated a monument in the western apse, opposite the entrance. The scheme as a whole would have required the demolition of almost all the houses around churchyard and a large group on the south side of Ludgate Hill. The eastern terrace, beyond the apse, incorporates the three-part elevation of St Paul's school.


Kerry Downes, Sir Christopher Wren: the design of St Paul's Cathedral (London 1988), cat nos 210-18.



Exhibition history

Europe and the English Baroque: Architecture in England 1660-1715, V&A + RIBA Architecture Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1 May - 9 November 2009

Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

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