Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1957.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
CHAPTER XII - Christ Church
The foundations of Christ Church, Spital fields, were begun in the summer or autumn of 1714 and the foundation stone was laid in 1715. (fn. n1) Its construction was protracted, and fourteen years passed before it was consecrated in July 1729, having cost about £40,000 to build. It was one of the six churches designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor as surveyor to the Com missioners for Building Fifty New Churches in London and Westminster and their suburbs under the Act of May 1711, (fn. 1) and one of the three de signed by him for new parishes to be created out of the ancient and extensive parish of St. Dun stan's, Stepney. A design for the Spitalfields church was submitted by Hawksmoor to the Commissioners and accepted by them in April 1714, three months before his designs for the other two Stepney churches, St. Anne's, Lime house, and St. George's-in-the-East. The incep tion of the three Stepney churches was thus virtually contemporaneous. Although the creation of a single mind, the design for Christ Church, Spitalfields, underwent important modifications, even in the later years of building. It has sub sequently suffered neither from extensive damage by fire, as St. Anne's, nor from enemy action in war, as St. George's-in-the-East, but changes have been made, both within and without, which have appreciably altered its original appearance.
The Commissioners for Building Fifty New Churches
The Act of 1711 authorized the application of a duty of 2s. and later 3.s. per chalder on all ’coals and culm’ brought into the Port of London to provide funds for building ’fifty new churches of stone and other proper materials, with towers or steeples to each of them’ in London and its suburbs. Commissioners were to be appointed and to report by 24 December 1711 on the steps to be taken.
In March 1710/11 the Lower House of Con vocation had delivered to the House of Commons a statement of the population and the number of churches and chapels in twenty-seven parishes in and near London and Westminster. In the following month a Parliamentary Committee reported that Convocation's statement showed that 342,000 inhabitants were unprovided with churches. On the basis of one church for each 4,750 souls, seventy-two churches were required, but the Committee estimated that 101,500 in habitants were French Protestants or Noncon formist and that the number of churches required was thus reduced to fifty. (fn. 2) In the first few years of the Commission the building of this number of churches continued to be contemplated.
During the first two years of the Commission's existence the Commissioners usually met at intervals of a week or ten days, to discuss pro posals put before them by a committee composed of three or more members of the Commission which was appointed at the Commissioners’ second meeting. (fn. n2) The average attendance at meetings in 1711 was eighteen or nineteen: by the mid-1730's it had fallen to five.
The Commissioners employed two surveyors from the beginning until 1733. Nicholas Hawks moor was one of these throughout the whole period. His first colleague was William Dickin son, surveyor to the Dean and Chapter of West minster, who resigned in August 1713 and was succeeded in November by James Gibbs, who was succeeded in January 1715/16 by John James. James remained Hawksmoor's colleague until the offices were terminated. The surveyors were paid £200 per annum each until March 1719/20 when, on account of the ’Intermission of Business’ arising out of the Commissioners’ financial difficulties, their salaries were reduced to £150 per annum until May 1726. By then work on several churches had reached its later stages and ’being now branch'd out and spread among all the artificers carries with it much more additional trouble in measuring the Works, drawing Plans for the new Parishes, making up and Examining the Books and paying numerous Artificers’. (fn. 3) Their salaries were therefore again raised to £200 per annum retrospectively from January 1724/5.
Members of the Commission included Sir Christopher Wren and his son Christopher, Thomas Archer and (Sir) John Vanbrugh, who were among the twenty-four Commissioners present at the first meeting on Wednesday, 3 October 1711. At this meeting, letters were sent to twenty-one parishes and six chapelries, inquiring about their population, the existence of sites for new churches, and the practicability of converting existing chapels. (fn. 4) At the second meeting a week later the first reply to these inquiries was received, from the parish of Stepney, and Hawksmoor and Dickinson were ordered to report on sites there. A Committee of Commissioners was established, and on the same day held its first meeting, at which Wren, Vanbrugh and Archer were present. (fn. 5) The following week the surveyors were asked to report on sites in four other parishes. They were also required to provide ’A Large Mapp of the Citys of London and Westminster and Suburbs thereof’ and to ’distinguish the several parishes wherein New Churches are intended to be built, and add to it the buildings that have been erected since the makeing that Mapp’. The secretary was ordered to visit the parishes which had not replied to the Commissioners’ inquiries and to ’quicken them to make their Returnes with all convenient speed’. (fn. 6) By 2 November the Committee was able to give the surveyors a list of twenty-five parishes to be surveyed, each with the number of churches to be erected in them, amounting to forty-eight in all. (fn. 7) On 7 November the Commissioners agreed to the erection of forty-one churches in twenty three parishes. (fn. 8)
The Commissioners had begun their task with energy and purposefulness. When they came to make their report to Parliament in December 1711, and to ask for further time to complete the collection of the necessary information, they were able to say that they had devoted to the work ’their utmost industry and application’. (fn. 8) Their work was far enough advanced for them to ask for power to treat with owners for the acquisition of sites. In the meantime the Committee instructed the officers of the Commissioners to continue their work in anticipation of the renewal of the Commission. (fn. 10)
By the Act of 1712 the necessary renewal of the Commission was granted: among other provisions the Commissioners were empowered to purchase land and settle the boundaries and patronage of the new parishes. The financial provisions remained unaltered. (fn. 11) Under the new Commissioners the actual construction of churches was begun. By April 1714 they were addressing the Queen on the problem of the adequate endowment of the livings attached to the new churches, ’as they shall respectively be ready for use’. (fn. 12) The Act of September 1715 (fn. 13) provided for the appointment of a new Commission which was to report on this problem. Their report in March 1715/16 included a list of churches to be built, amounting in all to forty nine in twenty-seven parishes. (fn. 14) It was to become evident, however, that the financial provision for the Commission's work was not adequate for the completion, in the imposing and expensive form adopted by the Commissioners, of more than a small proportion of this number of churches.
In February 1717/18 the Commissioners petitioned that they should not be required to apply their funds to the rebuilding of existing churches; (fn. 15) they were nevertheless obliged in 1719 to rebuild the Church of St. Giles-in-the Fields. (fn. 16) In the same month they sought permission to build in ’Rubble, Brick, Brick Coind with Stone’ instead of in stone only, (fn. 17) and they also decided to begin no more churches ’till we find ourselves in a Condition to discharge the Contracts that are made or shall be made for finishing the churches now in Building’. (fn. 18)
In 1719 another Act (fn. 19) was passed, whereby the Commission's finances were put on a new footing. The existing duties were continued for a further thirty-two years but a fixed sum of £21,000 per annum was allotted out of them to the use of the Commissioners. The preamble to the Act stated that although the duties had so far raised £161,175 16s. 7d. ’a great debt is now owing to workmen and others’. At this time much of the Commissioners’ work, including that in Spital fields, was at a standstill, (fn. 20) and in view of the reduced amount of work the surveyors' salaries were cut for the succeeding four or five years. (fn. 21) In January 1720/1 the surveyors were asked to estimate the cost of finishing some or all of the churches that had been begun, or of covering them against the weather. (fn. 22) The Commissioners were then in debt for £66,685 5s. 7½ d., and payments for the maintenance of ministers and towards the work at Westminster Abbey and Greenwich Hospital seemed likely to absorb much of the future revenue. (fn. 23)
By March 1725/6 the Commissioners were obliged to admit ’that ye Expence of building with stone, purchasing Scites for Churches, Church yards and ministers Houses, is so very great, and does so far exceed the Calculations formerly made, that ye Committee Conceive it will be utterly impracticable to build one Half of the Churches at first proposed’. (fn. 24) In May_June of the following year the surveyors were asked to prepare a model of a church to be built as cheaply as possible, costing, with its parsonage, not more than £10,000. (fn. 25) By this time the period of the Commissioners’ most notable contribution to London's architecture was nearly at an end, although they built other churches in the suburbs.
In July 1712 the Committee of Commissioners, at which none of the architects on the Commission was present, had come to twelve resolutions regarding some general principles affecting the design of their churches. (fn. 26) The chief resolution was that ’one General Modell be made and Agreed upon for all the fifty New intended Churches’. At the meeting of Commissioners a few days later to approve the Committee's resolutions, at which Wren and Vanbrugh were present, this resolution was amended to read, ’That one general [Modell struck through] design or Forme be agreed upon … where the Scites will admit thereof: the Steeples or Towers excepted’. (fn. 27) Later in the same month Hawksmoor was ordered to submit ’the plan of a Church to be built conformable to the Resolutions’ made by the Commissioners. (fn. 28) Designs were invited from architects other than the surveyors, (fn. 29) and among those submitting designs was (Colin) Campbell who delivered to the Committee ’several De signes’ on 25 July. (fn. 30) On 30 July, the Commissioners decided ’that it may be adviseable to proceed upon the building of Greenwich Church, altho’ a General Design be not yet agreed upon for the Fifty New Churches' and resolved that ’a General Designe or Form for the rest of the New intended Churches’ should be fixed on before next Christmas. (fn. 29) In March of the following year, 1713, the Commissioners were still thinking in terms of a single basic design as yet unchosen, and one of the Commissioners, Thomas Archer, expressed to the Earl of Oxford his hope that his fellow Commissioners ’will soon … by the model they pitch on show their good opinion of him’. (fn. n3) In the event, of course, the idea of a single plan or design had been abandoned by the time Hawksmoor came to design Christ Church, Spitalfields, and his other Stepney churches early in 1714. The first meetings of the Commissioners in the last months of 1711 had already decided that the sites of churches, which were to be correctly orientated wherever possible, were to be chosen before the boundaries of the new parishes were determined. (fn. 35) Ministers’ houses were to be situated ’amongst or near the better Sort of the Inhabitants’. (fn. 36)
At their meeting in July 1712 the Commissioners resolved, among other things, that the sites of churches should be ’Insular’ wherever possible, with ’handsome Porticoes’ at the west end of each church. (fn. 37) (The Committee had previously de cided that the provision of porticoes should be conditional on the sites being suitable, but this qualification was omitted by the Commissioners: porticoes were not, however, a particularly prominent feature of most of the Commissioners’ churches.) All pews were to be low and ’single’ and of equal height, with movable forms under them which could be drawn out if necessary. There was also a general resolution that in building the churches ’no Person shall be admitted as a General Undertaker’ but each artificer was to be ’seperatly agreed with to perform the Work belonging to his particular Trade or business’. (fn. 37) The Commissioners were concerned to obtain the best work from their craftsmen. In May 1713 tenders for work on Archer's churches at Westminster and Deptford were invited in The London Gazette, being expressly ’published as an Encouragement to the Workmen in the Country as well as Towne to give in their proposals’. (fn. 38)
The New Churches in Stepney
The large medieval parish of St. Dunstan's, Stepney, which at the beginning of the eighteenth century included the greater part of the present Boroughs of Stepney, Poplar and Bethnal Green, presented the Commissioners with one of the areas most in need of new parish churches, and in the end the Commissioners’ activities here approached their original intentions more nearly than elsewhere.
In March 1710/11 Convocation's report on parishes needing new churches (fn. 39) estimated that Stepney contained about 86,500 inhabitants. Apart from its ancient parish church it possessed two Anglican chapels of ease or ’tabernacles’ in Spitalfields, Sir George Wheler's tabernacle and another in Petticoat Lane. The parish was estimated to contain nineteen Nonconformist or French Protestant meeting-houses; this was probably an underestimate.
Stepney was the first parish to submit a ’representation’ to the Commissioners with suggestions for new churches to be built, on 10 October 1711. This proposed four new churches, at Spitalfields, Limehouse, Wapping and Bethnal Green, and suggested that the chapels at Bow and Poplar were suitable for conversion into parish churches. In the end all except the constitution of Poplar as a parish was carried out by the Commissioners, although the building of St. Matthew's Bethnal Green was delayed until the mid-century and that parish did not, as was at this time intended, include the hamlet of Mile End New Town, which remained a hamlet of the mother parish. The surveyors were ordered to report on the proposed sites. (fn. 40) On 16 October Dickinson reported on four sites, that in Spitalfields being the one eventually chosen, and included an unfavourable report on a fifth site in ’Lower Wapping’. (fn. 41)
On 19 October the Commissioners communicated their intentions to Brasenose College, Oxford, which had recently acquired the presentation to the rectory of St. Dunstan's, Stepney, and had united it to the vicarage, obtaining the division of the living into two parts, held concurrently by two rectors, one of whom was known as the ’Por tionist of Spitalfields' and the other as the ’Por tionist of Ratcliffe’. (fn. 42) At this time the Commissioners had added the second church in (Lower) Wapping to those they intended to build in Stepney. (fn. 43) The college urged the Commissioners to build no more than four new churches, lest the value of each living should be too much reduced. (fn. 44) The Commissioners had, however, formed the intention to build five churches in Stepney (fn. 45) and wrote to the college that ’the Commissioners intend to proportion the Number of Churches to the Number of Inhabitants of each Parish’ and hoped that Parliament would take steps to ensure an adequate maintenance for ministers. (fn. 46) In November the number of churches proposed to be built in Stepney rose to six, with the suggestion that a second church be built in Spitalfields. (fn. 47) This was still the intention in March 1715/16, (fn. 14) but in the end the hamlets of Spitalfields and Wapping, Stepney, had only one parish church each.
The Site of Christ Church
Two days after the Lower House of Convocation had presented its report to the Commons, the hamlet of Spitalfields at a ’town meeting’ on 12 March 1710/11 agreed that the hamlet should become a parish, and managers were appointed to petition for the building of a church. (fn. 48) On 18 September 1711, before the first meeting of the Commissioners, the hamlet ordered ’That A plan of the ground for Two Churches with the number of the houses to belong to each Church be made’ for presentation to the Commissioners. (fn. 49) In the following month the Commissioners received the representation from the parish of Stepney and a report from Dickinson, both of which proposed only one site in Spitalfields, that of the present church. (fn. 50) In November the hamlet renewed its suggestion for the establishment of a second church and proposed the conversion of a ’French Church’. (fn. 51) The suggestion for a second church was adopted. (fn. 52) The possibility of uniting the hamlet to Norton Folgate, and making a new church built there the second Spitalfields church, may have been entertained at that time. (fn. 53) But before the suspension of the Commission in December a second site in Brown's Lane (Han bury Street west of Brick Lane) had been chosen by the Committee as a site additional to that actually used ’opposite to Paternoster Row’ (Brushfield Street). (fn. 54) ’Mr. Sleymaker’ had proposed the Brown's Lane site, as attorney for its six proprietors. He was probably the builder who later worked on the bricklaying for Christ Church and possessed property in Booth Street (Princelet Street east of Brick Lane) and Bell Lane. The precise location of the site is not known, but its possession by six people suggests that it was in Joyce's Garden on the south side of the Lane: whatever its position it was very near the site of Christ Church. It measured 180 feet east to west, and 274 feet north to south, with other ground 44 feet by 80 feet for a minister's house, and was valued at £900 compared with the £1,260 finally paid for the larger site of Christ Church. (fn. 55)
In the next two years little progress was made. In July 1712 the two sites were again viewed by Hawksmoor and the value of land there investigated. (fn. 56) The proposal to build a second church was, however, abandoned. In September negotiations were entered into with the three proprietors of the chosen site, and after they had refused to abate their price or divide the site agreement was reached in November, the proprietors affixing their signature to a plan (Plate 7a). On 12 November the Commissioners agreed to the purchase. (fn. 57) The interests of minors were involved, however, and the sale had to be authorized by three Chancery decrees made on 24 July 1713. (fn. 58) It was thus a year before the deed of purchase was signed and sealed, on 6 November 1713. (fn. 59)
The site of the church, its rectory and churchyard, was purchased by means of a single deed, but the site consisted of three adjoining plots with separate vendors. The whole site had been part of the property partitioned between the daughters of William Wheler of Datchet, and had formed part of two of the seven ’schedules’ into which the property was divided; the third or ’Red Lyon Range’ schedule which fell to Mary who married Martin Vandenancker, merchant of London, and the seventh or ’Smock Alley’, ’Teynter Ground Range’ and ’Teynter Ground’ schedule which fell to Katherine who married John Balch (see pages 180–1).
The northern part of the site, which was mainly occupied by the church and rectory, formed the south-western part of Katherine Balch's share and had been acquired in 1708, together with the rest of her share, by Charles Wood and Simon Michell (fn. 60) (see page 180). They, together with their trustee and representatives of a minor's interest in the ground, sold it to the Commissioners.
The other two parts of the site consisted of a small plot in front of the church, abutting west on Red Lion Street; and a larger plot on the south, stretching from the back of the houses in Red Lion Street to Brick Lane, which became the churchyard. These had together formed the greater part of Mary Vandenancker's share. The larger southern part had, together with part of the same share fronting Red Lion Street which was not subsequently conveyed to the Commissioners, been sold in September 1687 by Martin and Mary Vandenancker to John Heath, citizen and distiller of London. (fn. 61) This plot was purchased by Francis Heath of New Court, Chancery Lane, who by his will of April 1711 left it to his wife Anne, who, together with her son John, sold it to the Commissioners.
The other smaller plot forming part of this share was sold (fn. 62) by the Vandenanckers in November 1704 to John Bowden, tallow chandler, and William James of Stepney, weaver, to the use of the Vandenanckers for their lives and afterwards to the use of Thomas Wilkes, citizen and weaver of London. (fn. n4) The plot was leased to Wilkes by the Vandenanckers in July 1708. (fn. 59) By Wilkes's will, made and proved in June 1711, (fn. 63) his estate was left to his executor, Philip Humphreys of Spital-fields, weaver, in trust, after the payment of his debts, for Wilkes James and Peter James. It appears, however, that Robert Hampton, schoolmaster, of St. Katherine-by-the-Tower, was also Wilkes's heir. Humphreys, Hampton and Martin Vandenancker, who still had his life interest in the freehold, sold the plot to the Commissioners.
Wood and Michell's site cost the Commissioners £400, Mrs. Heath's £600 and Humphreys's £260.
The site had been almost entirely open ground. Wood and Michell's plot had consisted of the western part of four ’tenters’ which in 1708 were, or had lately been, in the tenure of William Loasby and John Furnis or Furnesse, (fn. n5) and a long narrow ’spinning ground’ which had been in the tenure of John Bennett, a ’line-maker’. (fn. 64)
Mrs. Heath's ground had consisted of four and a half ’tenters’ which in 1687 had contained ’three Lodges and one little Tenement’ at the east end fronting Brick Lane. (fn. 61). In 1668 it had been leased by William Wheler's trustees, Nicholas and Cooke, to Matthew Hill, elsewhere described as a cloth worker, for thirty-one years at £15 per annum. It had been leased in 1680, probably by mortgagees of Martin Vandenancker, to John Balch for forty years from 1700; by 1687 it had already passed into the possession of Balch and then of his executor, Edward Metcalfe. (fn. 61) In 1713 ’the said Teynter ground was a void piece of ground and yeilded no profitt and … the tenements erected on part of the said ground … were small tenements, very old and ruinous and ill-tenanted’. (fn. 65)
Humphreys's plot was described in 1704 as consisting of five houses with a piece of ground behind them. In 1687 this had been in the possession of Bennett and abutted on his spinning ground. (fn. 62)
At the time that the site was acquired the western end of the street which was to be left on the north side of the site (Church Street, later Fournier Street) was partly obstructed by the Three Tuns tavern which abutted south on Humphreys's plot of ground. In order to provide access to Red Lion Street from the new street, the sale to the Commissioners was made conditional, apparently at the instance of Wood and Michell who had an interest in the residential attractions of the street, on the provision of a public passageway sixteen feet wide on the north side of Humphreys's plot, immediately south of the tavern. This was to communicate obliquely with the new street. (fn. 66) On Rocque's map of 1746 this indirect communication of Church Street with Red Lion Street is shown, but Horwood's map of 1799 shows a more direct communication.
The Evolution of the Design of the Church
In February 1713/14 the officers and inhabitants of the hamlet petitioned the Commissioners for work to be begun on the church. (fn. 67) The Commissioners resolved that it should be started ’forthwith’ and Hawksmoor was directed ’to make a plan of such Church there intended to be built with a Estimate of the Charge thereof’. (fn. 68) Seven weeks later, on 9 April, ’Mr. Hawksmoor laid a Design for the New Church intended to be built upon the Scite in Spittlefields before the Commissioners’. (fn. 69) It is not known whether the Commissioners approved of this design, or wished for alterations, but a fortnight later Hawksmoor again ’deliver’d a Designe for a New Church intended to be built in Spittlefields’ which was approved and was ordered to be left with the secretary. At the same time, Hawksmoor gave in an estimate for its construction, amounting to £9, 129 16s., less than a quarter of the final cost. (fn. 70)
The King's Collection of Topographical Drawings in the British Museum contains some thirty drawings relating to the construction of the church. Few are dated or in Hawksmoor's own hand, and not all are well made: the light they throw on the development of the design of the church in the course of its fifteen years of building is, therefore, not always clear, but they show the radical changes in the conception of the church before and during its erection.
The plan reproduced as Plate 7b is for a church within a rectangular body, its external dimensions scaling 80 feet in width and 132 feet in length, exclusive of the projecting portion of the tower. This rectangle contains the nave, 40 feet wide and 95 feet long, divided from the galleried aisles by colonnades of five equal bays, spaced at 15–foot centres, with a narrow bay at each end. At the east end of each aisle is a lobby with a gallery staircase, and beside this is a small sacristy. These sacristies are contrived behind the concave quadrant walls that flank the shallow square-ended altar recess. The altarpiece is set forward to form a passage between the sacristies, and the communion-rail is advanced into the nave on the line of the first columns. The colonnade returns across the nave before the narrow bay at the west end, where an apse opening centrally from the west wall forms the concentric setting for a circular baptistery enclosure. At the west end of each aisle is a large staircase lobby, entered from a west door and linked with the oblong main vestibule, the square central compartment of which forms the base of a square tower. This vestibule projects for about half of its depth from the body of the church and is fronted with a tetrastyle portico of engaged three-quarter columns, between which the doors are placed.
This scheme is developed in the fully dimensioned plan reproduced as Plate 8a where the width of the rectangular body is decreased to 76 feet 8 inches, and the length is increased to 141 feet, this by reason of the greater depth now given to the staircase lobbies at each end of the aisles. These lobbies are now provided with windows in the side elevations, which are shown modelled into bays, that at each end being slightly recessed from the middle sequence of five which correspond to the bays of the internal colonnades. The cross section reproduced as Plate 9b probably relates to this plan, and shows a hall church with nave and aisles of equal height. The columns of the dividing colonnades stand on very tall pedestals and carry architrave-blocks, from which spring the round arches of the colonnades and aisles, and the elliptical arches of the nave, the ceiling compartments being, presumably, cross vaulted. Engaged to the lower part of the back of each column is a pilaster supporting the two galleries, the front of the first being level with the column-bases, and that of the second impinging about halfway up the shafts. The east end is shown with the concave quadrant walls flanking an altar recess lit by a large Venetian window.
On the verso of a sheet of studies relating to St. George's-in-the-East (King's T.C. XXIII 21–2a) there is a sketched half-section of a church comparable with that reproduced as Plate 9b and obviously related to the first scheme for Christ Church. This half-section shows that Hawksmoor had considered a scheme for the interior with paired columns, placed one behind the other, of three orders superimposed to carry the two galleries and the ceiling, a logical use of columns but one tending to produce a fussy, small-scaled interior.
Except that they relate to a hall church with a single roof producing a pediment-end on the east front, the side elevations and east front relating to this scheme (Plates 8b, 9a) differ but little from those built. The doorways in the east front are more emphatic, with eared architraves, their straight heads broken by triple keystones. There is no round window in each end bay of the side elevations, and the great cornice consists only of bed-mouldings and a deep plain fascia, with a blocking-course above.
There are important variations between the plan last described and that reproduced as Plate 14, which may have been drawn for engraving after completion of the building. Additional entrances, approached by double stairways, are introduced centrally in the north and south side walls. This change, introducing a cross-axis, may well have inspired Hawksmoor to revise his conception of the interior, for the smooth arcades of five equal bays are now discarded for a more dramatic sequence. The second column from each end is now replaced by a substantial pier, reducing the continuous arcade to three bays, with a wide and a narrow bay beyond each pier. Another significant change moves the transverse colonnade from the westernmost to the easternmost bay of the nave, where it forms a screen before the altar recess. In execution, of course, there is a transverse colonnade at each end of the nave. It must be noted that these internal changes are not reflected in the side walls as constructed, where the original window centres and bay spacings are retained, giving an asymmetrical placing of windows under the aisle vaults (Plate 37b). This suggests that the outer walls were advanced some way before the internal changes were made.
By far the most important new feature shown on this plan is the great tetrastyle portico before the west front. This is now proved to have been added when the body of the church was nearly completed; in fact, all the evidence tends to show that the west front and steeple were designed, quite literally, stage by stage. At first it was apparently intended to surmount the west front, a skeletal pseudo-portico of three bays, with a short tower of simple design, square in plan and of equal width with the middle bay of the front. This tower was to consist of a high pedestal-course, flanked by concave-curving buttresses over the side bays of the front, and a single stage containing in each face a large niche set in an unmoulded rectangular recess, flanked by buttresses. Above the narrow crowning cornice was to be a low lantern of octagonal plan, with a plain rectangular opening in each face and a pyramidal roof. But on the front elevation showing this tower (Plate 10a) is sketched the rough outline of an immense tower, of similar profile to that actually built, with the note ’Summa Altitudo 260f 0i.’ Unfortunately, the drawing is cut short and does not show how it was proposed to terminate this adumbrated tower.
The first stage of the tower, with its skeletal pseudo-portico, and the second stage, with its triumphal arch motif, were carried up before any final decision was taken about the form of the terminal feature. The drawings reproduced as Plate 10b, c probably represent the alternative designs for the third stage submitted to the Commissioners by Hawksmoor. The first is for a tower, square in plan, each face containing a tall, round-headed opening set in a recessed margin of the same form. The moulded archivolt of the framing arch rises from a pulvinated impost and has a large scroll-keystone. Against the north and south faces stand boldly projecting buttresses, curving out in concave ramps near their bases. An arcaded attic, reminiscent of the Kingsweston chimneys, with four arches in each face, is the crowning feature. Tentative ornaments are roughly sketched on this design-tall-necked urns placed at the angles over the triumphal-arch stage, and acanthus crockets ascending the curving faces of the buttresses. The alternative design, shown on a rider-flap, is for a tower stage very similar to the one actually built, surmounted by a spire of octangular plan with a profile that is much less acute than that of the executed design. The derivation from Wren's spire at St. Margaret Pattens is very clear in this sketch.
A problem is posed by two items in the King's Topographical Collection at the British Museum. One is an unplaced and anonymous design (fn. 71) for a hall church with a lobed apse, somewhat in the manner of John James (Plate 6b). This has a spire very similar to but distinct from that of Christ Church. It may be described as two interpenetrating pyramids, one very steep and the other less steep, both rising from the same square base. The angles of the very steep pyramid are cut away so that its plan is cruciform throughout its rise, thus revealing the angles of the less steep pyramid as wedges that disappear into the re-entrant angles. Alternatively, the whole might be described as a conflation of obelisks. It is necessary to add that the dormers and ornaments are very like those of the design executed at Christ Church.
The difficulty is that this spire does not fit the tower on which it seems to stand. The elevation shows a tower that is either square and set diagonally, or, alternatively, is hexagonal in plan. If the tower is square, the corners of the spire must be unsupported; if hexagonal there must be flat roofs over the parts of the tower not covered by the spire; but then the necessary parapets or balustrades are missing. It seems unlikely, therefore, that this design, to which the spire is alien, could have served as the inspiration for the Christ Church spire. What is more probable is that both spires came from a common source, and here it may be observed that the spire on the composite design, whilst it differs from that of Christ Church as executed, is identical with that shown in the second item-an engraving of the west front which, though not published until 1795, claims to be based on a drawing by Hawksmoor. (fn. 72)
The Building of the Church
The foundations, like those of St. Anne's, Limehouse, and St. George's-in-the-East, were begun in the summer or autumn of 1714. In October the surveyors measured the brickwork in the foundations of the three churches, and in November the bricklayers reported that the work on all three churches had been brought level with the ground. (fn. 75) By the end of the year more than £1,6oo worth of work had been done on the church at Spitalfields, (fn. 76) about £997 being paid to the bricklayers, £120 to the labourer who dug the foundations, and £510 to the carpenter, whose contract does not, however, seem to have been signed until 1717. (fn. 77) The great work was begun, but fifteen years were to pass before Spitalfields saw the last of the Commissioners’ workmen.
The foundation stone was laid near the southeast corner of the nave in 1715 by Edward Peck, a dyer, who lived in Red Lion Street (see page 190), and was one of the Commissioners. (fn. 78) He was presumably particularly active in respect of the Commissioners' work in Spitalfields, but little is known of the details of his activities as a Commissioner. He attended eight of the fifteen meetings in the first four months of 1716. (fn. 79) Most of the early ’representations’ from Stepney and Spitalfields asking for the church to be sited and built were signed by him, sometimes as a member of the hamlet ’vestry’. He signed the Spitalfields site plan on behalf of one of the vendors (see Plate 7a), and may have been instrumental in facilitating the purchase. He was one of the six or eight Commissioners who signed the Books of Works recording the work done and payments made for the Spitalfields church. In March 1725, when the church was being pewed, he was ’desired to choose any part of the New Church to erect a Pew for himself, Family and his Posterity’ as ’a grateful Acknowledgment of [his] good services done for this Hamlett’, (fn. 80) and in April 1727 he was similarly granted a vault for his family. (fn. 81) After his death in 1736 his son erected a monument to him made by Thomas Dunn, the mason of the church.
The work on the church proceeded for some four and a half years, not without checks and changes, but without major interruption. By July 1715 the mason and bricklayer had carried the body of the church up to a height of fourteen feet and by the end of the year to the level of the imposts of the openings at the west end. (fn. 82) In March 1715/16 the body of the church had reached about half its full height, and it was thought that the roof could be laid on in the summer if ’proper Methods’ were taken. (fn. 83) By the end of 1716 the mason's and bricklayer's work was carried about nineteen feet higher. (fn. 84) In that year the mason provided the keystones of the entrances at the west end, with their scallop-shell carving, at 15s. each (fn. 84) (Plate 38a). Another year passed before the work was brought to the level of the ’great Cornice’. The church was still unroofed. The following fifteen months, to the end of March 1719, saw the carrying-up of the nave walls to the level of the ’Attick cornice’ and the building of the base of the tower to the same level. The carpenter boarded-up ’the Cornice of the Composite Order within the Church to prevent its being broke’, (fn. 85) perhaps during the roofing of the side aisles by the carpenter and plumber, which was completed during this period.
At this point the financial difficulties of the Commissioners caused an interruption in the construction of the building, with the body of the church nearly complete, but with the central crypt vaults not yet turned and the nave open to the sky. The church was as yet without tower or portico, the latter being at this stage neither projected nor, probably, contemplated. (fn. 86)
In this first period the bricklayers’ work had been found to be unsatisfactory. In March 1714/15 Hawksmoor and Gibbs complained and Sleymaker and Goodchild were ordered to be dismissed. (fn. 87) In April they were reinstated on undertaking not to use bad bricks. (fn. 88) Sleymaker, who had perhaps used bad bricks in buildings in Mile End New Town in the 1670's and 1680's, was not employed in the following year, probably having died in 1715 (see page 161). Goodchild continued to be employed until his death in 1722, although there were further complaints against him in April 1717 and June 1718. He was required to employ only workmen approved by the surveyors. (fn. 89)
From 25 March 1719 to 25 March 1720 virtually no work was done on the church, and in the succeeding four years or so no great progress was made with the main structure. In April 1720 Hawksmoor and James reported on the progress of the Commissioners’ churches, and noted that at Spitalfields the carpenter had been unable to complete the nave roof ’for want of money, having a great Debt at this Church and in other Parishes due to him of above £2,000’. The surveyors asked for the roof to be covered with timber and lead and the vaults to be turned, ’and then this Fabrick will be secur'd from Dammage of Weather and other Accidents’. The unfinished state of the Commissioners’ churches occasioned ’harm continually done by the Mob’, a circumstance illustrated by the inclusion in the plumber's bill for 1721–2 of a charge for a labourer ’watching the Lead’ on sixty-three nights. To prevent this damage the surveyors asked for the site to be walled in. (fn. 90) The nave was roofed in this year, (fn. 91) but not leaded.
At a meeting of the Commissioners in January 1720/1 Hawksmoor gave an estimate for ’covering Spittlefields Church’ and at the same meeting estimates for completing the Commissioners’ churches and protecting them against the weather were laid before them, together with a statement of their ’Debt’. (fn. 92) By April the roof-timbers at Spitalfields had, in the surveyors’ words, ’layn open to ye Summer and Winter weather a Considerable time To ye great Damage of ye same, as well as disgrace to ye undertaking’. A plumber had contracted for the work ’some Years agoe’ (in fact, in January 1718/19) at a low rate, but in the interval lead had ’much advanced in price’ so that the plumber could only proceed if given ’some further encouragement’ which the surveyors recommended as it ’will be better husbandry to doe that then to Lett ye Roof and walls remain, in absolute Ruin’. (fn. 93) In November 1721 the Commissioners offered the plumber ’fifteen shillings a hundred’ on condition he put the work in hand at once. The roof timbers having been ’a great while expos'd to the Weather’ and being perhaps ’subject to the worm’, the surveyors were to cover them with tar and pitch before the lead was laid on. (fn. 94) In this and the following year the roof was leaded, although in 1723 work remained to be done ’to make good the Roof home to the Tower’. (fn. 95) Thus the body of the church was closed against the weather some three years after the walls were raised.
In the meantime the mason had worked on the pediment at the east end and on the north and south parapets in 1720–1, and had taken the tower ten feet above the level of the ’Attick cornice’ in 1721–2. (fn. 96) But more attention since the resumption of work in 1720 had been given to the interior. The carpenter worked on the floor and boarding of the galleries ’for the Charity children’ at the west end of the church in 1720–1, and the floor and roofing at the base of the tower in 1721–2. (fn. 97) The mason did a small amount of work on the ’Ten Middle Peers’ in the vaults under the church in 1722–3. In the following year he did other work in the vaults and on the ’window seats’ and ’Enrichments of the Cornices within the Church’. This included the provision often keystones to the nave arcade arches ’Carved with Cherubs heads’ at £1 10s. each (fn. 98) (Plate 38b). The smith fitted the windows with their iron frames in 1722–4. (fn. 99) In 1723–4 the plasterer began his work on the inside walls and decorative features, including the ’Glory’ over the altar, for which he charged £12 (fn. 100) (Plate 37d). At the beginning of 1724 the interior was, however, still unfurnished.
For some five years, from early in 1719 to early in 1724, little advance was made in the main structure of the church, apart from the roofing of the nave. In January 1722/3 the ’Ministers Church Warden and other Antient Inhabitants’ of the hamlet petitioned the Commissioners, pointing out that the church ’has for some time past been Almost finished, Yet of late they have had the Griefe to see a Stopp put to the Good Work which but a little more Time and Money would have perfected’. (fn. 101) The Commissioners resolved ’to give Orders To finish that Church as soon as it can be done’. James was asked to estimate the cost of completing the church ’and particularly what sum will suffice for that purpose in case the finishing the Steeple should be deferr'd till some convenient time after ye said Church is finish’. (fn. 102) A fortnight later Hawksmoor and James gave in their estimate to ’make the New Church in Spittlefields fit for Divine Service’. The total was £5,160 4s. 10d. compared with some £18,000 actually spent before the work was finished. (fn. 103) The Commissioners may have contemplated the completion of the church in a less imposing form than that finally adopted, without the addition of spire or portico.
The comparative lull in the work on the church probably made it more liable to damage from pilfering intrusions. In November 1723 Hawksmoor recommended a watchman to the Commissioners for payment ’he having bin very Usefull in Preserving the said Buildings from Mischife daily done by the Mobb’. (fn. 104)
The following year, 1724, saw the furtherance of work on a large scale. The mason and bricklayer carried the tower up some twenty-four feet to the top of the ’Corbel Cornice’. They also built the steps at the east end, and those in the centre of the north and south sides, which were soon to be swept away. (fn. 105) The carpenter worked on the flooring and boarding of the pews, galleries, vestry room, sacristies and stairs to the galleries. (fn. 106) The original intention in 1714 (fn. 107) had been to construct two tiers of galleries (see Plate 9b) but in the end it appears that only one tier was built along each side, with two tiers at the west end. The plasterer completed most of his work, and the joiner did his first work pewing the church, (fn. 108) largely according to Hawksmoor's plan shown in Plate 24b. The glazing and painting of the windows was also begun.
By the summer of 1725 the church had stood for some six or seven years with a west front consisting of the first two stages of the tower rising directly from the stepped approach. Before the development of the design for the tower into a steeple with spire Hawksmoor's conception of the west front would have had a closer affinity to St. George's-in-the-East than that finally constructed. This conception of the west front without spire or portico is represented in fig. 37. When the spire was first projected is not certain; the ’steeple’ referred to in January 1722/3 may not necessarily have included a spire. It may, however, have been the decision to add a spire to the tower that made it seem desirable to provide a balancing projection on the west front in the form of a tetrastyle portico. The first explicit mention of both spire and portico occurs in an estimate from Hawksmoor and James in July 1725, which included £1,000 for ’Makeing a plain Spire and finishing ye Steeple’ and £700 for ’The four Tuscan pillars and the ascent and portico’. (fn. 109) On 12 July the Commissioners ’order'd that ye Tower [and Spireinserted] of the Church in Spittle-fields being well nigh finished and the Scaffolding ready put up, the Tower [and Spire inserted] be carried on and finished, as less expensive now then it will be hereafter’. At the same meeting they ’Ordered that ye Portico at ye west end be finished in the plainest manner and at ye least Expence that can be’. (fn. 110) By the end of 1726 the spire had been taken up by the mason and bricklayer to ’ the bottom of the Cills to the Second Tire of Windows in highth of the Spire’, the mason charging for lifting material to 180 feet. By that time he had carved the four largest and lowest ’Crockets’ at £4. each. (fn. 111) Work on the portico was not begun, however, until 1727.
By the spring of 1725 the greater part of the carpenter's work in the body of the church had been completed. Between March 1725 and December 1726 the elaborate joinery work on the altar, altar-table, pulpit and reading-desk was carried out (see below), together with the wainscoting of the galleries and staircases, and the making of screens for the north and south doors and all the outer and inner doors of the church. The joiner's work was delayed by his ’ taking down the whole work of the altar & making several alterations in the same and fixing it up again’. (fn. 112) This may have been in order to set the altar back against the east wall instead of in the more forward position shown in an undated plan in the British Museum, (fn. 113) which left a passage way behind the altar from one ’sacristy’ or vestry to the other, and this may perhaps have caused the direction to the joiner in March 1725/6 to finish his work with all possible speed. (fn. 114) By February 1726/7 the altar was in its final position and the placing and size of the altar-table was being planned by Hawksmoor. (fn. 115)
The carving on the pulpit, reader's and clerk's desk, screens and galleries was executed in 1725–1726. The steps and paving at the altar were carried out by the mason in ’Purbeck paving’, ’Rygate hearth’, ’Portland Paving with Black dots and Black Marble Border’ and ’White and veined Marble Paving laid Arris-wise’. The faces of the stone capitals were painted and the plasterer set the King's arms upon the eastern entablature at a cost of £62. The glazing and painting of the windows was completed. The surveyors’ salaries, which had been reduced from March 1719/20, were subsequently restored retrospectively from January 1724/5, the work being ’branch'd out and spread among all the artificers’ both at Spitalfields and elsewhere (see page 149).
The Commissioners had determined the limits of the new parish in the summer of 1724 (fn. 116) and the parish boundaries, coincident with those of the hamlet, had been assigned in January 1724/5. (fn. 117) The enclosure of the churchyard with ’a plain wall not exceeding 7 ft. high’ was ordered in July 1725. (fn. 118) In April 1726 plans for this were still being ordered, (fn. 119) but this work presumably had been executed by September 1727 when the ’raising of the church ground’ was held to have damaged adjacent parish buildings. (fn. 120)
By the end of 1726 no work had yet been done on the portico. In February 1726/7 the Commissioners directed the workmen ’to finish ye … Spire and Portico with all possible expedition’. (fn. 121) In March the spire was ordered to ’be finish'd according to ye Design sent in by Mr. Hawks moor’. (fn. 122) By March of the following year the spire had been taken up to its full height and surmounted by a ’Copper Ball and Vane’ for which the smith charged £55 2s. 6d., and which the painter gilded for twelve guineas. (fn. 123)
In March 1726/7 the Commissioners had also ordered a further estimate to be made of the cost of the portico. (fn. 124) It was probably at about this time or a little earlier that the elevation of the portico, dated 1726 (?/7), was made, showing its construction partially in wood and brick (Plate 11a). The use of these materials for ’the Portico and Entablement’, authorized in May 1727, (fn. 125) was presumably necessitated by the financial difficulties that caused the Commissioners at the same time to contemplate the erection of churches ’that may be built as cheaply as possible’. (fn. 126) The portico and steps before it were built by the end of March 1728. The mason's work included ’Cutting way, in the Facia for ye £ columns of the portico and cutting holes for ye Roof of the same’ to adapt the existing and completed west front for this belated addition. (fn. 127)
The final major works in the interior of the church were completed at the same time. The altar, churchwardens’ pew and christening pew were finished by the joiner and carvers, the mason relaid the marble paving at the altar, and the smith, John Robins, provided some twenty feet of ’fine Iron-rail to the altar with leaves, Cherubs Heads, Scroll work, etc’ for £51 5s. The vestry meeting room was wainscoted and panels at the altar damaged by damp were mended and the front doors shortened and refitted. (fn. 128)
Iron gates and railings with stone piers were provided by the smith and mason, probably on the north-east side of the church. (fn. 129) The pavior completed his work, including the pavement in the front of the church, or ’Esplanade’, to the south of which the engine-house and Charity School were later built. (fn. 120)
By the spring of 1728 the church was thus brought almost to completion, but such work as remained was not quickly finished, and in April 1729 a ’Town Meeting’ was moved to ask ’the Committee appointed to Manage the Affairs relating to the Church’ to attend the Commissioners ’in order to Get the Church Finished’. (fn. 130) In the meantime, a little work was done on the portico by the plasterer, while the painter's work included ’145 Pews Number'd with Figures Guilded and back Shadow'd each at 2s.’ (fn. 131)
It was not until 14 May 1729 that the Act making the hamlet a parish and providing a maintenance for the rector (fn. 132) received the royal assent, (fn. 133) together with a similar Act for St. George's-in-the-East. The Act provided for the Commissioners to endow the rectory with £3,000, and for an additional £125 per annum to be raised by the parish. In March 1725/6 the hamlet had been willing to raise £200 per annum, (fn. 134) but by March 1726/7 the Commissioners were satisfied that £150 per annum was the most that could be raised ’by reason of the great decay of trade and fall of rents since that first Proposal was made’. (fn. 135) By the time the Bill came before the Commissioners in February 1728/9, the sum was further reduced. (fn. 136) By the Act the great tithes continued to be paid to Brasenose College, the patrons of the new livings made out of the old parish of Stepney. The Commissioners paid £100 towards the £370 spent by the parish in obtaining the Act. (fn. 137)
Christ Church, Spitalfields, Building Accounts
Payments to Craftsmen for Labour and Material
|1 Jan. 1713/14–31 Dec. 1714||120||9||10||996||9||9||510||0||8||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||1627||0||3|
|1 Jan. 1714/15–31 Dec. 1715||10||0||0||909||5||6||87||18||2||2832||19||7||288||2||10||76||17||8||–||–||–||–||–||–||4205||3||9|
|1 Jan. 1715/16–31 Dec. 1716||–||565||7||6||82||1||8||2389||10||4||2||12||3||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||3039||11||9|
|1 Jan. 1716/17–31 Dec. 1717||2||10||2||458||8||2||107||3||11||2858||16||8||14||10||6||33||18||4||–||–||–||–||–||–||3475||7||9|
|(fn. n6) 1 Jan. 1717/18–25 Mar. 1719||–||457||13||3||464||10||3||4378||10||2||144||2||1||515||7||7||–||–||–||–||–||–||5960||3||4|
|25 Mar. 1719–25 Mar. 1720||–||–||–||–||2||6||4||–||2||16||6||–||–||–||–||–||5||2||10|
|25 Mar. 1720-25 Mar. 1721||–||–||997||10||10||320||5||2||4||4||0||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||1322||0||0|
|25 Mar. 1721–25 Mar. 1722||–||62||1||0||22||18||8||454||18||3||12||19||9||372||9||4||–||–||–||–||–||–||925||7||0|
|25 Mar. 1722–25 Mar. 1723||–||20||15||9||16||9||7||75||11||3||201||18||8||217||13||0||–||–||–||–||–||–||532||8||3|
|25 Mar. 1723–25 Mar. 1724||–||–||39||2||3||348||16||0||350||9||0||81||16||2||–||444||14||7||–||–||–||–||1264||18||0|
|25 Mar. 1724–25 Mar. 1725||–||694||7||9||914||13||0||1894||0||7||102||2||4||38||16||1||–||518||12||z||532||0||2||21||11||4||127||8||6||–||4843||11||11|
|(fn. n6) 25 Mar. 1725–31 Dec. 1726||–||852||6||4||194||19||4||2840||3||3||399||6||1||77||6||10||163||17||8||62||0||0||1287||3||10||87||7||2||14||2||9||211||19||5||6190||12||8|
|(fn. n6) 1 Jan. 1726/7–25 Mar. 1728||–||–||419||19||9||3241||17||7||600||16||2||260||6||4||249||8||6||40||19||9||96||18||6||57||15||6||8||7||7||32||14||6||5009||4||2|
|(fn. n6) 25 Mar. 1728–24 June 1729||–||–||–||11||17||6||41||1||5||22||6||4||–||19||17||0||–||21||14||9||–||–||116||17||0|
|(fn. n6) 25 June 1729–25 Mar. 1731||–||–||217||16||6||184||19||9||179||4||5||10||17||9||1||7||0||–||–||7||12||11||43||10||6||–||645||8||10|
Also £179 3s. paid to Stephen Hall for watching and cleaning the church.
The church was consecrated by Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London, on 5 July 1729, in the same month as St. George's-in-the-East. (fn. 138)
Some £666 remained to be paid to workmen for the period from 25 June 1729 to 25 March 1731. The carpenter was paid for ’Enclosing the East and West Staircases’ and for ’fixing a Wainscot Board and Benches to the Pulpit’. (fn. 139) The mason provided the chimneypiece in the vestry and also ’A Purple Marble Bason molded, fluted, Guthernd and Sunk 7 Inches deep’ for the font at £18. (fn. 140) The smith and mason also set up the iron railings that ran across the north-west angle of the church and across the foot of the steps at the west end. (fn. 141)
By the time all the work had been completed the Commissioners had spent £39,162 17s. 6d. on workmen's wages, and £179 3s. for cleaning and watching the church, in addition to the £1,260 paid for the site.
Craftsmen Employed in the Building of the Church
Mason. Thomas Dun, or Dunn, of Southwark was employed throughout, and was also responsible for the monument to Edward Peck. He worked at St. Anne's, Limehouse, and St. Mary Woolnoth. (fn. 142) He was an executor of William Seager of Spitalfields, carpenter. Other Southwark builders of the same surname occur in deeds relating to domestic buildings in Spitalfields and Mile End New Town contemporaneously with the building of the church, and Charles Dunn of Southwark did the mason's work on the French Church in Fournier Street in 1743.
Unsuccessful tender from Richard and Michael Crutcher of ’Billiters Lane, Fanchurch Street, London’.
Bricklayers. Thomas Sleymaker of Stepney (d. 1715); Richard Goodchild of Stepney (d. 1722); Thomas Lucas of Deptford (1725–6).
Sleymaker, who was not employed after 1715, may probably be identified with Thomas Sleymaker of Stepney who died in that year, possessed of property in Booth Street and Bell Lane. In his will he calls himself a mason, but refers to money of his put in the stock of the ’Society of Bricklayers’. (fn. 143) He and Goodchild, who was probably the Master of the Tylers’ and Bricklayers’ Company in 1720–I, (fn. 144) were partners and had premises in Cannon Street, Wapping. (fn. 142)
All three were employed at St. George's-in-the-East and St. Anne's, Limehouse.
Carpenters. James Grove of Greenwich (1714–23); Samuel Worrall of Spitalfields (from 1723).
Unsuccessful tenders from John Brookes of College Hill, William Seager, and Thomas Denning.
Smiths. John Skeat of Bow Lane (1715–23); John Cleave (1723–9); John Robins (1724 onwards).
Robins obtained the locksmith's contract. (fn. 146) Skeat and Cleave worked at most of the Commissioners’ other churches. Robins worked at St. Mary Woolnoth, St. John Horsleydown and on the tower of St. Michael, Cornhill. (fn. 142)
Joiner. Gabriel Appleby (from 1724). He worked also at St. Mary Woolnoth.
Unsuccessful tenders from ’Lane and Beaverstock’ and John Simmonds.
Plumbers. George Osmond of Fetter Lane (1715); Richard Marples (1717); George Deval (1718 onwards).
Osmond worked at most of the Commissioners’ other churches; Marples at St. Mary-le-Strand, St. Mary Woolnoth, St. George's, Bloomsbury, and St. Michael's, Cornhill; and Deval at St. John's, Smith Square, St. Anne's, Limehouse, St. Luke's, Old Street, and St. George's, Bloomsbury. (fn. 142)
Unsuccessful tender from Richard Smith.
Plasterer. Isaac Mansfield (from 1723). He worked also at St. George's, Hanover Square, St. John's, Smith Square, St. Luke's, Old Street, and St. George's, Bloomsbury.
Paviors. William Church (in 1719); John Mist (from 1725).
Carvers. Thomas Darby and Gervas Smith (1725–8).
Darby worked at many of the Commissioners’ other churches and Smith also at St. Mary Woolnoth.
Painter. James Preedy (from 1724). He worked also at St. Mary Woolnoth and St. Michael, Cornhill. (fn. 142)
Unsuccessful tender from John Reynolds.
Glazier. Jos. Goodchild (from 1724).
Labourer. George Norris was employed as labourer to dig foundations.
The only reference in the Commissioners’ records to the organ is to the provision by the carpenter in 1727–8 of some forty-five feet of oaken flooring in ’ye Organ Gallery’. The form of the west end and the manner in which the western entablature is broken to admit the organ suggest that the design of the church may not have taken account of the position that the organ in fact occupies.
The organ was installed some seven years after the church was consecrated, a subscription being raised and a committee formed for its purchase early in 1734. The faculty for its erection was dated 7 February 1735/6. (fn. 148)
The organ was designed, apparently at a cost of £600, by Richard Bridge, who was also paid £12 per annum ’for his care and trouble in the keeping the organ in repair and tune’. (fn. 149) The rector described it in 1851 as ’the only specimen extant of the sole workmanship of the celebrated Bridge’, (fn. 150) and it has been called ’his best organ’. (fn. 151)
In March 1735/6 the first organist was elected at a salary of £30 per annum. This was Peter Prelleur, a musician of note who lived in Rose Lane. He died in the summer of 1741. In 1748 the salary was reduced to £20 per annum. A woman, Margaret Rondeau, perhaps the sexton's wife, was a candidate for the post in 1764, coming bottom of the poll, and in 1807 two of the eleven candidates were women. (fn. 152)
In 1822 the organ was repaired by James Bishop of ’7 York Buildings, New Road’ (fn. 153) for £111 18s. (fn. 154) The repairs of which this was a part provoked opposition, and in February 1827 a public meeting in Spitalfields considered the supposed cost of these repairs, which appear to have been inaccurately stated. Part of the report in The Times runs:
’The next item was—
’ For taking the organ to pieces, cleaning and repairing the pipes, and adding a new stop thereto £221 19s.
’ “Stop indeed!” exclaimed the chairman, “for I understand it has stopped altogether.” ’ (fn. 155)
In February 1836 a fire in the tower damaged the organ, and H. C. Lincoln of 196 High Holborn (fn. 156) was paid £222 16s. 6d. for ’repairs and improvements’. (fn. 157) In 1851 the rector commented on the ’very defective’ condition of the organ, which he considered had been ’not fairly dealt with’ in the repairs of 1836, when much of Mr. Lincoln's work had been ’altogether ineffective’. It was agreed to raise £200 for further repairs. (fn. 150) This was done, as part of the ’restoration’ carried out in that year, and by November it was reported that ’a considerable outlay’ had been made upon the organ, ’which will place it upon an equality with any in London’. (fn. 158)
From 1858 to 1868 no organist was appointed, for lack of funds to pay him. (fn. 159)
A committee to install bells in the church is said to have been appointed by the vestry in 1730, (fn. 160) and the great bell, costing £162 10s., to have been hung in May 1731. A gift of £600 towards the cost of a peal of bells is said to have been given in 1734. (fn. 161) In 1746 the vestry ordered the tenor and fourth bells to be recast by ’Mr. Lester the Bell founder’, (fn. 162) and in the following year the chimes were ordered to be set to two tunes, ’The March in Scipio and the Tune of the 113 Psalm,’ for ten guineas. (fn. 163) In 1764 Mr. Thomas Lester and Mr. Thomas Park undertook ’To Recast The Old Bell into a good and Musicall Bell in Tone and Tune to the other Bells’ and to move the seventh bell and take down the tenor bell. (fn. 164) A new set of chimes ’on a mahogany barrell’ was provided by Mr. George Harman of High Wycombe for £220 in April 1788: the seven tunes chosen in November were the ’Easter Hymn, Hymn of Eve, Lass of Pattie's Mill, Sir Chas. Sedley's Minuet, Merionethshire March, Something else to do, and March in Scipio or [? Madge's] Gavott’. (fn. 165) It was later said that early in the nineteenth century ’Spitalfields’ Chimes were in great renown. Crowds used to assemble to hear those bells play the Easter hymns at midnight; and the selection of airs was always remarkably eclectic’. (fn. 160) In 1802 two new trebles were added to the peal of bells, (fn. 166) making twelve in all.
On 17 February 1836 the steeple was gutted by fire. An appeal for funds stated that the ’Peal of Twelve Bells, hardly inferior in power and sweetness to any in the kingdom, are either shivered to pieces in their fall or fused by the heat of the Conflagration’. The sale of bellmetal produced £690 2s. and £899 was paid to T. Mears of Whitechapel for a new peal of eight bells. (fn. 167) In 1914 they were described (fn. 168) as ’undoubtedly one of the finest peals in the kingdom’, and were listed as follows:
According to the Rev. J. H. Scott, rector of Spitalfields 1888–96, a clock with four dials was first started on 27 January 1732. (fn. 161) The stone roundels at the base of the tower may have been intended to house the clock-dials. An engraving of the west front published in 1795 (fn. 169) but said to be made from a drawing by Hawksmoor shows the clock immediately above the roundel and occupying the lower part of the tall arch-headed opening. It retained this position when the dial of the clock was repainted and regilt in 1797. (fn. 170) In 1822 J. B. Gaze of Princelet Street was paid some £43 for repairing the clock. (fn. 154) The fire of 1836 entirely destroyed it, and it was replaced by an eight-day clock supplied by J. P. Paine for £222 I6s. 6d. (fn. 171) In 1866 clock dials illuminated by gas were installed by B. R. and J. Moore of Clerkenwell Close, at a cost of about £290, in the higher position in the spire that they now occupy. (fn. 172)
The communion plate was ’sacriligeously stolen’ between 23 March and 8 April 1799. The churchwardens were ordered by the vestry to replace it with plated articles similar to those used in St. Mary's Whitechapel. (fn. 173)
Later History of the Church
For a few years the church stood, white, new and complete. But its imaginative conjunction of massiveness and complexity was probably never readily likeable, and had by the time of its completion already fallen out of harmony with the taste for a more correct and orderly architecture. Five years after its consecration the Palladian critic Ralph remarked that the ’monstrous expense’ lavished on it had resulted in the erection of ’one of the most absurd piles in Europe’. (fn. 174) The opinion of practising architects has been more favourable, but the subsequent history of the church is one of many alterations that have significantly modified its appearance as it stood in 1729.
The first important change was not long delayed. The Vestry minute book for the years 1729–43 is not known to have survived, but an entry near the beginning of the 1743–55 book records that on 14 June 1743 it was resolved that ’the Stepps on the North side of the Church shall be removed and taken away’, which was done by ’Mr. Pasco’ for £23. The Vestry rejected a higher tender from ’Mr. Dunn’, perhaps the Charles Dunn who was then employed on the mason's work at the French Church at the other end of Church (Fournier) Street. (fn. 175) The present form of the central window on the north side (Plate 31b) presumably dates from this alteration: the removal of the steps on the south side, with an identical reshaping of the central window, is not recorded. (fn. n7)
In 1763 the Vestry accepted a proposal from one of its members, Thomas Kinlyside, to fit the interior of the church with wainscoting, for £65 10s. The work was described as: ’For Enclosing the Middle Isle of the Church under the Organ Loft and East [sic, should be ’each’] Side Isle at the End of the Pewing under the Gallery at the West End and at the East Ditto, Also the Opening Leading from the side Isles at the East End to the Choir, All to be done according to a Drawing made for that Purpose with Inch & ½ wainscot framed with Ovolo on both sides, Raised Pannells and Beed on the raising on one Side and Flat on the other. All the Doors to be raised on both sides a Beed only on one Side— All the aforesaid Work to be Compleatly Fixt with Best Crown Glass in Doors and in the Fan over the Doors in the Middle Isle.…’
In execution the wainscot at the east end of the church was increased to a thickness of two inches, for which Kinlyside was paid an additional £14 4s. (fn. 176) Some of this screen-work may have been re-used in forming the present central lobby between the vestibule and the body of the church.
In 1766 the Vestry considered ’the best Method of Repairing or Removing the Iron Palisades before the Church,’ but whether this was done is not known. (fn. 177)
Three years later, in August 1769, the Vestry decided to make a church rate of 6d. in the pound, to repair the church ’by Contract’. In the following year £713 7s. 6d. became due to workmen ’towards repairing and Beautifying the Church’ and a further church rate of Is. in the pound was made. (fn. 178) The nature of this work is again not known, although it may have included the replacement of the original altar-table by one of more elaborate design.
The next substantial renovations were carried out in 1797 when the Vestry decided to execute repairs suggested by two of their members, Mr. Benson and Mr. Kinlyside. These included the complete repair of the roof, the renewal of exterior paintwork, the repainting and regilding of the clock and the whitewashing of the interior plasterwork. Mr. Benson was put in charge of the work. A church rate was made, to raise,£602, to meet the cost of these repairs, which was estimated at £220, and to meet a further debt of £382 owed on account of the church, perhaps for some previous repairs. The work done at this time probably included the releading of the south aisle and some interior painting. (fn. 179) (fn. n8) At the time of the public resistance in 1826–7 to the collection of a church rate the repairs of 1797 were compared favourably with those of 1822. The earlier work appears to have been in the end rather more expensive than appears from the Vestry minutes. In 1826 a writer described the work of 1797 as ’a thorough and complete repair’ by which the church ’was embellished and fitted up in a chaste style, highly becoming a place of worship, the whole expense of which was under £1,000’. (fn. 181) In 1827 it was said that this cost of ’ under £1,000’ had at the time been thought so extravagant ’that even to the present time the whole of the charges had not been paid’. (fn. 155)
The external appearance of the west front of the church in the early nineteenth century is recorded in Ackermann's print of 1815 (Plate 25a). (fn. n9)
On 15 March 1822 the Vestry decided that the church should be ’thoroughly repaired’: (fn. 182) a decision from which much trouble arose. A committee was appointed to obtain an estimate of the work needed from Alfred Burges, a surveyor who was later described by a hostile critic as ’nothing more than a civil engineer’. (fn. 183) He was said in March 1822 to be ’of Poplar’ and later in the year lived at ’No. 3 Worship Square’, Shoreditch. (fn. 154) On 4 April Burges estimated that the expense would be £ 2,400. (fn. 184) On 25 April the Vestry elected Mr. Burges to supervise the repairs in preference to a James Benson, junior. ’Mr. Benson, senior’, a Vestryman who had been in charge of the repairs in 1797, and was probably the unsuccessful candidate's father, withdrew from the committee: that this Vestry meeting was contentious is suggested by the unprecedented inclusion in the minutes of a vote of thanks to the chairman ’for his impartial conduct of the Chair’. (fn. 185)
Eight years later the methods by which the ensuing repairs and decorations were financed and contracted for were the subject of questions put to the then Vestry Clerk by Hobhouse's Committee on Select Vestries. (fn. 186) The answers appeared to establish the existence of a number of irregularities. Mr. Benson had submitted an estimate of less than £1,800 although Burges's higher tender had been accepted. Being asked whether the tradesmen employed on the work by the Vestry committee were not, with one exception, themselves Vestrymen, the Vestry Clerk replied, ’I believe most of them were’. The upholsterer, William Hale, whose charges were the most generally criticized, was, however, said by the clerk not to have been a Vestryman. (fn. n10) The money to pay their bills had been raised partly by borrowing £5,000 at 5 per cent. interest. When asked ’were not the lenders chiefly vestrymen?’ the clerk replied ’I believe they were’, and further stated that no attempt had been made to borrow at a lower rate. One of the two churchwardens in office in 1822 had since failed to settle his accounts and had absconded with £300 of the parish money. (fn. 186)
The work done at this time (fn. 188) included an important alteration in the church's external appearance by the removal from the spire of the Georgian ’crockets’ and decorated rectangular dormers which had continued and carried up the sequence of openings from the lower storeys of the steeple. The spire was thus given a more Gothic character than it possessed when first built, a change completed, perhaps in 1836 or 1841, by the removal of the cornice-capping and its replacement by a more pointed termination. This stripping of the spire formed part of the bill for £1,077 4s- Id. from the mason, Benjamin Nicholson, and was said to be necessary because the decorations had become insecure and dangerous. (fn. 155) (fn. n11) Other work by the mason included the relaying of paving in Portland stone and marble.
The heaviest bill was from Messrs. Lee and Leach for plasterer's and bricklayer's work, which came to £1,317 8s. 8½d. This included charges for ’cutting out and making good settlements to North South and West staircases… cutting down and repairing defective parts of cieling, cutting out and making good defective parts to settlement of walls.… Repairing defective parts of ornaments and cornices.’ The churchyard wall was repaired. The charges also included £422 15s. 1d. for scaffolding.
The next heaviest two bills were probably put in by Vestrymen. John Leschallas charged £967 15s. 9d. for ’painting the church throughout’, mainly in white and stone colour. In the course of this work he painted Gabriel Appleby's altarpiece in imitation of marble. (fn. n12) The other bill, for work widely regarded as outrageously lavish, was from William Hale, the upholsterer, for £972 9s. 9d. Hale's charges included £292 5s. for ’crimson moreen-covered cushions’, £76 2s. 6d. for ’174 feet of rich crimson genoa velvet hanging round front of Gallery, rich gold silk fringe’, £101 for covering eleven pairs of doors with crimson cloth and brass nails, £97 10s. for ’stout crimson silk and worsted damask’ for curtains to the ’principal pews’ and £14 5s. for ’Best in grain crimson moreen for curtains round national school pews’. The communion table cover ’of rich crimson Genoa velvet, real gold lace on edges, real gold fringe round the hanging and a rich real gold glory in front’ cost £58 10s., and ’crimson moreen damask drapery’ for the ’altar window’ £50. The pulpit, like the altar, was upholstered in crimson velvet and gold. In the subsequent disputes the expense of 'the gorgeous cushions and the rich curtains and fittings up of the parish officers pews’ was particularly criticized, (fn. 181) and the extravagance of the altar fittings was the subject of questions by the Parliamentary Committee in 1830. A hostile observer remarked that ’the Church was certainly hung in a very tasty manner—not even the dressboxes in Covent-Garden had more of fringe and ornament’. (fn. 183) Others said that the work could have been done for £200. (fn. 190)
The carpenter's bill of Thomas Burton amounted to £730 4s. 8¾d. for work on wainscot and pews, repairs to the nave roof, the timbers of which were said to be dangerously decayed, (fn. 155) alterations to the ’National schools’ galleries, and work on the staircase, belfry and clock room. It was probably the carpenter who fitted ’ 11 pair of folding doors, covered with red cloth (having a circular light) for the several entrances to the Church and galleries’ which were later said to be of deal and to have been ’substituted for oak doors which were coeval with, and added dignity to, the church, and would have lasted as long’. It was asserted that the original doors had been sold for trifling sums. (fn. 155) The carpenter also provided the conspicuously plain pedestal for the new royal arms: this was lower than the original pedestal.
The royal arms were supplied by William Croggon and Co. of ’Coade's Ornamental Stone and Scagliola Works’ at Lambeth, at a cost of £66 14s. (Plate 36a) which was about the same as the cost of the original arms. These were said to have been decayed by dry rot. The new ones were criticized as being ’not so good’. (fn. 155) The original arms and pedestal were perhaps more richly modelled (see page 296) but the new arms were well designed.
The plumber, G. W. Pemberton, put in bills for £607 6s (fn. n13)
The church had hitherto been lit by candles. The bill of the smith, Thomas Hack, totalling £136 5s. 4½d., included a charge for taking the chandeliers to pieces. These were removed, ’to give a job to someone’ as a critic later asserted. (fn. 155) If this critic is to be believed, the ’large chandeliers’ had cost £1700 and were sold for £16 7s. 6d. Whether or not the motives for the work were mainly discreditable, the removal of the chandeliers was followed by the installation of gas-lighting by William Smith at a cost of £257 17s. 2½d.
£152 2s. 1d. was spent on ’Two Improved Patent Hot Air Dispensers’, £135 13s. 11d. on glazier's work, £58 13s. 4d. on ironwork and £35 16s. 1d. on the coppersmith and founder's bill.
It was said that the altar-table was removed, although it was of ’exquisite workmanship’ and ’the carving of the legs only cost £80’. (fn. 155) It seems likely, however, that the ’elegant wainscot communion table’ offered for sale in 1851, ’the legs of which are carved with scroll-work, having horned capitals and claws of exquisite workmanship’ (fn. 192) was this table. It was evidently not the original of 1725–6 and had perhaps been substituted for the simpler Doric table in 1769–70. The vestry furniture was said to have been sold and replaced by inferior articles. (fn. 155)
The workmen's bills amounted to £6,669 19s. 6¼d. Alfred Burges was paid 5 per cent. on £6,500 for superintending the repairs, making a total cost of £6,994 19s. 6¼d.
In April 1823 the bills were laid before the Vestry, (fn. 186) which was later said then to have decided to borrow £5,000 at 5 per cent. interest, giving promissory notes for £100 to lenders, who were to be repaid out of a church rate: (fn. 193) the authorization of this loan is not recorded in the Vestry minutes until June 1826. (fn. 194) In October 1823 a church rate of 1s. in the pound was ordered to be made. (fn. 195) By the summer of 1824 the Vestry was conscious of the difficulty it would have in paying off its debt, (fn. 196) and in July 1825 ’the alarming deficiency’ in the collection of the rate caused a ’Collector of the Church Rate’ to be appointed. (fn. 197) In May of the following year ’a great number of inhabitants’ were summonsed for non-payment of the rate. They challenged the necessity for much of the expenditure, the justice of the apportionment of the rate, and also its legality, probably because it was made retrospectively: the magistrates therefore judged the case to be outside their jurisdiction. (fn. 198) A week or two later a public meeting resolved to take legal measures to force the parish authorities to submit their accounts for inspection. (fn. 199) Personal acrimony was not lacking. The Vestryman, John Leschallas, who painted the altar, was said to have procured Alfred Burges's appointment as surveyor, despite his higher estimate, in consideration of ’the connection which is said to be about to take place between that Gentleman and his daughter’: Leschallas's own charges were said to be his ’share of the job’. During the summer other public meetings were held and a committee was empowered to consult counsel. (fn. 200) In June the Vestry obtained approval from the Bishop of London for their proceedings, and authorized the borrowing of £5,000. (fn. 201) In October eight inhabitants were cited in Doctors’ Commons for refusal to pay the rate. (fn. 202)
A public meeting was held in the following February 1827 ’for the purpose of receiving a statement of the costs of repairing and embellishing the Church, etc., and the state of proceedings in the Consistorial Court’. (fn. 155) A subscription was started to meet the expense of defending the suit, and the repairs were roundly termed ’a most gross job’. The details of the work were strongly criticized for extravagance and incompetence.
By March 1827 the Consistorial Court had decided that the levying of the church rate was legal. The Vestry Clerk reported that the judge had observed ’that it appeared to him that the Vestry and Church Wardens had acted throughout with perfect propriety in what had been done regarding the repairs’. (fn. 203) The dispute with the ratepayers was thereupon brought to a compromise settlement. (fn. 204) Payment on the Vestry's promissory notes was begun by lot in 1828, continuing until at least 1835. (fn. 205)
The expense of these repairs and the difficulty the Vestry found in meeting it had obliged them to reply in July 1824 to an inquiry from the Commissioners for Building New Churches that ’with a debt of Six thousand pounds now owing… which there is no early prospect of discharging it appears to this Vestry totally impossible to raise any funds by rate or otherwise towards the expense of building a new church or chapel’. (fn. 196)
The parish was ’just recovering’ from this expenditure when a serious fire, caused by the negligence of the ’steeple-keeper’, broke out in the steeple, on 17 February 1836, destroying all the woodwork from the ceiling of the vestry upwards and damaging most of the interior masonry. The bells, chimes and clock were destroyed and the organ damaged. (fn. 206) Messrs. Wallen, Son and Beatson, of No. 11 Spital Square, estimated the repairs at £3,615 but the final expenditure, under the same firm's superintendence, was reduced to £2,461 3s., including £730 12s. paid to ’R. Ashby, builder’, for repair of the tower. (fn. 207)
A further ’calamity’ befell the steeple when it was struck by lightning on 3 January 1841. The repairs cost some £408. (fn. 208) It is not known whether the ’capping’ that terminated the spire was replaced by the present more pointed apex in the course of either of these repairs to the steeple.
In 1851 a ’thorough internal restoration’ was carried out by John Young of No. 35 King Street, Cheapside, of which the most important feature was the replacement of the original altar piece by the present reredos. The Vestry voted in July to raise £800 by a church rate ’to put the interior of the Church in a state of decency and render it fit for public worship’, (fn. 209) and tenders were invited in August. (fn. 210) In September the Vestry made a contract for the repairs at £790. (fn. 211) By the end of November ’T.Y. junior’ was able to report on the reopening of the church, although work on the chancel remained to be done. (fn. 158) His general observations on the character of the church showed some appreciation of the ’peculiar style’ of Hawksmoor's works, wherein ’the element of power is strongly developed, arising from the ponderous masses of masonry, extensive flat surfaces, mixed with intricate multangular figures, and minute perforations which are their characteristics’. He thought to detect the influence of Wren's mind on Hawks moor at Christ Church: ’with an exterior massive and commanding, it possesses a striking interior; with a grandeur of proportion, propriety of distribution, and an elegance and variety of decoration which render it the most pleasing and elegant church which he erected’. The work of restoration included the stripping of paint from the interior stonework which was ’rubbed down and reworked to a fair surface’. In the woodwork ’the innovations made at various times in the oak fittings have been removed, and the original character of the screen work restored’. (fn. 158) The altarpiece, now painted, had nevertheless been disposed of, being offered for sale as ’well adapted for any church of classic architecture’. The ’elegant wainscot communion table’ was offered for sale at the same time. (fn. 192) They were replaced by the present ’reredos of Caen stone’, which at that time was intended to be ’highly enriched with carvings emblematical of the Eucharist, … having a basso-relievo of the Lord's Supper, taken from the celebrated cartoon of Leonardo da Vinci’. The ’great improvements’ being made in the chancel included also the decoration of its walls in colour. (fn. 158) By April 1853 the cost, including ’a considerable amount for work done in the Roof’ but excluding work in the chancel which was apparently paid for by the rector, amounted to £820 os. 6d. (fn. 211)
The appearance of the interior of the church after the restoration of 1851 is shown in Plate 24a.
The last extensive alterations to the church were made in 1866 under the direction of Ewan Christian, by which the appearance of the church both inside and out was significantly altered. The appeal for funds for this work (fn. 212) described the church as ’the noblest and stateliest in the East of London’, but emphasized the need to improve the accommodation, then ’both unsuitable and repulsive’, by substituting ’low open and convenient seats’ for ’the present high uncomfortable Pews’. It was at this time intended to reconstruct the galleries ’to make the Church light and cheerful instead of being dark and gloomy’, and to render it ’as comfortable in its accommodation, as it is now magnificent in its structure and proportions’. In April 1865 Ewan Christian submitted his estimate, amounting to £4,482. (fn. 213) Apart from general repairs and cleaning the work then proposed included the refitting of the ground floor with new oak, but with the retention in altered form of the original pulpit and desk. He proposed also ’the entire re-construction of the Galleries at a lower level but with increased pitch’: as the galleries already rested on the pedestals of the columns it is difficult to see what was intended by this. The estimate included the heating of the church, and its lighting ’by sunlights in the main body of the Church and brackets and standards elsewhere’. In August 1865 the plans of proposed alterations were approved by the Vestrymen. (fn. 214) By this time the complete removal of the side galleries had been decided on, and permission for this was included in the Bishop of London's faculty, which was not, however, issued until 23 May 1866. This also authorized the consequent alteration of the five pairs of windows in the central sections of the north and south sides, with a lengthening of the upper windows by moving the heads of the lower windows downwards. The whole of the ground-floor seating was to be removed, ’cut down and altered and rearranged’ to give slightly increased accommodation despite the removal of the galleries. The pulpit was to be ’lowered and refixed against the large North Pillar’, and a ’new Desk and Lectern’ provided. The cost was estimated at about £4,500, of which Messrs. Hanbury (Truman, Hanbury and Buxton of Brick Lane) and Robert Hanbury, esquire, had contributed £2,000. (fn. 215) In the following month the church was closed for seven months, reopening on 1 January 1867. The work was carried out by George Myers and Sons of Lambeth. (fn. 216)
The alterations did not completely conform to the specifications given in the faculty. The original pulpit was not used in altered form but was evidently disposed of. The place intended for it was occupied by the present pulpit which may doubtless be identified with the former reader's desk to which carved pendants, probably taken from the original pulpit, were added. The pedestals of the columns were also doubtless chamfered at the same time: a hypothetical explanation of this is that the removal of the wainscot may have disclosed some mutilation of the pedestals. The cleaning of the ceiling included work by which its decorations were ’brought into relief’. (fn. 217) In the end the total cost of the work was £6,680, which was raised by a committee of parishioners. (fn. 218)
The appearance of the interior was drastically altered by these changes, the effect of an excessive height in the nave colonnade created by the removal of the side galleries and box pews being increased by the substitution of the low pulpit for the original high pulpit. In the side elevations the lowering of the heads of the bottom row of windows to lengthen the upper windows has, together with the much earlier conversion of the central doorways into windows, given the exterior a more mannerist character than it possessed originally.
In 1873 the gates and railings at the east end of the church, on the south side of Fournier Street, were built by W. Poole to the designs of Messrs. Tolley and Dale of Throgmorton Street, at a cost of about £363. (fn. 219)
In the same year the decoration of the chancel and the writing of the Lord's Prayer, Creed and Ten Commandments was completed by Christopher Forrest of Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green, at his own expense. (fn. 220)
A large outdoor pulpit was erected in about 1899 against the southern wall of the portico as a memorial to Doctor Billing, rector from 1878 to 1888. (fn. 221)
Repairs to the stonework of the church and the reroofing of the north and south aisles were carried out in 1896. (fn. 222)
When the churchyard was first laid out it stretched from Brick Lane on the east to the back of the houses in Red Lion Street on the west, and was entered from its north-western corner. In 1779 the Vestry decided to replace the brick wall at the east end with an iron fence. (fn. 223) In the late eighteenth century the churchyard consisted of three parts, ’the best Ground’ at the west end, ’the Middle Ground’, and ’the lower and Poors Ground’ at the east end. By 1791 it had become necessary to enlarge the area ’heretofore set apart and appropriated for the Interment of the Poor’ by the addition to it of a strip of ground under the south wall, it being ordered by the Vestry ’that a Row of Trees be planted by way of boundary to ascertain the same’. (fn. 224)
In 1859 the Commissioners of Works agreed to grant a lease to the Whitechapel District Board of Works of a piece of ground on the east side of Commercial Street, to be added to the churchyard, which was thereby extended to front the new street. (fn. 225) In June of the same year the churchyard was closed for burials, which had been prohibited in the vaults under the church from April of the previous year. (fn. 226) By a faculty from the Bishop of London of 18 June 1859 the churchyard was authorized to be used as a ’Lawn or Ornamental Ground … to secure an open space in the midst of a crowded and dense population’. It was to be enclosed from the road by ’a lofty and substantial iron railing’. (fn. 227)
In 1861 ’Mr. Churchwarden Buxton’ of the Brick Lane brewery, by whom the patronage of the living was then possessed, offered ’to lay out and improve the churchyard’: he was told that the Vestry was unable legally to do more than keep the churchyard in decent order. (fn. 228)
By an agreement of October 1891 the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association undertook to maintain the churchyard as a public garden for not more than five years. (fn. 229)