West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
and the City of London
of the lecture
given by Tony Tucker
on May 28th 2014
Sir Christopher Wren has been described as the most
influential British architect of all time although he lived in an age
when the profession of architect, as understood today, did not
He was born in 1632 and showed an early talent for mathematics and
enjoyed inventing things. Tony questioned the usefulness of “a
writing instrument” although Wren’s work on blood circulation, the
problem of finding longitude at sea and the lunar influence on
atmospheric pressure and gravitation was surely to be applauded.
study of mathematics, physics and engineering probably led to his
interest in architecture and his first commissions were to design the
Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford and a chapel for Pembroke College in
Cambridge. In 1657 he was appointed Professor of Astronomy at
College and along with other mathematicians, scientists and scholars he
became a Founder Member of the Royal Society.
Architecture became his main focus and in 1665 he visited Paris where
he was strongly influenced by French and Italian Baroque styles
although many of his designs were in the Classical style.
In 1666 the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the medieval city
providing a great opportunity for Wren. Tony shared many images
remains of some of the 51 new city churches that Wren designed and
Canaletto's painting of the Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day clearly
London’s panoramic skyline was dominated by their beautiful spires, no
two the same.
always wanted to use the best craftsmen available and we were
treated to examples of how his designs showing use of light, columns,
domes, vaulting, cupolas, interplay of shapes and work in stone, wood
and plaster work had been so beautifully executed. We agreed
in that he had left the best to last when he showed photographs of “St.
Stephen, Walbrook”. This church is an exquisite example of all
best about Wren’s work.
Of course, we cannot write a review about Tony’s excellent lecture
without mentioning one of Wren’s best known works, St. Paul’s
Cathedral. How did Wren “get away with it”? If you are Wren
design is rejected, you exploit a loophole in the Royal Warrant that
approves the new design. The warrant allowed “for variations,
ornamental than essential” and so you cleverly incorporate ideas from
your own rejected, but favourite, design the “Great Model”. How
and what a wonderful result- one of our National Treasures.
Sir Christopher Wren was 90 when he died. Had he really been
miracle of a youth” and did he have “something superhuman about
We certainly think so and we thank Tony for sharing his enthusiasm for
the architect and his amazing designs.
about the guided
which Tony Tucker led for us
lecturer, Tony Tucker
with his handy "Visitors Guide to the City of London Churches"