Christ Church Spitalfields, Hawksmoor London building restoration photo, Architect, Date

Christ Church Spitalfields Architecture

Nicholas Hawksmoor Building in East London, England, UK

23 Jun 2007

Location: Spitalfields, East End

Dates built: 1715-29

Design: Nicholas Hawksmoor Architect

Christ Church Spitalfields, Hawksmoor London
photo © Nick Weall

Christ Church Spitalfields London

Christ Church Spitalfields Christ Church Spitalfields London Hawksmoor Building in East London Christ Church Spitalfields Building London
photos © Adrian Welch

Christ Church Spitalfields Restoration
Design: Purcell Miller Tritton Architects
Client: Friends of Christ Church Spitalfields

Christ Church Spitalfields Crypt project by Dow Jones Architects

Christ Church Spitalfields restoration architect : Purcell Miller Tritton

Christ Church Spitalfields Christ Church Spitalfields Building Christ Church Spitalfields by Hawksmoor
images © Adrian Welch

Christ Church Spitalfields architect : Nicholas Hawksmoor

Christ Church was built between the years 1714 and 1729 as part of the church building programme initiated by the Fifty New Churches act of 1711, backed by Queen Anne, which was implemented by four different Commissions.

At the time, there were fears that ‘godless thousands’ outside the City of London had no adequate church provision, and that non-conformists – including large numbers of French Huguenot silk weavers – were moving into Spitalfields and bringing their non-conformist worshipping ways with them.

The Commission appointed to build the 50 new churches stipulated that the new buildings should have tall spires so that they would tower above the smaller, non-conformist chapels! The idea was to fund the work through taxes on coal coming into London, although monies ran low in about 1719 and building progressed fitfully.

One of the two surveyors employed by the first Commission, at an initial rate of £200 per year, was Nicholas Hawksmoor – a Nottinghamshire-born architect who had worked with Sir Christopher Wren since his late teens. Of the 12 churches completed (out of the projected 50), six were the work of Hawksmoor, and this building was his masterpiece.

The church has seen at least two large-scale alterations, the first in 1866 (directed by the architect Ewen Christian) which changed the entire look of the interior, and the second which began in the 1960s and was only recently completed – a restoration of the church to its original state, which it was initially estimated would cost £1 million and in fact cost £10 million. Since reopening in 2004, the church has been visited by more than 100,000 people.

Famed for the eloquence of its stonework, Christ Church Spitalfields is also full of fascinating human stories. In the 1980s a project to excavate 1,000 bodies from its crypt helped to change the way archaeological dating is done.

It has been the site of scandal (a furore in the 1820s over the huge expense by Christ Church vestrymen on new furnishings saw the case going to Parliament, and laws changed on the power of vestries) and also of spectacle: in recent years the church has hosted many grand events including opera, classical music premieres, a documentary and dinner to celebrate the work of local artists Gilbert & George, and performances by pop acts Mika and The Feeling.

Christ Church Spitalfields website: – external link

Location: Spitalfields, Northeast London, England, UK

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