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Sir Christopher Wren

Sir Christopher Wren, the famous architect, was appointed Surveyor of the Fabric at Westminster Abbey on 11th March 1698 (New Style dating). He had previously done some work on Dr Busby's house in the Little Cloister in 1683 (the house was destroyed during the wartime Blitz). He is most famous for the re-building of St Paul's cathedral where he is buried. He died on 25th February 1723 (modern dating).

There is no memorial to him in the Abbey but the large wooden model of his design for a proposed central tower and spire on the Abbey can be seen in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries, together with a pair of wooden obelisks designed for the entrance to the Quire.  A small depiction of him appears in the memorial window to Robert Stephenson and his coat of arms is shown in post-war glass in the Chapter House.

The Abbey had received a grant of money from Parliament in 1697 which allowed Wren to undertake major restoration of the decayed stonework of the church and its roofs. A new design for the north front, by William Dickinson, was approved by him. A large altarpiece Wren had originally designed for Whitehall chapel, with carvings by Arnold Quellin, was given to the Abbey by Queen Anne (removed in the 19th century). A few fragments from this are also on display in the Galleries. In the Abbey garden the foundation stone of his design for the new dormitory for Westminster School was laid in 1722 but this was later completed in a Palladian style by Lord Burlington.

He was a son of Christopher Wren, Dean of Windsor, and his wife Mary (Cox). His first wife was Faith, daughter of Sir John Coghill and his second was the Hon. Jane Fitzwilliam. His children were Christopher, Gilbert and Jane.

Further reading:

"Sir Christopher Wren's failed project for a crossing tower and spire..." by G. Higgott in Burlington Magazine, Jan 2019

"900 Years. The restorations of Westminster Abbey" by T. Cocke, 1995

"The lantern tower of Westminster Abbey 1060-2010" by W. Rodwell, 2010

"On a grander scale. The outstanding career of Sir Christopher Wren" by Lisa Jardine, 2002

"Parentalia or memoirs of the family of the Wrens..." by Stephen Wren, 1750

"Designs by Sir Christopher Wren..." Wren Society vol. 11, 1934

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Field

Architect

Sir Christopher Wren
Sir Christopher Wren by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt
Sir Christopher Wren
Wren's model for a spire

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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