CHRISTCHURCH, SPITALFIELDS

London

Christchurch, Spitalfields, London

Christchurch, Spitalfields is the masterpiece of Nicholas Hawksmoor and was the first of his six London “Commissioners’ Churches”. The Commission was established in 1711 and Christchurch was built between 1714 and 1729.

Before this date the parish here was part of the massive parish of Stepney in an area dominated by Huguenots. Part of the reason for building this church was to impose – or try to – an Anglican parish on the unaligned Huguenot residency.

Christchurch is the perfect balance between English Baroque style – then very much in vogue – and a more traditional English church style. The portico and steps are pure Baroque, but the soaring 202 foot spire references those found on English Perpendicular churches throughout the country.

Incredibly, by 1960 this paragon of English architecture was derelict and the Bishop of Stepney, Trevor Huddleston, proposed its demolition. The hurriedly convened Hawksmoor Committee saved the church and the roof was rebuilt. It was then used for 15 years as a rehab centre for homeless alcoholic men.

Thankfully in 1976 things had begun the change and the Friends of Christchurch, Spitalfields was formed. It took another ten years for the church to be brought back to worship usage, which finally happened in 1987.

During the 1980s close to 1,000 burials were found in the vaults beneath the church – mostly from the Victorian period. The west portico was repaired and cleaned in 1986 and rebuilding work throughout was undertaken to Hawksmoor’s original plans, removing all the Victorian and 20th Century structures. The tower was shored up and cleaned in 1997 and the southern end of the church cleaned in 1999 when the steps up to the church were also reinstated.

Finally between 2000 and 2004 the interior was entirely rebuilt to its original 18th Century galleried splendour.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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© Text copyright - Raving Loony Productions and Andrew J. Müller, Roy Barton
and Shaun Runham
© Photos and Artwork - Andrew J. Müller
© Web Design and Layout - Andrew J. Müller
2012


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