St Martin Ludgate: a Wren Church

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London, View of the City in 1749

These pages look in detail at one of the many churches in the City of London by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723). Wren is often ranked as the greatest English architect, and his creativity and ingenuity are seen at their peak in the churches of London. They were built in one great campaign after the Great Fire of 1666, which laid waste 436 acres of the City of London and destroyed or gutted 85 of its 107 churches. A tax on coal entering London was levied in 1670 to help meet the costs of rebuilding, the bulk of which went to the new St Paul's cathedral and to the 51 churches selected for reconstruction.

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London, St Martin Ludgate, exterior

The task of rebuilding the churches was entrusted to a Commission, which put Wren in charge of 'the dimensions, formes and modells' [= designs] for the new churches. The other most important member was Robert Hooke, a scientific pioneer who was also a talented architect. Wren, Hooke and their assistants worked together rather like a modern architectural practice, both producing designs and supervising the work of building. The style of many surviving drawings indicates also that Hooke designed certain churches, as well as Wren.

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London, City churches map

St Martin Ludgate was one of the earlier City churches to be built, in 1677-86. It stands just west of St Paul's itself (no. 32 on the map to the left). In this case there is no firm reason to think that the design was not by Wren himself.