St Paul’s Cathedral: Wren’s deception & its control of The City’s views

Sir Christopher Wren.  Need he have an introduction?

In or around late 1660 or 1661 he was asked to advise on the restoration of the Old St Paul’s Cathedral.  The events of 1666 saw The Great Fire of London bring the cathedral down.  His commission became to rebuild the churches of London, including St Paul’s Cathedral.  He is considered responsible for 52 churches in The City of London.

Wren’s commission for the Cathedral required the permission of the clergy.  They didn’t approve his initial design and favoured a spire.

Well, as we see above, no spire was delivered.  Instead, Wren decided on a single dome and two additional towers, and hid his design beneath the scaffolding until the build was too far along to object.  Given that he had been permitted by Charles II only to make “variations, ornamental rather than essential” to the designs expected by the clergy, I think he may have faced a case of “tell it to the judge!”.


Today, St Paul’s dominates the views of The City.  When a new building is proposed, the primary concern for planners and the public alike is how it affects views across to St Paul’s.  This has resulted in some constraints in The City’s architecture; in other cases one can only wonder why certain buildings were granted planning permission.

Yesterday I joined an Open City tour of The City of London, led by Grant Smith.  While I live in the midst of the amazing space that is The City, I wanted to experience someone else’s eyes.   Here are some other photos that I took.

1930s classical architecture. The police station. Up for sale? Could it disappear?

More 1930s classical architecture, reflecting strong lines
The Lloyds Building & the Walkie Talkie, blotting the landscape
An old London streetscape, on a more human level
View from the new Rothschild HQ, at the rear of Mansion House
An Italianate building at the rear of Soane’s Bank of England. I had never noticed it before; always distracted by the identifiable architecture of Sir John Soane.

One of the many Guildhalls in The City. Batteries Not Included?
One of the guildhalls, against dying flowers. In many way the guildhalls are like this picture: the trades they served are no longer based in The City and today they make money from hosting corporate entertainment.
Concrete set inside wood
It’s four weeks to Christmas (in New One Change)
A new shopping centre, across the road from St Paul’s

When visited: November 2015

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2 thoughts on “St Paul’s Cathedral: Wren’s deception & its control of The City’s views

  1. I like your ‘reflections’ photograph! The Hall is that of the Girdlers Company and I think the Livery Companies would not entirely agree with your analysis of their current activities. The Venetian Gothic building is that of the former Overseas Bankers Club, 7 Lothbury (opposite the Bank of England) and it was built in 1868. And while the Walkie Talkie building is not pretty it does pose well for photographs – https://pixelalate.wordpress.com/

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