Illustrations of the Public Buildings of London
with historical and descriptive accounts of each edifice
vol II (1828)

This work, in two volumes (1826 and 1828), is by the antiquary John Britton FSA, 1771-1857 (of Burton Street) and the architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, 1812-52 (of Great Russell Street), with plates drawn by the architectural draughtsman Thomas Bradberry, 1763-1838 and engraved by John Le Keux, 1783-1846 (brother of Henry, 1787-1868, and father of John Henry, 1812-96, both also architectural engravers); it was published by J. Taylor, 59 High Holborn
and dedicated to HRH Price Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, &c &c &c [who had] patronised all Britton's works since the lamented decease of Princess Charlotte.

The Church delineated in the accompanying engravings, and now to be described, has been selected not so much as a specimen of fine design, as an example of the peculiar style of its architect, and characteristic of the taste of the age in which it was erected. An Act of Parliament was passed in 1710, during the reign of Queen Anne, for raising fifty-two churches within the limits of London and Westminster, one of which is the edifice under notice. It was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, was commenced in 1715, and consecrated on the 19th of July 1729, by Dr. Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London. (footnote: The living is a rectory, and the advowson, like that of Stepney, is vested in the principal and fellows of Brazen-nose College, Oxford. As a provision for the rector, Parliament gave the sum of three thousand pounds to purchase lands in fee-simple, the produce from which is augmented by one hundred pounds a year, payable by the churchwardens out of the burial fees. A handsome parsonage house is also provided, at one corner of the churchyard. The living is never to be held in commendam [i.e. by an absentee incumbent to augment his income], and the incumbent pays neither first fruits, tenths, procurations, or other disbursements, on account of the cure.) The architect's estimate appears to have been £13,670, but the whole expense of the building amounted to £18,557 (footnote: Malcolm's 'Londinium Redivivum' vol iii p.479).

This edifice is a specimen of that ponderous and singular architecture which marked the public buildings of Vanbrugh, and which Hawksmoor imitated in its worst features. It has fortunately never acquired much favour with the public, nor is there reason to apprehend it will ever regain even the short lived estimation in which it was held when the present edifice was erected. Massiveness in quantity of materials, and grotesque features, are its characteristics; and though these may seem to assimilate with prisons and work-houses, they have few pretensions to be approved in designs for churches or private mansions.

 Walpole, speaking of the pure taste introduced by Inigo Jones, says, That school, however, was too chaste to flourish long. Sir Christopher Wren lived to see it almost expire before him, and after a mixture of French and Dutch ugliness had expelled truth without erecting any certain style in its stead, Vanbrugh, with his ponderous and unmeaning masses, overwhelmed architecture in mere masonry. Will posterity believe that such piles were erected in the very period when St Paul's was finishing?  — [Works, vol. iii. p.430].
In the exterior of the building, we seek in vain for grandeur of proportion, propriety of distribution, or elegance of decoration: but the whole must be allowed to possess a certain picturesque effect, resulting perhaps from the want of those very qualities which conduce to the perfection of a work of art. To discover towers where they do not seem to belong—to perceive a variety and even discordancy in the design; extensive flat surfaces, mixed with intricate, multangular [sic] figures; and ponderous masses of masonry, with minute perforations, — are circumstances certainly favourable to picturesque arrangement, though in no way conformable to just principles of architecture.

The west front presents a large, flat surface, without much relief: it is approached by a double flight of steps leading to a large platform, with semicircular ends, under which is an extensive vault for interment. On each side of the great central doorway are two Ionic pilasters, with an appropriate entablature: above this is the tower, which is oblong in its plan, and on the east and west sides has deep, square recesses for windows without mouldings. On the north and south are massive buttresses; crowning the western front is an octangular turret or tower, with square projections at the angles, which are finished by enriched vases. On each side of the body of the church, are two projecting staircases, forming the entrances to the galleries, through doorways exceedingly high and narrow. These are surmounted by domed turrets of heavy appearance, the effect of which is not diminished by perforations entirely through the masonry. The east end, like the west, presents a large mass of wall, relieved by a semicircular projection in the centre, and crowned by a pediment which is disfigured by breaks and incongruities wholly inconsistent with architectural propriety. The upper tier of windows round the Church have semicircular heads, without mouldings or ornaments of any kind: and those of the lower range are square, with key-stones of such overwhelming magnitude that they seem in danger of falling into the void. The whole Church is built of Portland stone. and the masonry is exceedingly good. As may be inferred from the plan and elevations, we find the interior appearance heavy and gloomy. Four Doric columns, with their entablatures, sustain flattened elliptical arches, ranged in a parallel direction. The central space is groined with a boss in the middle, from which hangs a lamp. Beyond these are square piers, with pilasters on each side, on which the entablatures rest, and are continued to corresponding pilasters against the wall. At the east end is a painted curtain of a very theatrical appearance, which surrounds the semicircular projection before mentioned. Round this are five windows, the glare of which completely obscures the altar-piece beneath, which is of the Corinthian order, and has a painting of the Agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane by — Clarkson. The recess is covered with a hemispherical vault, the excessive decoration of which is extremely inconsistent with the nakedness of the walls.The galleries are very heavy. and appear to want support; being really sustained by small columns situated so far back as not to be readily discerned. The quantity of light admitted into the body of the church is insufficient for the intended purpose; but the obscurity is increased by the small size and ill disposition of the windows, and the general effect is that of gloom, approaching to darkness, with frittered dazzling lights scattered throughout the whole.

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