In 1666 when London caught fire, Christopher Wren wasn’t the city’s most famous architect—not by a long shot. Just thirty-three years old, Wren was considered an amateur in the field, albeit a passionate one. His actual job was as a Professor of Astronomy at Oxford (where he’d also been commissioned to design and build a Theater—a project underway but not yet completed in the fall of 1666). Wren had precisely ONE finished building to his name: the chapel of Pembroke College, Cambridge.
Despite this, in the spring of 1666, Wren was tapped as one of three “Gentlemen Surveyors” brought in to advise the King’s Royal Commission exploring strategies for restoring a crumbling St. Paul’s Cathedral. As might be guessed from his meager credentials, it was a position Wren secured chiefly through connections.
The work of the Royal Commission had been delayed 18-months (thanks to the Plague) by August of 1666 when Wren stood in the nave of St. Paul’s with his fellow surveyors: Hugh May (Surveyor-General of the Kings Works) and Roger Pratt (THE most fashionable architect in England). On that day, in that hour, no one could have predicted St. Paul’s—and indeed, 80% the area within London’s City Walls—was on the cusp of being destroyed in an EPIC and ultimately historic fire. And certainly no one would have predicted that the London rebuilt after that fire would be significantly influenced by Wren.
But when a NEW London rose from the ashes of the Great Fire, Wren rose with it—making a significant mark on both the city, and on British architecture.
Wren’s Iconic Post-Great-Fire London buildings are listed below. Those in The City of London [not clear on how that’s different than Metro London—click here] are marked with a diamond ♦. Keep an eye out for some of Wren’s creations as you read And By Fire and watch out for the man-himself as he is a point-of-view character.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral ♦
- Monument to the Great Fire « [read my post on the Monument here]
- The Temple Bar
- St. Vedast Church in Fleet Street ♦
- St Mary Le Bow ♦
- Marlborough House
- Kensington Palace
- Royal Chelsea Hospital
- St Benet’s, Paul’s Wharf ♦
- St. Clement Danes
- St. James’s Piccadilly