Rebuilding St. Paul's after the Great Fire of London

Rebuilding St. Paul's after the Great Fire of London

Rebuilding St. Paul's after the Great Fire of London

Rebuilding St. Paul's after the Great Fire of London

Excerpt

This is not a technical study but an attempt to provide some of the answers for anyone whose interest has been aroused by St. Paul's, a structure unique among English cathedrals, with a silhouette famous throughout the world, built, as every schoolboy knows, by Sir Christopher Wren. In this account of how the present Cathedral was erected it may incidentally be noted that many of the problems met with then have their counterparts in rebuilding schemes of our own day.

I must confess that the adoption of the narrative form has forced me on one or two occasions into making an assumption, as the likeliest explanation, where the evidence is in fact either debatable or inconclusive, but it seemed better so than to interrupt the story with a discussion of interest only to specialists. Similarly, to avoid changes in focus I have modernized the spelling, punctuation and use of capital letters when quoting contemporary documents and other material, including verse; indeed, many of Wren's letters, for instance, have only come down to us as edited in the mideighteenth century by his son or grandson and a medley of usages could but result in pointless confusion. The modern way of dating, with the year beginning on 1 January, has been used throughout. To avoid a tedious multiplication of footnotes I have not given the references for the detailed progress of the rebuilding as gleaned from the Building Accounts and minutes of Commissioners' meetings, since the reader who wishes to do so can easily look them up for himself in the appropriate volume of the Wren Society (see Bibliography). Prices and costs have also been rarely quoted as they are a special study in themselves and would convey little to the modern reader, who can be given no general standard of comparison with presentday monetary values, for whereas the wages of a skilled artisan in Londonin the late seventeenth century were 15s. a week and those of a labourer about 8s. or 9s., a rising young civil servant like Pepys had to pay λ24 for a black silk suit and λ5 for the food for a dinner party of eight.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all those who have so generously come to my assistance in a variety of ways, particularly the Librarians and staff of the London Library, of St. Paul's library, and of the R.I.B.A. library, the Dean of St. Paul's, Miss Margaret Toynbee, Mr. Howard Colvin, Mr. Gerald Henderson, Miss Veronica Ruffer, Sir John Craig . . .

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