LATE STUART (1660-1714)
As we have seen, among the factors working against the adoption of classical architecture for church design before the Restoration was simple lack of opportunity. England was already well stocked with medieval churches, and the unsettled religious and political climate of the times discouraged any building, or rebuilding, beyond what was absolutely necessary. With the Fire of London, the opportunity arrived. Of the eighty-six churches then destroyed or badly damaged, it was decided to rebuild fifty-one. And, as luck would have it, Sir Christopher Wren was at hand to take on the job.
Wren had exactly the qualities which the situation demanded. Above all, his resourcefulness and his powers of invention were practically inexhaustible; time and again they enabled him to make virtues of the stern necessities presented by awkward sites and limited finances. In the City churches Wren contrived a wonderful variety of plan types, free from the least trace of medievalism. And his example established classicism as the norm for English church architecture. To define Wren's "style" in the narrow sense is not easy, for it contains many different elements, Italian, French, Dutch, and English, and does not lend itself to pigeon-holing under any of the ordinary labels. If we fall back on a term much used--and misused--today, and call it baroque, someone is sure to point to some building which might almost have been designed purposely to refute our classification--such as St. Stephen Walbrook, undoubtedly one of Wren's masterpieces yet serene enough to delight the Palladian Lord Burlington and the Greek Revival sculptor Canova. And, indeed, only in certain of his later works does Wren show himself a baroque master. His style in general is best called, simply, Wren.
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Several churches outside London have at one time or another been attributed to Wren. But the claims of two only will bear scrutiny. Of these, St. Mary's, Ingestre, is the earliest, while it also shows the greatest number of Wren characteristics (11, 12, 126, 144).
A faculty to rebuild the ruinous church of Ingestre was granted to Walter Chetwynd, the lord of the manor, in 1673. Work began the same year; the new church was finished in 1676, and consecrated by the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield in August 1677, after which ceremony Chetwynd gave a "splendid dinner at the house for the Nobilitie, Clergy