00.5/8. © Sunday 10 May 2020

B E T W E E N   T H E   T E M P L E S




Nicolaus Hawksmoor (1661–1736) did not travel the Grand Tour to visit ancient sites in Italy. Born into a farming family, he drew inspiration from engravings in books. Without much literary ability he gathered a personal understanding of ancient architecture in Rome without first-hand sight-seeing.


Christ Church Spitalfields, London E1.
1714—29, N. Hawksmoor
© 2020, D. G. M.

After becoming draughtsman of Sir Christopher Wren (until 1700) with whom Hawksmoor notibly worked on Winchester Palace, he then went on to work closely with Sir John Vanbrugh on reputable architectural works such as Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace. Vanbrugh came to work in architecture through literature and with Hawksmoor they developed proportional theories which surpassed influencing others of that period. Hawksmoor himself held a balanced, professional working relationship with his stone masons and workmen as well as Queen Anne, overseeing projects and even picking up designs where others had been laid off.
2.  The Queen’s Office of Works asked Hawksmoor to design six churches in the city of London as part of the 1711 Toleration Act. ‘Occasional Conformity’ as regard to the raise in hypocrisy among those in English parliamentary power allowed those to ‘subscribe’ in, or out of the church. Fifty churches were planned, only tweleve were built. One by James Gibbs, two by Thomas Archer and six by Nicolas Hawksmoor (a further two with John James).
3.  During this period of Monarch reformation, starvation and disease in England was pervading. Crop failures and raising rents set forth the first waves of emigration to America’s New England.


St. Mary Woolworth, London EC3.
1716—24, N. Hawksmoor
© 2020, D. G. M.

St. George’s Bloomsbury, London WC1.
1716—31, N. Hawksmoor
© 2020, D. G. M.

4.Hawksmoor’s logic to construction is demonstrated in his church designs, dominated by prominent, heavy, deep forms and most often stripped of external ornamentation. He was a man of his own number palette, his calculations in stacking forms, layering straight and circular areas of motif, reflect spheres of geometry. His solid judgment in design, typical of Roman medievalism, was an act of pre-brutalist permanence. Although during his working relationship with Vanbrough they worked loosely on Palladian themes, in his own work he often broke up the theory, avoiding the obvious craze by discretely placing pediments beyond layers, or raising arches into pediments themselves based on a late Roman motif, he frequently challenged embellishment. He also had taste for Michelangelo’s sunken window system and often chose for dense 1½ diameter intercolumnisation (Pycnostyle).


St. George In The East, London E1.
1714—29, N. Hawksmoor
© 2020, D. G. M.

5.His churches are all planned around six intersecting axes based on straight lines and rectangles. ‘This means that their relation to the circular or oval centrally planned churches of the Renaissance and Baroque – and even to those on a Greek cross plan of four equal arms – is visibly limited and genetically indirect’.
6.  Hawksmoor also designed South Stoneham House (1708), a grade II listed manor in the city of Southampton, now owned by the university, however currently abandoned and considered derelict due to an additional seventeen-storey asbestos housing tower. The building is up for sale. The ponds at the rear of the building are mentioned in the Domesday book.


St. Luke’s, London EC1.
1727—33, J. James & N. Hawksmoor
© 2020, D. G. M.

7.Dean of Christ Church and Bishop of Oxford Dr. John Fell asked Hawksmoor to design the Clarendon building (1715) for Oxford University, beside the Sheldonian building (Wren, 1669).| Designed to house the Clarendon Press and the ‘Fell Types’, one wing of the building was called the Learned Side, the other wing was called the Bible Side. John Fell employed Dutch type founders to work for the press which remained there until 1830. Today, the Press is located on Walton Street, Jericho, Oxford. An extension to the building was designed by John Fryman (1969) of the Architects Design Partnership.
8.  Much of what we have learnt about Hawksmoor pays tribute to Kerry Downes (1930–2019), former Professor in Art and Architectural History at the University of Reading. It is thanks to him (before his passing) that I came to appreciate the work of Architect Nicolas Hawksmoor.


The Palladian taste in British architecture really took-off a generation or two after Hawksmoor. I shall mention here neo-classicist Sir John Soane and his design for the obelisk in Reading Market Place [Fig]. The monument (1804) for the Director of the Bank of England Edward Simeon, has a rather stunning intention. The triangular shaft parts-way in relation to the split in the road, the market place and the obelisk sit central to the space. Although intended to be appreciated from around its circumference, the obelisk does indeed have a face. On situating oneself correctly, the monument gives an astonishing effect of illuminating impact, similar to that of hand stone cut lettering. One is either drawn out from, or in towards the column and invited to choose which road to take. More historic information can be read in: A Mark of Affection, The Soane Obelisk in Reading, by Adam Sowan (Two Rivers Press, 2007). Available from Reading Museum, just up from the structure.
Hawksmoor by Kerry Downes, 21 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1987).
The Caslon family tomb can be found within the grounds of St. Luke’s. The building is no longer used as a church but is home to the London Symphony Orchestra.
Clarendon, the slab-serif typeface designed by Robert Besley and released in 1845 by Thorowgood and Co. of London, a letter foundry known as the Fann Street Foundry.
Sheldon typeface (1947), designed by Jan van Krimpen for a Bible made by Oxford University Press and named for Archbishop Gilbert Sheldon. ‘£2.0.0 for each character drawn and approved’. Jan Van Krimpen 1892-1958, Een keuze uit de collectie (A selection from the collection), (Universiteitsbibliotheek van Amsterdam, 1992). The Roman type design of Sheldon has short ascenders and descenders and open b and d counters. Stanley Morison writes ‘When Lutetia roman [another typeface by Krimpen] appeared in 1926 [official lettering for an exhibition of Dutch art in Paris in 1927] it created something of a sensation, not only for its singular beauty and clarity of form, but because the face was in no recognizable way purloined from ancient times but instead rose freshly from the reasoned canons of type design’. The Fleuron, 6, 215-6, (Cambridge: The University Press, and New York: Doubleday Page, 1928).
The Fell Types are a large stock of typographical punches and matrices that John Fell had acquired from the Dutch Republic.

All photographs were taken by David G. Millhouse in 2020, with a Contax G2 on Ilford-FP4/125, developed by hand then scanned.