Yesterday, inspired by my walk past it the other day, I popped into Christ Church Spitalfields, the magnificent Church next to Spitalfields market.
Christ Church was built under the Act of Parliament of 1711 which required the building of fifty new churches to serve the new populations on the fringes of London.
The Act established a Commission that was to determine the brief for the new buildings; its members included Wren, Vanbrugh and Archer. Christ Church, situated on Commercial Street on the eastern border and facing the City of London, was one of the first of the “Commissioners’ Churches” built for the Commission. It was built between 1714 and 1729 to a design by Nicholas Hawksmoor.
The composition of the church demonstrates Hawksmoor’s characteristic abruptness: the very plain rectangular box of the nave is surmounted at its west end by a broad tower of three stages topped by a steeple more gothic than classical. The magnificent Tuscan porch with its semi circular pediment is bluntly attached to the west end: it was a late addition to the design intended to add further support to the tower.
Like those of Hawksmoor’s other London churches and many of Wren’s, the central space of the nave is organised around two axes. It has a richly decorated flat ceiling and is lit by a clerestory.
The aisles are roofed with elliptical barrel-vaults carried on a raised Composite order, and the same order is used for the screens across the east and west ends. The Venetian window at the east may show his ease with using Palladian motifs, or it may be a rhyme with the arched pediment of the entrance portico, repeated in the wide main stage of the tower.