Monuments in Christ Church Spitalfields

Christ Church Spitalfields, at the corner of Commercial Street and Fournier Street in the East End, is an important church by Nicholas Hawksmoor, with grand architecture, two important sculptural monuments, and a grand, tall frontage, with four Tuscan columns forming what might be described as a ‘broken or open portico’ as the centre is lifted up into an arch. The steeple, which reaches 225ft, is splendidly confident and considered one of London’s finest. The sides of the church, in stock brick, are less impressive, however there is something of a small churchyard on the right - a real benefit to the ambience of the building, and a small oasis of calm with a few outdoor monuments. On the front railings of this space is an obelisk-styled drinking fountain in granite, by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association, 1860, typical of their work.

Metropolitan drinking fountain.

The church was put up under the 1711 Act, intended to build 50 new churches, which in the end managed to produce a dozen, of which Hawksmoor grabbed the lion’s share. This one dating from 1714-1729, is considered by some to be his masterpiece. It was not considered so at one time, when the architect's endeavours were described as

Mr Hawksmoor has proceeded according to a set [of architectural orders] exclusively his own; but hat circumstance would have been justifiable and comendable if any improvements could be discovered. Unhappily, none are to be found.

The inside is very large, with splendidly massive composite pillars and a lofty ceiling, with a beam across the chancel on which rests an unusual coat of arms, the Royal Arms from 1816-37, we are told, and made of Coade stone. After many tribulations, the church has been grandly restored, all white and bright and very splendid.

Thomas Dunn's monument of Edward Peck, and detail.

The two important monuments stand near the altar, and are to Edward Peck and Sir Robert Ladbroke:

Robert Ladbroke statue, by Flaxman.

The rest of the nave is empty of sculpture, alas, but there are two fonts which I would hazard are of the same date as the church. In the interior porch however, there are a dozen simple wall monuments, mostly in memory of clerics who tried to convert Jews to Christianity. In date order:

We may also note the rather fine World War I memorial, a tall panel in white marble with delicate black veins, two free Corinthian pilasters, a Baroque pediment with star of David, and two finials in lighter marble which look to be replacements. It is signed on a bracket by Harris(?) and Son.

Another panel notes that the Church reopened in 1867 after alterations and improvements, including to the 1836 clock, Robert Hanbury and partners contributing £3,500 of the cost, and the architect being Ewan Christian.

Picture of the Christ Church shortly after it was put up.

With thanks to the Friends of Christ Church Spitalfields for permission to use pictures of the monuments. Their site, with interesting information on the restoration, and detail on Hawksmoor: www.christchurchspitalfields.org.

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