Sir Christopher Wren (1632 – 1723)

From the website of The Twickenham Museum:

“Christopher Wren was born at East Knoyle, near Tisbury, Wiltshire, the son of Dr Christopher Wren, rector of that parish. An uncle was Matthew Wren who, inter alia, had succeeded Richard Corbet as bishop of Hereford and then of Norwich. After attending Westminster School he studied at Oxford becoming Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, London in 1657 and at Oxford in 1661. He was one of the founders of the Royal Society. After the Great Fire of London in 1666 he made designs for the rebuilding of the whole of the City, although these were not implemented. In 1669 he designed the new St. Paul’s, and also designed many other churches, the Royal Exchange, Greenwich Observatory and numerous other buildings. He was knighted in 1673.

Wren both worked and resided at Hampton Court. From 1668 he stayed, from time to time, in a house now known as The Old Court House, facing Hampton Court Green, with a garden sloping down to the River Thames. He obtained a lease of the property from Queen Anne in exchange for some unpaid fees and he may have rebuilt it for himself, in about 1706. This property had been reserved for the use of the Surveyor General of the Works and it is probable that Wren had occupied it on occasions from the start of his appointment in 1668.

When he was relieved of his office in 1718, at the age of 86, he had held the post for nearly 50 years and he retired to the house for the remainder of his life. He actually died in his house in St James’s Street from where he was carried to St Paul’s Cathedral for burial.

In 1689, shortly after the arrival, from Holland, of the Queen, William and Mary went to Hampton Court Palace and very soon decided to pull down most of the old buildings and build a new one rivalling the palace of Versailles. Wren was set to work on the plans and demolition started little more than a month after their visit. Unfortunately the Queen died suddenly of small pox in 1694 at the age of 33 and little further work was then done until 1699.

Bushy Park was also laid out and Chestnut Avenue planted by Henry Wise for William in accordance with Wren’s design. His plan was to make the main route to Hampton Court Palace through Bushy Park from the Teddington Gate. The Diana Fountain and the rows of horse chestnuts and limes that line Chestnut Avenue were completed in 1699. However, the planned new grand entrance to the palace on the north side of the Great Hall was thwarted by the death of the King in 1702 and remained unbuilt.

The main parts of the surviving palace built by Wren are Fountain Court, the East Front, the South Front, the King’s and Queen’s Apartments and the Orangery. The King’s Apartments were badly affected by the disastrous fire of 1986 but have now been restored. In 1995 the newly restored Privy (Private) Garden was opened reproducing the layout of the garden originally laid out in 1702 and intended to be overlooked by the then newly constructed King’s Apartments.”

Rosemary Hill wrote in The Guardian of 29 Mar 2008:

” “There is something in him,” an exasperated schoolmaster reported of the young Richard Norman Shaw, “but it is not Greek.” What Shaw turned out to have in him was Old English, an architectural language, which if he did not invent, he made his own. Through it he recreated late Victorian architecture and late Victorian England. It was Shaw who first built the House Beautiful upon which Oscar Wilde expounded and that Arthur Liberty furnished from his fashionable shop in Regent Street. With its half-timbering and inglenooks, its soaring chimneys, pre-Raphaelite stained glass and blue-and-white china glimmering against dark wood, the Old English home was a place of elegant repose. It answered the needs of a new generation who were less formal, more socially secure than their parents, and it cast the flattering light of an idealised past on to a confident, occasionally complacent present. By the end of the 19th century, Shaw stood in the public mind with Wren as one of the greatest British architects of all time, and his apparently effortless, brilliantly articulated plans had made Das Englische Haus famous in Europe.”

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