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Born to a Nottinghamshire farming family in 1661, Nicholas Hawksmoor became fascinated by architecture at an early age. At 18 he left home to work in London as a clerk for Sir Christopher Wren, the Surveyor General. Young Nicholas was a quick study, and he readily absorbed the skills of his master. From 1684 on Hawksmoor worked with Wren on all his major architectural projects, including Chelsea Hospital, the rebuilding of the London churches damaged in the great Fire of London, St. Paul's Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace, and Greenwich Hospital. At about the turn of the century Hawksmoor began to help one of the other fashionable architects of the day, John Vanbrugh. On the ecclesiastical front, Hawksmoor was responsible for 6 new churches in London, built to serve the expanding London suburbs. Each of these designs is different, each unique. Of these churches only St. Mary Woolnoth is actually in the City. One of Hawksmoor's final great works was on another church, Westminster Abbey. When Christopher Wren died in 1723, Hawksmoor became Surveyor of the Abbey in Wren's place. Westminster Abbey west front In that post he was responsible for designing the great towers which flank the western front, although the work was not finished until after his death. What is remarkable is how he managed to make his work blend in so well with the earlier parts of the Abbey.

Nicholas Hawksmoor

St George in the East (1714-1729) Standing in the windswept plain of The Highway, St George’s was Hawksmoor’s second stab at church architecture. This time, he pulled off something really special, with a 160-foot tower of complex geometry, topped by an unusual spire like a set of Tudor chimneys bound together. Unfortunately, like at Greenwich, the nave was gutted during WWII, though this has since been rebuilt. The grounds are worth exploring. Obelisks and memorials are spaciously distributed while all the tombstones seem to have migrated to the perimeter. And don’t miss the mural to the Battle of Cable Street at the back of the churchyard. St George’s Bloomsbury (1716-1731) Currently undergoing extensive restoration work, St George’s is the most westerly of the six churches. The unusual steeple, hidden behind hoarding in our photo, was designed in the form of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the ancient wonders of the world; sculptures from the long-vanished monument can still be seen at the British Museum, round the corner from Hawksmoor’s church. Crowning the steeple is a statue of George I, which is famously visible in Hogarth’s painting Gin Lane.

St Alphege, Greenwich (1712-1714) A towering memorial to the oddly named saint, who was supposedly murdered by Vikings on this spot in the 11th Century. St Alphege dominates Greenwich town centre and serves as a useful landmark for navigation. Much of Hawksmoor’s work is now lost: the nave was gutted during the second world war, and the original spire has been encased in a later structure. This is perhaps the least inspiring of the six churches, and feels oddly back-to-front, with the tower set away from the road. Still, it was his first, so we’ll let him off.

Christ Church, Spitalfields (1715-1729) Perhaps his most famous church, certainly the most dominating, Christ Church menaces the Spitalfields sky like a giant claw, poised to strike. Simple, grand and even a little frightening, it’s no surprise to find that it was built on a plague pit and sits across the road from the site of the most brutal Ripper murder. If you can get into the normally closed gardens, you’ll find a trademark hawksmoor pyramid, which featured heavily in Ackroyd’s novel.

St Mary Woolnoth (1716-1727) Hawksmoor’s only City church lies hidden away behind the energetic junction of Bank. This most ancient of sites has been hallowed ground for at least 2000 years. Hawksmoor built his most unusual church on the site, following the demolition of a short-lived Wren design that had been cobbled together from the Great Fire remnant of the medieval church. Small and squat, but surprisingly capacious, the Baroque design looks something like a sabre-toothed frog from the rusticated front. Hawksmoor’s church almost suffered the same fate as the Wren predecessor in the early 1900s, when it was due to be dismantled to make way for Bank Tube station. Fortunately, after a public outcry, a compromise was reached whereby only the crypt was destroyed, necessitating the removal of hundreds of interred bodies. Think about that next time you’re passing through the station’s passages late at night

St Anne’s, Limehouse (1730) There’s a feeling of isolation and unease about this church, on a bend in the river where sharp winds whistle round the monuments. Nobody ever seems to be about, except for the local population of vagrants. Once again, the church was badly damaged in WWII, and previously in a fire (1850), but has been beautifully restored. The spacious grounds contain a conspicuous pyramid, possibly originally intended for the spire. This is one of Sinclair’s favourite sites and crops up time and again in his work as part of some great ley line that runs through Canary Wharf and Greenwich. Hawksmoor also made contributions to several other London churches, most notably the obelisk-topped St Luke’s LSO building near Old Street. But none of these was entirely his own work. A full gazetteer can be found here.

Castle Howard is a stately home in North Yorkshire, England, 15 miles (24 km) north of York. One of the grandest private residences in Britain, most of it was built between 1699 and 1712 for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, to a design by Sir John Vanbrugh. Although Castle Howard was built near the site of the ruined Henderskelfe Castle, it is not a true castle, but this term is often used for English country houses constructed after the castlebuilding era (c.1500) and not intended for a military function. Castle Howard has been the home of part of the Howard family for more than 300 years. It is familiar to television and movie audiences as the fictional "Brideshead", both in Granada Television's 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited and a two-hour 2008 remake for cinema. Today, it is part of the Treasure Houses of England heritage group. The house is surrounded by a large estate which, at the time of the 7th Earl of Carlisle, covered over 13,000 acres (5,300 ha) and included the villages of Welburn, Bulmer, Slingsby, Terrington and Coneysthorpe. The estate was served by its own railway station, Castle Howard, from 1845 to the 1950s.

Castle Howard

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