Architect Nicholas Hawksmoor was a key figure in the creation of the fabric of London as we know it, working alongside Sir Christopher Wren as well as alone, and responsible for numerous works with can still be seen in London today.

Hawksmoor was born into a yeoman farming family in Nottinghamshire in around 1661-62 but little else is known of his early life. He probably received a fairly basic education but is believed to have been taken on a clerk to a justice in Yorkshire before, thanks to encountering a decorative plasterer by the name of Edward Gouge, travelling to London.

There, Hawksmoor was introduced to Wren who, agreed to take on the young man as his personal clerk at just the age of 18. He moved through a number of junior positions in Wren’s household before becoming deputy surveyor at Winchester Palace – between 1683 and 1685 – under Wren.

He went on to work with his mentor on numerous further projects; these included Chelsea Hospital, St Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace and Greenwich Hospital as well as Kensington Palace where, thanks to Wren’s support, he was named clerk of works in 1689 (as well as deputy surveyor of works at Greenwich). He remained in these posts for some 25 years before he was removed thanks to political machinations (although he later returned to the secretaryship).

Hawksmoor also worked with Sir John Vanbrugh, assisting him in building Blenheim Palace, taking over command of the job in 1705. Vanbrugh made him his deputy and Hawksmoor later succeeded him as architect at Castle Howard in Yorkshire, designing a number of monuments in the gardens, including the great mausoleum.

Hawksmoor is described as one of the masters of the English Baroque style – Easton Nelson in Northamptonshire, which he designed for Sir William Fermor, is an exemplar of his work (and the only country house for which he was sole architect, although it remain uncompleted).

Hawksmoor also worked on buildings for the university at Oxford and while All Soul’s College was among buildings he completed, many of his proposed designs were not implemented for various reasons (as were grand plans he had for the redesign of central Oxford).

From 1711, Hawksmoor was busy again in London where, following the passing of an Act of Parliament, he was appointed as one of the surveyors to a commission charged with overseeing the building of 50 new churches in London.

The commission only completed 12 churches, but half of them were designed by Hawksmoor (and he collaborated with fellow surveyor John James on two more). Hawksmoor’s completed churches include St Alfege in Greenwich, St George’s, Bloomsbury, Christ Church in Spitalfields, St George in the East in Wapping, St Mary Woolnoth, and St Anne’s Limehouse (the churches he collaborated on include James are St Luke Old Street and the now demolished St John Horsleydown).

In 1723, following Wren’s death, he was appointed Surveyor to Westminster Abbey and, as well as aspects of the interior (some of which still survive to this day) designed the landmark west towers (although they weren’t completed until after his death).

Hawksmoor died at his home in Millbank on 25th March, 1736, from what was described as “gout of the stomach”, having struggled with his health for a couple of decades previously. He was buried at the now deconsecrated church in Shenley, Hertsfordshire.

Hawksmoor was survived by his wife Hester by a year, and a daughter, Elizabeth.

PICTURES: Top – The West Towers of Westminster Abbey; Right – St Anne’s, Limehouse. (David Adams)

Advertisements

The founder of Lloyd’s Coffee House, Edward Lloyd – who died 300 years ago this year – is perhaps not so much famous in his own right as for the fact his name lives on in the Lloyd’s insurance business today.

Lloyd's_Coffee_House_plaqueLloyd is believed to have been born around 1648 but little is known of his early day (it’s thought he may have come from Canterbury). By 1688, he was the proprietor of a licensed coffee house in the now long gone Tower Street and was living nearby with his wife Abigail (the first reference to the coffee house dates from 1688).

In 1691, the coffee house moved to a premises at 16 Lombard Street – not far from the Royal Exchange – and it’s here that the coffee house gained a reputation as the centre of the ship-broking and marine insurance business (a blue plaque marks the site today).

Lloyd, meanwhile, was building up a network of correspondents at major ports around the world, and according to Sarah Palmer, writing in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, was also involved in the publication of a weekly news sheet featuring shipping-related news – initially published on a Saturday, it became a Friday publication in 1699 and continued until at least 1704 – and the rather shorter-lived single sheet newspaper Lloyd’s News, founded in 1696. (Lloyd’s List wasn’t founded until well after Lloyd’s death in 1734).

Lloyd and his first wife had at least nine children, with four daughters surviving into adulthood – it was the youngest, Handy, who with her first husband William Newton (he was head waiter at the coffee house and married her just prior to her father’s death) and, following his death, her second husband Samuel Sheppard, continued the family business after her father’s death in 1713.

Following Abigail’s death in 1698, he married Elizabeth Mashbourne and after her death in 1712, married again – this time to Martha Denham.

Lloyd died the following year on – 15th February 1713 – and was buried at St Mary Woolnoth – a church at which he’d held positions when alive.

The business which grew to become the Lloyd’s of London insurance business we know today, meanwhile, took its next step forward in 1769 when a group of professional underwriters established New Lloyd’s Coffee House in nearby Pope’s Head Alley. The group, formalised into a committee, later moved to the Royal Exchange and dropped the word new. Lloyd’s was incorporated in 1871 by an Act of Parliament and has gone on to become one of the world’s most famous insurers. It now operates in more than 300 countries and territories worldwide.

What was to become Lloyd’s Register, meanwhile, was founded in 1760 as the Society for the Registry of Shipping.