The Great Fire of London

Sir Christopher Wren and His Monuments

It was famously said that ‘Clever men like Christopher Wren only occur just now and then’. When taking full account of Wren’s achievements, it would probably not be unjust to say he was a complete one of a kind and appeared when London needed him.

Born around October 1632, and consistently in favour throughout the reigns of six monarchs before finally passing away in his early nineties, Wren, though chiefly remembered as an architect, was not only a jack-of-all-trades, but also a master of many. After achieving notable recognition early on in his career, in particular for his work on astronomy, he was later a founder member, and even president, of the Royal Society and a well-respected scientist and mathematician, his work earning praise from esteemed contemporaries such as Sir Isaac Newton.

Of his life mentioned in The Crown Jewels Conspiracy, I attempted to stay close to the facts. That his original designs for both the layout of the city and St Paul’s included doors to subterranean passages is highly doubtful. What cannot be doubted is that what he achieved has been widely celebrated. Though his original plans were amended, almost certainly for cost purposes, many of the completed buildings continue to stand.

Indeed, ‘never a cleverer dipped his pen’.

Of the many monuments/buildings that Wren is credited as having designed, or been involved in, during the course of his long and illustrious career, the most notable, of course, is St Paul’s Cathedral. The edifice that currently stands on Ludgate Hill is the fifth cathedral to have been built there and is without question Wren’s most exceptional work. Of the fifty other London churches Wren is credited as having designed – usually with the help of others – twenty-nine still stand.

The Monument, which stands at the site of old St Margaret’s, New Fish Street, was created in memory of the fire. Though off-limits to tourists, there is a laboratory beneath it, which Wren and co-designer Robert Hooke put in to conduct experiments. Due to the increase in traffic, it’s no longer used.