Nicholas Hawksmoor

Nicholas Hawksmoor
Nicholas Hawksmoor
Born c.1661
Died 25 March 1736(1736-03-25)
Millbank, London
Nationality English
Buildings Easton Neston
Mausoleum Castle Howard
Christ Church, Spitalfields
St. George's, Bloomsbury
St Mary Woolnoth
St George in the East
St Anne's Limehouse
St Alfege Church, Greenwich
All Souls College, Oxford
The Queen's College, Oxford

Nicholas Hawksmoor (probably 1661 – 25 March 1736) was a British architect born in Nottinghamshire, probably in East Drayton.[1]



Hawksmoor was born in Nottinghamshire in 1661, into a yeoman farming family, almost certainly in East Drayton, Nottinghamshire.[2] On his death he was to leave property at nearby Ragnall, Dunham and a house and land at Great Drayton. It is not known where he received his schooling, but it was probably in more than basic literacy. George Vertue writing in 1731 wrote that he was taken as a youth to act as clerk by 'Justice Mellust in Yorkshire, where Mr Gouge senior did some fretwork ceilings afterwards Mr. Haukesmore [sic] came to London, became clerk to Sr. Christopher Wren & thence became an Architect'.[3]

It was probably 1678 or 1679 when Hawksmoor joined Wren. He was probably unpaid at first. His first official post was as Deputy Surveyor to Wren at the Royal Hospital Chelsea form 1683 until February 1685.[4] Hawksmoor's signature appears on a brickmaker's contract for Winchester Palace in November 1684.[5] One of Hawksmoor's topographical sketchbooks survives in the Royal Institute of British Architects library, this contains sketches and notes some dated 1680 and 1683, of buildings in Nottingham, Coventry, Warwick, Bath, Bristol, Oxford and Northampton.[6] Wren was paying him 2 shillings a day in 1685 as assistant in the his office in Whitehall.[7]

From about 1684 to about 1700, Hawksmoor worked with Christopher Wren on projects including Chelsea Hospital, St. Paul's Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace and Greenwich Hospital. Thanks to Wren's influence as Surveyor-General, Hawksmoor was named Clerk of the Works at Kensington Palace (1689) and Deputy Surveyor of Works at Greenwich (1705). In 1718, when Wren was superseded by the new, amateur Surveyor, William Benson, Hawksmoor was deprived of his double post to provide places for Benson's brother. "Poor Hawksmoor," wrote Vanbrugh in 1721. "What a Barbarous Age have his fine, ingenious Parts fallen into. What wou'd Monsr: Colbert in France have given for such a man?"[8].

He then worked for a time with Sir John Vanbrugh, helping him build Blenheim Palace for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, where he took charge after Vanbrugh's final break with the demanding Duchess of Marlborough, and Castle Howard for Charles Howard, later the 3rd Earl of Carlisle. There is no doubt that Hawksmoor brought to the brilliant amateur the professional grounding he had received from Wren, and in Colvin's words, "enabled Vanbrugh's heroic designs to be translated into actuality."[citation needed]

In 1702, Hawksmoor designed the baroque country house of Easton Neston in Northamptonshire for Sir William Fermor. This is the only country house for which he was the sole architect, though he extensively remodelled Ockham House, now mostly destroyed, for the Lord Chief Justice King). Easton Neston was not completed as he intended, the symmetrical flanking wings and entrance colonnade, very much in the style of John Vanbrugh, remaining unexecuted.

In 1713, Hawksmoor was commissioned to complete King's College, Cambridge:[9] the scheme consisted of a Fellows' Building along King's Parade, and opposite the Chapel a monumental range of buildings containing the Great Hall, kitchens and to the south of that the library and Provost's Lodge. Wooden models and plans of the scheme survive, but it proved too expensive and Hawksmoor produced a second scaled down design. But the college that had invested heavily in the South Sea Company lost their money when the 'bubble' burst in 1720. The result was that Hawksmoor's scheme would never be executed, the college was finished later in the 18th century by James Gibbs and early in the 19th century by William Wilkins.

The West Towers, Westminster Abbey

Hawksmoor conceived grand rebuilding schemes for central Oxford, most of which were not realised. The idea was for a round library for the Radcliffe Camera but that commission went to James Gibbs. He did design the Clarendon Building at Oxford; the Codrington Library and new buildings at All Souls College, Oxford; parts of Worcester College, Oxford with Sir George Clarke; the High Street screen at The Queen's College, Oxford and six new churches in London. Although he did not live to see them built, Hawksmoor also designed the West Towers of Westminster Abbey. In addition, he superimposed on the medieval portal, and became Surveyor of the Abbey when Wren died in 1723.

Unlike many of his wealthier contemporaries, Hawksmoor never travelled to Italy on a Grand Tour, where he might have been influenced by the style of architecture there. His ideas seem to derive from engravings, especially monuments of ancient Rome and reconstructions of the Temple of Solomon. But he was versatile in his work, and all the buildings he designed are distinctly different from each other. The influence of Italian Baroque architect Borromini can be detected in some.

Hawksmoor's six London churches

The act for fifty new churches of 1711 established a commission, which included Christopher Wren, John Vanburgh, Thomas Archer and a number of churchmen. It appointed Hawksmoor and William Dickinson as its surveyors. As supervising architects they were not necessarily expected to design all the churches themselves. Dickinson left his post in 1713 and was replaced by James Gibbs. Gibbs was removed from his post in 1716 and replaced by John James. James and Hawksmoor remained in office until the commission was wound up in 1733. The declining enthusiasm of the Commission, and the expense of the buildings, meant that only twelve churches were completed, six designed by Hawksmoor, and two by James in collaboration with Hawksmoor.[10] The two collaborations were St Luke Old Street (1727–33) and St John Horsleydown (1727–33), to which Hawksmoor's contribution seems to have been largely confined to the towers with their extraordinary steeples. The six churches wholly designed by Hawksmoor are his best-known independent works of architecture. They compare in their complexity of interpenetrating internal spaces with contemporaneous work in Italy by Francesco Borromini. Their spires, are essentially Gothic outlines executed in innovative and imaginative Classical detail.

Gallery of churches

Garden buildings and monuments

Hawksmoor also designed a number of structures for the gardens at Castle Howard these are:

  • The Pyramid (1728)
  • The Mausoleum (1729–40) built on the same scale as his London churches, it is almost certainly the first free-standing mausoleum built in Western Europe since the fall of the Roman empire.[11]
  • The Carrmire Gate, (c.1730)
  • The Temple of Venus (1731-5) demolished

At Blenheim Palace he designed the Woodstock Gate[12] (1723) in the form of a Triumphal arch. He also designed the obelisk in Ripon market place, erected in 1702, at 80 feet in height it was the first large scale obelisk to be erected in Britain.[13]

Death and obituary

Hawksmoor died on the 25 March 1736 in his house at Millbank[14] from 'Gout of the stomach'. He had suffered poor health for the last twenty years of his life and was often confined to bed hardly able to sign his name. His will instructed that he be buried at the church at Shenley, Hertfordshire, his tomb stone there has this inscription:[15]

Hic J[acet]
obijt vicesimo quin[t]o die [Martii]
Anno Domini 1736
Aetatis 75

His obituary appeared in Read's Weekly Journal, no. 603. 27 March 1736. Probably written by his son-in-law, Nathaniel Blackerby:

Thursday morning died, at this house on Mill-Bank, Westminster, in a very advanced age, the learned and ingenious Nicholas Hawksmoor, Esq, one of the greatest Architects this or the preceeding (sic) Century has produc'd. His early skill in, and Genius for this noble science recommended him, when about 18 years of age, to the favour and esteem of his great master and predecessor, Sir Christopher Wren, under whom, during his life, and for himself since his death, he was concerned in the erecting more Publick (sic) Edifices, than any one life, among the moderns at least, can boast of. In King Charles II's reign, he was employ'd under Sir Christopher Wren, in the stately buildings at Winchester; as he was likewise in all the other publick structures, Palaces &c, erected by that great Man, under whom he was assisting, from the Beginning (factually wrong, Hawksmoor was 14 years old then) to the Finishing of that grand and noble Edifice the cathedral of St. Paul's, and of all the churches rebuilt after the Fire of London. At the building of Chelsea-College he was Deputy-Surveyor, and Clerk of Works, under Sir Christopher Wren. At Greenwich-Hospital he was, from the Beginning 'till a short time before his death, Clerk of Works. In the Reigns of King William and Queen Anne, he was Clerk of their Majesties Works at Kensington, and at Whitehall, St. Jame's and Westminster. In the reign of King George I, he was first Surveyor of all the new Churches, and Surveyor of Westminster-Abbey, from the death of Sir Christopher Wren. He was chiefly concern'd in designing and building a great number of magnificent Nobleman's Houses, and particularly (with Sir John Vanbrugh) those of Blenheim and Castle-Howard, at the latter of which he was at his Death, carrying on a Mausoleum in the most elegant and grand Stile (sic), not to mention many others: But one of the most surprising of his undertakings, was the repairing of Beverley Minster, where the stone wall on the north-side was near three Foot out of the perpendicular, which he mov'd at once to its upright by means of a machine of his own invention. In short his numerous Publick Works at Oxford, perfected in his lifetime, and the design and model of Dr. Ratcliff's Library there, his design of a new Parliament-House, after the thought of Sir Christopher Wren; and, to mention no more, his noble Design for repairing the West-End of Westminster-Abbey, will all stand monuments to his great capacity, inexhaustible fancy, and solid judgement. He was perfectly skill'd in the History of Architecture, and could give exact account of all the famous buildings, both Antient (sic) and Modern, in every part of the world; to which his excellent memory, that never fail'd him to the very last, greatly contributed. Nor was architecture the only science he was master of. He was bred a scholar. and knew as well the learned as the modern tongues. He was a very skilful mathematician, geographer, and geometrician; and in drawing, which he practised to the last, though greatly afflicted with Chiragra, few excelled him. In his private life he was a tender husband, a loving father, a sincere friend, and a most agreeable companion; nor could the most poignant pains of Gout, which he for many years laboured under, ever ruffle or discompose his evenness of temper. And as his memory must always be dear to his Country, so the loss of so great and valuable man in sensibly, and in a more particular manner felt by those who had the pleasure of his personal acquaintance, and enjoy'd the happiness of his conversation.

Gallery of architectural work

Hawksmoor in recent literature

Hawksmoor's architecture has influenced several poets and authors of the twentieth century. His church St Mary Woolnoth is mentioned in T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land (1922).

Algernon Stitch lived in a "superb creation by Nicholas Hawksmoor" in London in the novel Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (1938).

Hawksmoor is the subject of a poem by Iain Sinclair called 'Nicholas Hawksmoor: His Churches' which appeared in Sinclair's collection of poems Lud Heat (1975). Sinclair argued that Hawksmoor's churches formed a pattern consistent with the forms of Theistic Satanism. This idea was developed by Peter Ackroyd. In his novel Hawksmoor (1985) the historical Hawksmoor is refigured as the fictional Devil-worshiper Nicholas Dyer, while the eponymous Hawksmoor is a twentieth-century detective charged with investigating a series of murders perpertrated on Dyer's (Hawksmoor's) churches.

Both Sinclair and Ackroyd's ideas in turn were further developed by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell in their graphic novel, From Hell, which speculated that Jack the Ripper used Hawksmoor's buildings as part of ritual magic, with his victims as human sacrifice. In the appendix, Moore revealed that he had met and spoke with Sinclair on numerous occasions while developing the core ideas of the book. The argument includes the idea that the locations of the churches form a pentagram with ritual significance.

In 2002 Hawksmoor was the subject of an award-winning monograph by the architectural historian Vaughan Hart, which redefined Hawksmoor with new insights and discoveries.

Hawksmoor is mentioned in "The History Boys" by Alan Bennett, p82, where Akthar is questioned by Mrs Lintott about his interest in architecture.


See also

  • Category:Nicholas Hawksmoor buildings


  1. ^ page 1, Hawksmoor, Kerry Downes, 1979, A. Zwemmer Ltd, ISBN 0-302-02783-1
  2. ^ page 1, Hawksmoor, Kerry Downes, 1979, A. Zwemmer Ltd, ISBN 0-302-02783-1
  3. ^ page 1, Hawksmoor, Kerry Downes, 1979, A. Zwemmer Ltd, ISBN 0-302-02783-1
  4. ^ page 1, Hawksmoor, Kerry Downes, 1979, A. Zwemmer Ltd, ISBN 0-302-02783-1
  5. ^ page 2, Hawksmoor, Kerry Downes, 1979, A. Zwemmer Ltd, ISBN 0-302-02783-1
  6. ^ page 2, Hawksmoor, Kerry Downes, 1979, A. Zwemmer Ltd, ISBN 0-302-02783-1
  7. ^ page 2, Hawksmoor, Kerry Downes, 1979, A. Zwemmer Ltd, ISBN 0-302-02783-1
  8. ^ page 98, Hawksmoor, Kerry Downes, 1979, A. Zwemmer Ltd, ISBN 0-302-02783-1
  9. ^ pages 23 to 27, the Architectural Drawings Collection of King's College, Cambridge, Allan Doig, 1979, Avebury Publishing
  10. ^ Downes, Kerry (1970). Hawksmoor. London: hames and Hudson. p. 103. ISBN 0500200963. 
  11. ^ page 179, James Stevens Curl, A Celebration of Death: An Introduction to some of the Buildings, Monuments and Settings of Funeray Architecture in the Western European tradition, 1980, Constable
  12. ^ page 122, Vaughan Hart, Nicholas Hawksmoor Rebuilding Ancient Wonders, 2002, Yale University Press
  13. ^ page 18, Richard Barnes, The Obelisk: A Monumental Feature in Britain, 2004, Frontier Publishing
  14. ^ page 6, Hawksmoor, Kerry Downes, 1979, A. Zwemmer Ltd, ISBN 0-302-02783-1
  15. ^ page 7, Hawksmoor, Kerry Downes, 1979, A. Zwemmer Ltd, ISBN 0-302-02783-1
  • Colvin, Howard, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600–1840, 3rd ed.
  • Downes, Kerry, Nicholas Hawksmoor
  • De la Ruffiniere du Prey, Pierre. Hawksmoor's London Churches: Architecture and Theology. London and Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
  • Vaughan Hart, Nicholas Hawksmoor: Rebuilding Ancient Wonders (2002)

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Nicholas Hawksmoor — (* 1661; † 1736) war ein englischer Architekt des Barock. Er gilt nach John Vanbrugh als der größte Individualist dieser Epoche. Blenheim Palace nach dem Zerwürfnis zwischen John Vanbrugh und Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, hat …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Nicholas Hawksmoor — [Nicholas Hawksmoor] (1661–1736) an English ↑architect who worked with Sir Christopher Wren on the building of many churches in London, including ↑St Paul s Cathedral. He also worked with John …   Useful english dictionary

  • Nicholas Hawksmoor — (probablement 1661 25 mars 1736) était un architecte britannique. Il fut l élève de Christopher Wren, à qui l on doit notamment la cathédrale Saint Paul de Londres. Il conçut les tours de la façade de l abbaye de Westminster à Londres… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Nicholas Hawksmoor — Grabado de la mansión de Easton Neston, única casa de campo que Hawksmoor diseñó en solitario. Nicholas Hawksmoor (circa 1661 25 de marzo de 1736) fue un arquitecto británico. Junto a John Vanbrugh y Christopher Wren formó parte del trío de …   Wikipedia Español

  • Nicholas Hawksmoor — ➡ Hawksmoor * * * …   Universalium

  • Hawksmoor — Nicholas Hawksmoor (* 1661; † 1736) war ein englischer Architekt des Barock. Er gilt nach John Vanbrugh als der größte Individualist dieser Epoche. Blenheim Palace nach dem Zerwürfnis zwischen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • HAWKSMOOR (N.) — HAWKSMOOR NICHOLAS (1661 1736) Architecte anglais. Élève puis assistant de Wren, Nicholas Hawksmoor devint le collaborateur du mondain Vanbrugh. Il apparaît cependant comme l’une des personnalités les plus originales de la période baroque… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Nicholas — ist ein Familienname und männlicher Vorname. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung 2 Bekannte Namensträger 2.1 Familienname 2.2 Vorname …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Hawksmoor —   [ hɔːksmʊə], Hawksmore, Nicholas, englischer Baumeister, * East Drayton (?) (bei East Retford, County Nottinghamshire) 1661, ✝ London 24./25. 3. 1736; Schüler von C. Wren, ab etwa 1700 Mitarbeiter von J. Vanbrugh (Castle Howard, Blenheim… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Hawksmoor — [hôks′moor΄] Nicholas 1661 1736; Eng. architect …   English World dictionary

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