For a hundred years after the Reformation, church building was at a standstill, and the change of style which so definitely affected domestic building found little scope in this field. The new manner appeared in the design of church fittings and monuments and tentatively in some rebuilding which took place under Archbishop Laud, but in the main the old tradition lingered on.
The rebuilding after the Fire of London (1666), gave Sir Christopher Wren an unparalleled opportunity and he made the most of it. The churches that had been destroyed were medieval in type and, in the rebuilding which followed, the requirements of a new architectural style and a different ritual brought about a complete change of plan and design. For the purposes of the reformed religion an auditorium, where all could see and hear the preacher, was the chief essential. Economy was necessary and the sites were awkwardly cramped, but these problems were solved by Wren with such versatility of treatment, and skilful planning that he triumphed over difficulties. He evolved three plan types : the domed central area type, the most effective, as St. Stephen's, Walbrook ; the Greek cross within a rectangle, as St. Mary-at-Hill (Diagram XXII) ; and the basilican type, with or without aisles, to which class the majority belong, including St. James's, Piccadilly. Wren's geometrical knowledge and constructive ability are admirably expressed in his management of the domical covering, a new feature in this country. The exteriors of the churches are usually of brick and for reasons of economy severely plain, the most interesting treatment being reserved for the towers and steeples which rise above the adjoining houses ; these, by their variety and beauty of outline testify to Wren's inventive genius. The finest of all, St. Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, is incomparable, but others can be classed as stone lanterns, as St. Stephen's, Walbrook, or spires, as St. Margaret Pattens. The timber framed spire with a lead covering is seen at its best at St. Martin's, Ludgate Hill—one of Wren's finest and admirably grouped with St. Paul's Cathedral—while the cupola is used in a few cases ; St. Benet's, Paul's Wharf, is an example (Page 22), showing also an effective wall treatment of brick with dressings of Portland stone.
Angle Fireplace from a house in Micklegate, York
(Left) Shield from a city church (Right) Shield from Brewers
Church of St. Benet, Paul's Whrap City of London at All Hallows Lombard Street
The interiors are treated with restraint and some are impressive St. Stephen's, Walbrook, and St. Mildred's, Bread Street, are especially interesting for their domes. The basilican type usually has galleries carried on piers, the whole covered with flat, coved or vaulted ceilings. The pulpits are placed forward, raised high, with staircase approaches and—with their sounding-boards—they were singled out for displaying wall panelling oak panelling designs the rich carving of the period. Fine oak-work for panelling and pews, and beautiful carving for the altar-pieces, font covers, gallery fronts, organ cases and pierced panels (Diagram XXII), are found in these churches, largely the work of Grinling Gibbons and his wood carvers. Decorative wood and plaster work are both distinguished by the frequent occurrence of the winged cherub's head (Page 22). Equally ornamental are the sword and mace rests, for civic occasions, carried out in fine wrought ironwork.
Much activity prevailed throughout the XVIIIth century, and many churches were built about the country, as at Worcester, and in London especially, following Queen Anne's Act for fifty new churches with new wall panelling oak panelling designs. Among Wren's successors were some notable church architects, including Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736)-the designer of St. Mary Woolnoth, and St. George's, Bloomsbury—and James Gibbs (1682-1754), who was one of the last followers of the Wren tradition ; his best churches are St. Mary-le-Strand and St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, and both have the advantage of conspicuous sites. The portico entrance favoured by Hawksmoor and Gibbs as well as by John James at St. George's, Hanover Square, and by other architects, is a feature that Wren reserved for St. Paul's Cathedral, and never used for his City churches. Other characteristics are mahogany for fittings, and aisles separated by classic columns surmounted by a slice of entablature. Renaissance churches of good design occur in such towns as Worcester, Bristol and Bath. From the latter part of the XVIIIth century, that reasonableness which so distinguishes any work of Wren's was abandoned in the change of taste which led to the Greek revival and the acceptance of Greek temples as models for Christian churches but wall panelling oak panelling designs remained the same.
Wall panelling oak panelling designs interior of church and plan. St. Mary-at-Hill
The Font and Cover. St. Stephen's, Walbrook