Tuesday, June 4, 2013


One can ponder processes and methods, and frame theories from research and analysis in order to gain insights into another era, but there is nothing like a review of the day-to-day accounts to get a feeling for how matters were really managed. Financial details always present things with stark, cryptic realism. There is nothing intellectual or academic to complicate things here. There is no flimsy fantasy or aestheticism. We see issues revealed in the simple rawness of the ordinary, bland language of firm and unforgiving fact. How the various parts of a building were perceived and organised is just as interesting as the daily workings of the parish, and the personal and practical relationships between the church and the architect. It is surprising how a few lines in a list can give such a broad picture of other times. The items scheduled present a gritty snapshot that has a quaintly tough certainty about it, presented with a lack of any cute sentimentalism. While the details are all very definitive, the information reads like a firm and final crust that is concealing a complexity of ‘softer’ issues that one would like to know more about. Still, it is all very intriguing.

Gerald Cobb, The Old Churches of London, B.T. Batsford Ltd., Mayfair and Worcestershire, 1942-3 (2nd revised edition).

But these things are a legacy from the time when the Church was the best – almost the only – patron of the arts, and when there were no “Ecclesiastical Furnishers” (!) for ecclesiastical and secular art were one; and this art was practised by none but craftsmen trained in a sound and living tradition. This healthy state of things lasted until near the end of the 18th century, and was not finally destroyed till the Gothic revival became vitiated by the lack of taste that overcame architecture and the lesser arts in the middle of last century, and of which the productions shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851 were typical.

THE CHURCH. – The Entries for building the Church are not so interesting, but include the following:
“To Thomas Cartwright, Mason
            ffor carving 10 Corinthian Capitals ¾ round
at viii £ each                                                                                         £80.0.0
ffor carving 7 Cherubins heads (keystone arches?)
at xv s each                                                                                          £5.5.0
“To John Grove, Plaisterer
            ffor ye 2 wreathes about 2 round windows 31 f long with the
festoones and knots and compartments                                                £ 4.10.0
            ffor ye Great modillion Cornice, 191f long                                           £52.10.6
            ffor 2 Vrnes each 3 f 6 in high at                                                            £5.0.0
            ffor 1500 yards of whiting at ij d                                                         £12.10.0
            Allowed for the high scaffolding at                                                       £10.0.0
“To William Cleere, Joiner, for 2 paire of large outside dores with
Compass heads 2 in ½ thick mitered at per paire x £                             £20.0.0
ffor 4 Urnes, 3 ft high 2 f wide at                                                                       £1.0.0


            St. Swithun:
            1661            For getting several people out of the Parish                                   8
1679            Pd. For clearing the P’sh of a woman bigg with childe               1.0
1702            To coach hire to carry a poor woman to prevent her
dying in ye parish                                                                              2.0

in St. Mary Woolchurch accounts:
            1601            Paid to Andrews for whipping the vagrants for
one whole yeare                                                                            5.4
1611        Paid to Robert Andrews for yiorne worke for the
whipping poste                                                                              2.8

From the GENERAL ACCOUNTS (in the same volume) many interesting facts emerge:
            Aug. 31, 1671: “To Christopher Wren, his disbursements to Samuel Wells for drawing paper, paper bookes, pencils, parchment, etc., as appears by bill from June 1670 – May 1671, the summe of                                                                                                                   

DINNER TO WREN AND HIS LADY. –In the Churchwardens’ Accounts is the following:
7 March, 1673  Paid for a dinner at the Swan in Old Fish Street to
entertain Dr. Wren . . . with the vestry and others                                £9.9.0
EFFORTS TO HASTEN REBUILDING. – “Paid to ye Survaer Gennarall by order of vestry for a gratuity to his Lady to incuridg and hast in ye rebuilding ye church twenty ginnes” in a sik purse. (The gift to Lady Wren is a subtle touch!)
6 May, 1673  Spent at several vestries and other occasions in prompting the rebuilding
the church this year                                                                             £8.3.0


In the Accts., 1680-1 is this item:
Paid for a hogshead of Claret presented to Sir Chr. Wren                                £9.10.0
It is good to know that the vestry made gifts out of gratitude as well as by way of bribe!


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