The first church built under the Fifty New Churches Act of 1711 and the first complete church project undertaken by Hawksmoor completed in 1718. There has been a church here for over a thousand years, dedicated to Alfege, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was martyred here in 1012. Henry VIII was baptised here and many other historical figures in royal, maritime and scientific history have close links.
Nicholas Hawksmoor (probably 1661 to 25 March 1736) was an English architect and a leading figure of the English Baroque style. He was responsible for six new churches in London, each different, each unique. They are his best known independent works of architecture, are unusual and well worth visiting!
Like other Hawkmoor churches, St Anne’s has a tower rising in steps, diminishing in size towards the top. A striking pyramid was designed to go on a corner at the east end, but it is now in the churchyard. St Anne's has strong ties to the Royal Navy, and even the clock is a special maritime design. It originally chimed every 15 minutes to help guide the 6000 ships that used the Limehouse docks on a daily basis.
Step inside Hawksmoor's architectural masterpiece where the City of London meets the East End. At the time building, Spitalfields was a place of religious and political dissent. Hawksmoor's mighty white stone church was designed to sail, architectural guns blazing, into this harbour of discontent, stamping the authority of crown, parliament and the Church of England onto renegade pavements. It is not difficult to imagine how imposing this stupendous construction must have seemed.
Designed and built by Hawksmoor between 1714 and 1729, St George in the East has distinctive ‘pepper pot’ turrets. The church was hit by a bomb during the Blitz on London's docklands in May 1941. The original interior was destroyed by the fire, but the walls and towers stayed up. What you see now is a paradox: within the proud Hawksmoor shell is a modest worship space, designed by Arthur Bailey and reconsecrated in 1964.
St Mary’s has charisma bordering on the sublime. Outside, it looks like a Greek temple with angular parallel lines that wouldn’t look out of place at Tate Modern. Inside are Corinthian columns laid out as triplets in ‘a square within a square’. The church is built on an impossibly small triangle of land between busy streets, but push open its formidable doors and you enter a world that hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.
St George Bloomsbury has been described as ‘one of the capital’s most wonderful buildings’ and the last of Hawksmoor’s six London churches. Hawksmoor never visited the great classical sites, but he was a keen antiquarian and his work is peppered with references to famous Greek and Roman monuments. At St George’s, the spire is inspired by the mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.