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Hawksmoor

Peter Ackroyd


Hawksmoor

For Giles Gordon


Thus in 1711, the ninth year of the reign of Queen Anne, an Act of Parliament was passed to erect seven new Parish Churches in the Cities of London and Westminster, which commission was delivered to Her Majesty's Office of Works in Scotland Yard. And the time came when Nicholas Dyer, architect, began to construct a model of the first church. His colleagues would have employed a skilled joiner to complete such a task, but Dyer preferred to work with his own hands, carving square windows in miniature and cutting steps out of the clean deal: each element could be removed or taken to pieces, so that those of an enquiring temper were able to peer into the model and see the placing of its constituent parts. Dyer took his scale from the plans he had already drawn up and, as always, he used a small knife with a piece of frayed rope wrapped around its ivory handle. For three weeks he laboured over this wooden prototype and, as by stages he fitted the spire upon the tower, we may imagine the church itself rising in Spitalfields. But there were six other churches to be built also, and once again the architect took his short brass rule, his pair of compasses, and the thick paper which he used for his draughts. Dyer worked swiftly with only his assistant, Walter Pyne, for company while, on the other side of the great city, the masons shouted to each other as they hewed out of rough stone the vision of the architect. This is the vision we still see and yet now, for a moment, there is only his heavy breathing as he bends over his papers and the noise of the fire which suddenly flares up and throws deep shadows across the room.


| Hawksmoor |







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