Original Hawksmoor Drawing of St Alfege Church Discovered


An original drawing by Nicholas Hawksmoor, one of England’s most significant architects, has recently been discovered at Greenwich Heritage Centre during a National Lottery funded research project at St Alfege Church.

St Alfege Church is a Grade 1 listed landmark church in London, the first church built under the Fifty New Churches Act of 1711 and the first complete church project undertaken by Nicholas Hawksmoor, pupil of Sir Christopher Wren and one of England’s most original and significant architects. The present building was constructed between 1712 and 1718, and is one of the key buildings within the Greenwich World Heritage Site. 

This discovery was made by Richard Hill, of Richard Griffiths Architects, who is working for St Alfege Church as Conservation Architect for the ‘Heart of Greenwich - Place and People’ project, which has been made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). During a visit to the Royal Greenwich Heritage Centre in February he found the uncatalogued drawing in a box of miscellaneous prints, photos and press cuttings of Greenwich.

Greenwich Heritage Centre, part of Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, is home to the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s museum and archive collections. The drawing, which shows the north elevation of St Alfege Church, is an original ink and wash drawing by Nicholas Hawksmoor himself. A trace of the plan of the building can also be seen, probably pricked through from another drawing.

Richard Hill, of Richard Griffiths Architects, said: “I realised that this was a design stage drawing of St Alfege, probably from 1712, and it seemed to be in the hand of Nicholas Hawksmoor. Expert advice was sought and Professor Kerry Downes confirmed that his expert opinion is ‘that the new discovery is from the master's own hand’.  I also looked at the drawing with John Bold (author of Greenwich: An Architectural History and Julian Watson, former head of the Greenwich Archives). They both agree with Kerry Downes.”  

Commenting on the discovery Vicar Chris Moody said: “We’re delighted with this find which is helping us in the development of our designs for works which both reveal and conserve Hawksmoor’s masterpiece while ensuring accessibility and better integration with the town centre.”

Tracy Stringfellow, Chief Executive Officer, Greenwich Heritage Centre said: “We are thrilled to be able to share this significant drawing with the community as part of this partnership project with St Alfege Church.”

Stuart Hobley, Head of HLF London, said: “What a fantastic find! To have a Hawksmoor design and the building it inspired together for the first time - I’m delighted that money raised by National Lottery players has helped to uncover this never-seen-before drawing by one of England’s most renowned architects. It’s a brilliant start to the ‘Heart of Greenwich’ project, which will see Hawksmoor’s building restored and the heritage of this well-loved church brought to a wider audience.”

Statement from Professor Kerry Downes

“Professor Kerry Downes, Professor Emeritus at the University of Reading, first visited Greenwich in 1948 and has been there many times since. He immediately recognised the recently discovered elevation, which exhibits Hawksmoor’s hand but not his signature. It is patently the same hand as drawings of the same date for King’s College Cambridge and Christ Church Spitalfields. He is the author of two distinct monographs on Hawksmoor (1959 and 1969). He has very recently had heart surgery and, with great regret, was advised not to travel from his home in York. He absolutely supports the present application.”

National Lottery Support

Thanks to National Lottery players, development funding of £153,200 has been awarded to help St Alfege Church progress plans to apply for a full grant at a later date. The Heart of Greenwich, Place and People project focuses on the architectural importance of the building and aims to improve access to, and facilities in, the church. It will also explore and reveal the stories of many famous people associated with the church such as Henry VIII, Thomas Tallis and General James Wolfe, as well as many less well-known figures.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk. Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.


St Alfege Church: Wendy Foreman www.st-alfege.org Twitter @StAlfegeChurch

07773 521 906  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Greenwich Heritage Centre: Isabel Benavides, Heritage & Interpretation Manager, 020 8854 2452  www.greenwichheritage.org

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