In 1631, Inigo Jones was commissioned by the 14th Earl of Bedford to design a square, surrounded by mansions, a church and four streets. Work on the church began in 1631, and was completed in 1633, as a cost of £4,000. The church was consecrated in 1638, and dedicated to St Paul.
People often ask why the great east door onto the piazza doesn’t open. Inigo Jones’ original intention was that this should be the main entrance with the Altar at the West End of the church. However, this went against Christian tradition where the Altar is normally placed at the east end. At the last moment therefore, the Altar was placed at the East end and Portico door is in fact a fake!
The Painter JMW Turner and WS Gilbert (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame), and Thomas Arne (the composer of Rule Brittania) are amongst the many famous people baptised at St Paul’s.
Among those buried at St Paul’s are Samuel Butler and the woodcarver Ginling Gibbons as was the first victim of the Great Plague of London - Margaret Ponteous on 12th April 1665.
Burials ceased in the 1850’s, when all burials in central London churches were closed by Act of Parliament. At that point, the headstones were removed, and the gardens laid out as you see them today.
In 1788, Thomas Hardwisk began a major restoration but in 1795 there was a terrible fire which destroyed much of the original structure. The Paris records were saved as was the pulpit, the work of Grinling Gibbons or one of his pupils and the church was restored largely to Jones’ original design. Further changes were undertaken by Butterfield in 1872.
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