|St. Paul's, Covent Garden|
|Location||Bedford Street, Covent Garden, London|
|Denomination||Church of England|
|Heritage designation||Grade I|
St Paul's Church is a church located in Bedford Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9ED. It was designed by Inigo Jones as part of a commission for the 4th Earl of Bedford in 1631 to create "houses and buildings fit for the habitations of Gentlemen and men of ability".As well as being the parish church of Covent Garden, the church has gained the nickname of "the actors' church" by a long association with the theatre community.
Completed in 1633, St Paul's was the first entirely new church to be built in London since the Reformation.Its design and the layout of the square have been attributed to Inigo Jones since the 17th century, although firm documentary evidence is lacking. According to an often repeated story, recorded by Horace Walpole, Lord Bedford asked Jones to design a simple church "not much better than a barn", to which the architect replied "Then you shall have the handsomest barn in England".
The building is described by Sir John Summerson as "a study in the strictly Vitruvian Tuscan Order" and "almost an archaeological exercise".The description of a Tuscan or Etruscan-style temple by Vitruvius, which Jones closely follows in this building, reflects the early forms of Roman temple, which essentially continued Etruscan architecture, though quite what Vitruvius intended by his account has divided modern scholars. It has been seen as a work of deliberate primitivism: the Tuscan order is associated by Palladio with agricultural buildings.
In 1630, the 4th Earl of Bedford was given permission to demolish buildings on an area of land he owned north of the Strand, and redevelop it. The result was the Covent Garden Piazza, the first formal square in London. The new buildings were classical in character. At the west end was a church, linked to two identical houses. The south side was left open.
Work on the church was completed in 1633, at a cost to the Bedford estate of £4,886, but it was not consecrated until 1638 due to a dispute between the earl and the vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields. It remained a chapel within the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields until 1645, when Covent Garden was made a separate parish and the church dedicated to St. Paul.
In 1789 there was a major restoration of the church, under the direction of the architect Thomas Hardwick.Six years later, in September 1795, the church was burnt out by a fire, accidentally started by workmen on the roof. A survey of the damage found that the outer walls were still structurally sound, but that the portico would have to be reconstructed. It is unclear whether this was in fact done. Having been restored once more, again under Hardwick's supervision, the church was reconsecrated on 1 August 1798. Despite the destruction, the parish records were saved, as was the pulpit — the work of Grinling Gibbons.
The puritan Thomas Manton ministered from the pulpit of St Paul's until the Great Ejection. On 23 September 1662 Simon Patrick, later Bishop of Ely, was preferred to the rectory of St. Paul’s where he served during the plague.
The first known victim of the 1665–1666 outbreak of the Plague in England, Margaret Ponteous, was buried in the churchyard on 12 April 1665.
The east end, facing the piazza, is faced in stone, with a massive portico, its boldly-projecting pediment supported by two columns and two piers. There were originally three doorways behind the portico; the middle one, which survives, was built as a false door as the interior wall behind it is occupied by the altar.The other two were blocked up in the 19th century, when the chancel floor was raised. The main entrance to the church is through the plainer west front, which has a pediment, but no portico. William Prynne, writing in 1638 said that it was originally intended to have the altar at the west end, but pressure from the church hierarchy led to the imposition of the traditional orientation.
The earliest existing detailed description, dating from 1708, says that the exterior was not of bare brick, but rendered with stucco. In 1789 it was decided to case the walls in Portland stone as part of a major programme of renovation, which Thomas Hardwick was chosen to supervise. At the same time the tiled roof was replaced with slate, the dormer windows, added in the 1640s, were removed,and the archways flanking the church, originally of stuccoed brick, were replaced with stone replicas. When Hardwick's stone facing was removed from the church in 1888, it was found to be a thin covering less than three inches thick, poorly bonded to the brick. The building was then reclad in the present unrendered red brick.
There were originally six or seven steps leading up to the portico, but these disappeared as the level of the Piazza was raised gradually over the years. By 1823 there were only two steps visible, and none by 1887.The arches at the side of the portico were substantially widened and raised during a restoration of 1878–82 by Henry Clutton, The 9th Duke of Bedford's architect. Clutton also removed the bell-turret over the western pediment.
The interior is a single space, undivided by piers or columns. The eastern third was originally marked out as a chancel by means of the floor being raised by one step. The level was raised further during alterations by William Butterfield in 1871–72. The church was built without galleries, but they were soon added on three sides. Hardwick included them in his rebuilding, and the western one remains today.
St Paul's connection with the theatre began as early as 1663 with the establishment of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and was further assured in 1723 with the opening of Covent Garden Theatre, now the Royal Opera House.
On 9 May 1662, Samuel Pepys noted in his diary the first "Italian puppet play" under the portico — the first recorded performance of "Punch and Judy", a fact commemorated by the annual MayFayre service in May.
The portico of St Paul's was the setting for the first scene of Shaw's Pygmalion , the play that was later adapted as My Fair Lady .
Since 2007 St Paul's has been home to its own in-house professional theatre company, Iris Theatre, originally created to mount a production of T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral . It gained full charitable status in October 2009.
The artist J. M. W. Turner and dramatist Sir William S. Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) were both baptised at St Paul's.
Samuel Butler (1613–1680), of Hudibras fame, was buried at St. Paul's, Covent Garden. Aubrey in Brief Lives describes his grave as "being in the north part next to the church at the east end.. 2 yards distant from the pillaster of the dore".His grave was never marked. A monument to him was placed in Westminster Abbey in 1732 by a printer with the surname Barber, and the Lord Mayor of London.
Among others also buried at St Paul's, Covent Garden, are the wood-carver Grinling Gibbons, the painters Sir Peter Lely and Thomas Girtin, and Thomas Arne (composer of "Rule Britannia"). A memorial tablet in the church commemorates Charles Macklin, the great Shakespearean actor from Ulster. The ashes of Dame Ellen Terry and Dame Edith Evans rest in St Paul's. Memorials in the church are dedicated to many famous personalities of the 20th century, including Sir Charlie Chaplin, Sir Noël Coward, Gracie Fields, Stanley Holloway, Boris Karloff, Vivien Leigh, Ivor Novello and Richard Beckinsale. The Avenue of Stars, which commemorated many notable figures and groups from the entertainment industry, formerly passed outside the church. There is also a memorial plaque to music hall star Bransby Williams which was unveiled by Sir Michael Redgrave.
The church is surrounded by an award-winning graveyard garden. The churchyard closed to burials in 1852.
In 2002, the church hosted the first of two weddings (the other one was held in Los Angeles) for famous musicians Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale.
In the 1980s, the site directly outside the church was where the then Greater London Council, soon to be abolished, liked to showcase bands, as part of its "Street Performers" policy for using public open spaces, and the Council then controlled the Covent Garden Piazza. On Sunday, 1 April 1984, the first samba school in Britain, the London School of Samba (LSS), performed its first ever public concert on this site.Its second concert, on Saturday, 7 April 1984, also took place outside the church. The LSS had been formed on 31 January 1984 and was considered to be the Madrinha, or "godmother", of samba in the United Kingdom. Later in 1984, the LSS was also the first school of samba to parade in the Notting Hill Carnival.
Covent Garden Sinfonia (known as the Orchestra of St Paul's until June 2017) is a professional chamber orchestra resident at the Actors' Church. In addition to a concert series in Covent Garden, the orchestra gives performances all around the UK and makes regular visits to the Southbank Centre, Cadogan Hall and St John's, Smith Square. Based around a core of principal players, Covent Garden Sinfonia adapts to each project, ranging in size from a small ensemble to a full symphony orchestra of 70 or more. The orchestra's Artistic Director is Ben Palmer and its patron is Sir Roger Norrington.
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St Paul's Cathedral, London, is an Anglican cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London and is a Grade I listed building. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The present cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction, completed in Wren's lifetime, was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London. The cathedral building largely destroyed in the Great Fire, now often referred to as Old St Paul's Cathedral, was a central focus for medieval and early modern London, including Paul's walk and St Paul's Churchyard being the site of St Paul's Cross.
Covent Garden is a district in London, on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St Martin's Lane and Drury Lane. It is associated with the former fruit-and-vegetable market in the central square, now a popular shopping and tourist site, and with the Royal Opera House, which itself may be referred to as "Covent Garden". The district is divided by the main thoroughfare of Long Acre, north of which is given over to independent shops centred on Neal's Yard and Seven Dials, while the south contains the central square with its street performers and most of the historical buildings, theatres and entertainment facilities, including the London Transport Museum and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Inigo Jones was the first significant English architect in the early modern period, and the first to employ Vitruvian rules of proportion and symmetry in his buildings. As the most notable architect in England, Jones was the first person to introduce the classical architecture of Rome and the Italian Renaissance to Britain. He left his mark on London by his design of single buildings, such as the Queen's House which is the first building in England designed in a pure classical style, and the Banqueting House, Whitehall, as well as the layout for Covent Garden square which became a model for future developments in the West End. He made major contributions to stage design by his work as theatrical designer for several dozen masques, most by royal command and many in collaboration with Ben Jonson.
Grinling Gibbons was an English sculptor and wood carver known for his work in England, including Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral and other London churches, Petworth House and other country houses, Trinity College Oxford and Trinity College Cambridge. Gibbons was born and educated in Holland of English parents, his father being a merchant. He was a member of the Drapers' Company of London. He is widely regarded as the finest wood carver working in England, and the only one whose name is widely known among the general public. Most of his work is in lime (Tilia) wood, especially decorative Baroque garlands made up of still-life elements at about life size, made to frame mirrors and decorate the walls of churches and palaces, but he also produced furniture and small relief plaques with figurative scenes. He also worked in stone, mostly for churches. By the time he was established he led a large workshop, and the extent to which his personal hand appears in later work varies.
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Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford PC was an English nobleman and politician. He built the square of Covent Garden, with the piazza and church of St. Paul's, employing Inigo Jones as his architect. He is also known for his pioneering project to drain The Fens of Cambridgeshire.
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Sir Robert Smirke was an English architect, one of the leaders of Greek Revival architecture, though he also used other architectural styles. As architect to the Board of Works, he designed several major public buildings, including the main block and facade of the British Museum. He was a pioneer of the use of concrete foundations.
James Gibbs was one of Britain's most influential architects. Born in Scotland, he trained as an architect in Rome, and practised mainly in England. He is an important figure whose work spanned the transition between English Baroque architecture and a Georgian architecture heavily influenced by Andrea Palladio. Among his most important works are St Martin-in-the-Fields, the cylindrical, domed Radcliffe Camera at Oxford University, and the Senate House at Cambridge University
Thomas Hardwick (1752–1829) was an English architect and a founding member of the Architects' Club in 1791.
Sir Roger Pratt was an English gentleman-architect of the 17th century. He designed only five known buildings, but was highly influential, establishing a particularly English type of house, which was widely imitated. He drew on a range of European influences, and also on the work of Inigo Jones, England's first classical architect. Pratt also served on official commissions, and in 1668 was the first English architect to be knighted for his services.
Hugh May was an English architect in the period after the Restoration of King Charles II. He worked in the era which fell between the first introduction of Palladianism into England by Inigo Jones, and the full flowering of English Baroque under John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. His own work was influenced by both Jones' work, and by Dutch architecture. Although May's only surviving works are Eltham Lodge, and the east front, stables and chapel at Cornbury House, his designs were influential. Together with his contemporary, Sir Roger Pratt, May was responsible for introducing and popularising an Anglo-Dutch type of house, which was widely imitated.
English Baroque is a term sometimes used to refer to the developments in English architecture that were parallel to the evolution of Baroque architecture in continental Europe between the Great Fire of London (1666) and the Treaty of Utrecht (1713). Especially for middle-sized houses, the style includes the English version of Queen Anne style architecture.
The Weeding of the Covent Garden, or the Middlesex Justice of Peace, alternatively titled The Covent Garden Weeded, is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy written by Richard Brome that was first published in 1659. The play is a noteworthy satire on the emerging ethos of Capitalism as reflected in real estate and urban development in the early modern city.
Events from the year 1633 in England.
The Cleveland Street Workhouse is a Georgian property in Cleveland Street, Marylebone, built between 1775 and 1778 for the care of the sick and poor of the parish of St Paul Covent Garden under the Old Poor Law. From 1836, it became the workhouse of the Strand Union of parishes. The building remained in operation until 2005 after witnessing the complex evolution of the healthcare system in England. After functioning as a workhouse, the building became a workhouse infirmary before being acquired by the Middlesex Hospital and finally falling under the NHS. In the last century it was known as the Middlesex Hospital Annexe and the Outpatient Department. It closed to the public in 2005 and it has since been vacated. On 14 March 2011 the entire building became Grade II Listed.
Peniel Chapel is a former Calvinistic Methodist chapel in Tremadog, Gwynedd. It is one of five Grade I-listed nonconformist chapels in Wales. It is in a neoclassical style inspired by mid-17th century St Paul's Church in Covent Garden, London. Its interior theater auditorium concept influenced Welsh church architecture from the nineteenth century.