The architecture of Robert Hooke is much less well known than that of
Wren. Partly this is due to the enormous stature of Wren as the architect of St
Paul’s Cathedral and numerous other London churches (with Hooke’s
involvement); partly to the unhappy accident of almost none of Hooke’s
buildings having survived the 19th century. Hooke was essentially a
scientist who became involved with architecture (and we might therefore regret
the possible losses to science), Wren was a scientist who became much better
known for his architecture.
Hooke’s transition from scientist to architect came with the aftermath
of the Great Fire. The City of London had to be rebuilt, and quickly. To guide
and effect this enormous venture the King appointed three people of whom one was
Wren; the City appointed three of whom one was Hooke. Effectively the rebuilding
of London after the Great Fire became a joint effort between these two men. It
is wrong that Hooke’s contribution is so poorly acknowledged.
The following list is derived from ‘Espinasse (1);
the authoritative work on Hooke’s architecture is Batten (2).
Hooke's involvement with buildings as architect is often unclear because of his
role as Surveyor to the City of London. Thus with Greenwich, for example, it is
not known whether the building was not at all, partly or entirely his design.
Hooke's diaries are tantalisingly oblique at times on this issue of who did
- Hooke produces a plan for the rebuilding of London. It is not
adopted, partly on the grounds of building cost and partly on the
grounds of requiring a large amount of compensation to landowners
since the layout was totally new. This results in his being appointed
Surveyor to the City, in which role he set out new foundations,
adjudicated on property rights and boundaries, and supervised
adherence to building regulations. He was responsible for sewers,
paving, bridges, quays, markets and public clocks - all assimilated
into the general fabric of the City.
- With Wren canalised the Fleet River, which was an open sewer. The
canal was not commercially successful but did considerably improve
- Constructed Cheapside and Holborn conduits.
- Suggested and supervised improvements to the north bank of the
- Architect of the Royal College of Physicians, Warwick Lane, 1678.
Demolished in the 19th century.
- Architect of the Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam) 1674. Demolished 1814.
- Architect for the reconstruction of the Bridewell, 1671.
- Architect for Alderman Aske's Hospital, Hoxton, 1693. Demolished in
the 19th century.
- Set out the Greenwich Observatory 1675. Unclear whether Hooke, Wren
or someone else was the architect.
- Involved in the rebuilding of the Navy Victualling Office, Seething
Lane, 1673, but probably had no part in its construction.
- Designed a building for Magdalene College Oxford, which may be the
- Designed a house for Sir Walter Young 'in Devon' - site unknown.
- Designed the screen for Merchant Taylors' Hall, 1673. Destroyed in
- Involved in the repairs to the Barbers Surgeons' Hall, 1672.
Demolished in the 19th century.
- Designed the Monument to the Great Fire, 1677. Although
usually attributed to Wren, Hooke's diaries and other contemporary
accounts make it
clear that the Monument is Hooke's. The original inscription written by
Dr Gale of St Paul's School alleged
that Catholics were responsible for the Great Fire. This inscription was partially removed in
1831. Pope in his Moral Essays criticised the original
||Where London's column, pointing at the skies
Like a tall bully, lifts the head and lies.(3)
- Architect of Montague House, Bloomsbury, 1675. Destroyed by fire
1686, and rebuilt by a French architect. Whether Hooke's exterior
survived is not clear. The building stood where the British Museum now
- Architect of house for Lord Oxford in Privy Gardens, Whitehall.
- Design of a house for Sir Richard Edgcumbe, Earl of Mount Edgcumbe
- Design for a church for Sir John Lowther of Lowther in Westmoreland.
- Design for Sherwood Place, Brentwood.
- Design for Lord Burlington, probably Londesborough House.
- Architect of Ragley Hall, Warwickshire, for Lord Conway, 1679.
Ragley Hall is now the home of the Earl and Countess of Hertford. The
east front is in original condition, the west front having been
modified in 1750. Hooke also designed the gardens, but the present
ones date from the 19th century.
- Architect of St Mary Magdalene, Willen, Buckinghamshire. This church
was built for Dr Richard Busby, Head Master of Westminster School for
56 years, scholar and benefactor of Balliol College Oxford, who
also paid for the church. It is not in original condition, having
gained an apse and lost the cupola from the tower in the 19th century.
- Considerable involvement in the alterations to Westminster Abbey (St
Peter). Hooke re-paved the choir in 1676, and in 1688 and 1693 worked
on the north window (this in conjunction with Wren) as well as the
Henry VII Chapel and various houses in the precincts and buildings in
- Supervised the construction of more than 30 of Wren's London
- Hooke was essentially Wren's junior partner in the building of St
(1) ‘Espinasse, Margaret:
‘Robert Hooke’. London: Heinemann, 1956.
(2) Batten, MI, ‘The
Architecture of Dr Robert Hooke FRS’. Walpole
Society 25, OUP, 1936-7.
(3) Inwood, Stephen, 'A History of
London'. London: Macmillan 1998, p 249.
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