THE ARCHITECTURE OF DR. ROBERT HOOKE, F.R.S.
By M. I. Batten
|THE Diaries of Dr. Robert Hooke, Curator of the Royal Society, cover the periods from March 1672 to the end of December 1680 (in the manuscript entries continue intermittently to May 1683), from November 1688 to March 1690, and again from December 1692 to August 1693. The first section, the original of which is in the Guildhall Library, has been edited by H. W. Robinson and W. Adams (published 1935), and the remaining sections, both of which are in the Department of Manuscripts of the British Museum, have been edited and published by Dr. R. T. Gunther as volume x of Early Science in Oxford (1935). These are all that are known to exist. The very eminent part that Hooke played in the scientific world of the late seventeenth century has never been forgotten, but his architectural work, in spite of the testimony of Aubrey, Evelyn, and Ward, has been completely neglected. This is to some extent due to the genius of Sir Christopher Wren, whose reputation dominated the period for subsequent architectural historians, collecting to his name a number of buildings in which he had had no hand. Two at least of these, the Royal College of Physicians in Warwick Lane and Willen Church in Buckinghamshire, must now definitely be acknowledged as Hooke's work. Others, such as the Monument to the Fire of London and the Navy Office in Seething Lane, besides probab1y some of the work on the City Churches, become a complicated tangle which it seems probable will now never be completely unravelled. A contributory feature to the neglect of Hooke as an architect was the fact that after the Fire he was appointed one of the City Surveyors, and historians, whenever they found his name connected with a building in the City, jumped to the conclusion that he had been employed simply to measure the site. Stephen Wren, Sir Christopher's grandson, tells us in Parentalia (1750) that immediately after the Fire Wren took to his assistance his ingenious and able|
associate Robert Hooke',1 and Elmes in his Memoirs of Sir Christopher Wren (1853) also has many references to Hooke, but both these authors seem to have taken it for granted that Hooke's work was principally surveying. Elmes allows that Hooke may have had more to do than this in some cases, for Birch's History of the Royal Society relates that in 1667-8 both Wren and Hooke were connected with designs for the proposed
|1 Stephen Wren, Parentalia (1750), p 263.|
Royal Society Building. 2
Robert Hooke was born at Freshwater in the Isle of Wight in 1635. Aubrey, in his Brief Lives (ed. A. Clark, 1898) tells us that Hooke early showed an aptitude for drawing as well as mathematics, and after his father's death in 1648 he was sent up to London to be
|2 Birch's History of the Royal Society (1756) vol ii pp 299 et seq.|
‘bound apprentice to Mr Lilley the paynter with whom he was a little while upon tryall'.3 But Hooke decided that Lely had little to teach him and so took himself off. Aubrey also says that he was at some time taught drawing by Samuel Cooper. After leaving Lely Hooke went to Dr. Busby's at Westminster [School], where he astonished the doctor by his feats of learning. He went to Oxford about 1650 and matriculated in 1658. It was at Oxford that he met Wren, probably about 1655 at the meetings of the 'Experimental Philosophical Clubbe' which later became the Royal Society. The two formed an intimate friendship, and it is probable that they were also connected by marriage. Both were to be professors at Gresham College, and throughout the seventies the Diary shows that the two men were meeting almost daily, working together on architecture and science, besides dining and going to plays. The later Diaries show them still great friends though no longer connected in architectural practice.
Aubrey, who is frequently mentioned in the Diaries, made familiar use of Hooke's rooms in Gresham College, using them as the address to which he had his letters sent. His notes on Hooke are therefore particularly interesting. He says: ‘He built Bedlam, the Physitian's College, Montague-house, the Piller on Fish-street-hill, and Theatre there; and he is much made use of in designing buildings.'
Aubrey's statement that Hooke and not Wren built the Pillar-on-Fish-street-hill is arresting because he knew both men well. Dr. Gunther in volume vii of Early Science in Oxford has published Hooke's autographed Survey of the Monument, and it is quite clear from the Diary that Hooke was far more nearly connected with its erection than has generally been allowed. During six years, from 1673 to 1679, Hooke is constantly referring to the Pillar, as the following extracts from the Diary show: 1673, October 19th, 'perfected module of Piller'; 1674, June 1st, At the pillar at Fish Street Hill. It was above ground 210 steps'; August 7th, 'At the Pillar in height 250 steps'; 1675, September 21st, 'At fish-street-hill on ye top of ye column'. On April 11th, 1676, he was with Wren 'at the top of ye Piller'. On October 14th, he notes ‘scaffolds at fish-street-piller almost all struck', but a year later he went again 'to piller about scaffold' and on October 26th he 'directed corners'. He also had a good deal of trouble with the inscription, but on June 17th, 1678, he 'saw Monument inscription now finished', though as late as April 10th, 1679, he writes, 'At Fish Street Piller. Knight cut wrong R. for P. It would seem as if Wren in his position as Surveyor General to the Royal Works had to be officially consulted, but that Hooke, either in his capacity as City Surveyor or as Wren's partner,
|3 Aubrey, Brief Lives (ed A Clark 1898) vol i, p 410.|
did most of the work.' 4
Wren, during the seventies, had more work than anyone man could do, for there was the bulk of the City Churches, St. Paul's, Trinity College Library, Temple Bar, Greenwich Observatory, the Mausoleum for Charles I, and one or two private commissions besides his routine work as Surveyor-General. From Hooke's Diary it appears that the two men were working together on many of Wren's buildings, though doubtless always with Wren as the senior partner. On June 22nd, 1675, Hooke notes. 'At Sir Ch. Wren order… . to direct Observatory in Greenwich park for Sir J. More. He promised money.' He also visits Temple Bar with Wren. St. Paul's, though essentially Wren’s work, is frequently mentioned in the Diary, and even here Wren was not averse to Hooke's friendly criticisms.
Hooke was certainly connected with the building of the City churches. Nearly all of them are mentioned in the Diary, those he visited most frequently being St. Benets Finck, St. Laurence, St. Magnus, St. Stephen's Walbrook, Bassingshaw Church, St. Anne's and St Agnes, and St. Martin's Ludgate. The entries are continuous and show him visiting them with Wren and without him, passing accounts and attending meetings of the parish councils. A typical church visiting day is the following: April 13th, 1675; Sir Chr. Wren and Mr Woodroof here. To Dionis Backchurch, Buttolphs, Walbrook, Coleman Street, St. Bartholomews. Dind at Levets. With Sir Ch. Wren to Paules.' A few days later we get 'I was several times about accounts at Sir Ch. Wren with Woodroof. I transacted the business of St. Laurence Church with Mr. Firman.' In April 1676 Hooke 'agreed with Marshall about St. Bride's Church Tower'. In July 1674 is the entry, 'with St. Martins Parish at the Greyhound. . . . Saw all things concluded what to doe,' He gives a list of those present and Wren's name is not among them. Besides the very many references to the churches themselves there are many others relating to payments from Wren to Hooke 'on ye City Churches account'. These appear in the Diary separately from the payments that Hooke was receiving from the City of London for his work as City Surveyor. From November 1674 to October 1681 Hooke received something over eight hundred pounds, though as some of the entries are 'due from Sir Chr. Wren' and others are ‘received', sometimes after an interval of several months, it is difficult to be sure of the precise amount.
One of the problems which the Diary raises is whether Wren or Hooke built the Navy Office in Seething Lane. The old Navy Office was burnt at the end of January 1673. In April Hooke is busy about plans for rebuilding. April 17th, 'with Lord Brounker all the morn about Navy Office'. Two days later, 'to Dr Wren at Paules about Navy Office module'. April 20th, 'At the Lord Brounkers, discoursd about Navy Office'. Several other entries occur during the next few weeks and then stop to start again early in the following year. 1674, March 27th, 'Sir Dionis Gauden here about Navy Office'. On November 27th, 'Sir Christopher Wren promisd Fitch Navy Office'. After December the entries cease, but it is clear that Hooke has done a design with the approval of certain members of the Board, and also that he had seen Wren about it. In the Minutes of the
|4 See also the Minutes of the City Lands Committee published in Wren Society, vol. v, pp 46-9.|
Navy Board 5 Hooke's name never appears, but in March 1674 is the minute 'Send to ye Surveyor General for a Draught of ye Ground layout for the Navy Office'. Negotiations for the ground are protracted, but on December 4th, 'Sir Christopher Wren Present - a draught of ye Office and of ye House with an Estimate of ye charge' appears. Further disputes about the ground arc noted during the next few weeks At the end of March 1675 the Navy Office Minutes cease, those for the years immediately following having been destroyed in a fire. The Treasury Papers throw little further light on the matter, though Wren's name appears in his official capacity of Surveyor-General. In the Navy Office Bills and Accounts there is no record of any payment. As Surveyor-General Wren was certainly consulted, but he may have put forward Hooke's design. The building is illustrated in Wheatley's edition of Pepys's Diary (1893-9), vol. i, frontispiece.
Hooke's work as City Surveyor entailed the measuring of sites and also a good deal of work connected with Fleet Ditch and the two bridges crossing it at Holborn and at the foot of Ludgate Hill. It is possible that these bridges were designed by Hooke. He and
|5 Record Office, Admiralty 106, vols. 2887, 2888.|
Knight, the City Mason, worked closely together over the Cheapside Obelisk 6and theSnowhill Conduit. The proposed Quay 7 along the north bank of the Thames is also frequently mentioned. The new maps made by Ogilby and others are referred to in the Diary as being submitted to Hooke for his approval. Unfortunately the plan for rebuilding London which Hooke produced immediately after the Fire has been lost. From descriptions it would appear to have been of the gridiron type.
valuable information for architectural historians is contained in the
Diaries, but unfortunately the first and largest section, by far the most
important, has been published with a very ineffectual index. The entries
in the Diary are telegraphic and almost devoid of punctuation, and to get
the full value very careful study indeed is required. It is necessary to
sort out all the different people mentioned and to determine which
craftsmen are working on which buildings. Frequently it occurs that the
same mason or bricklayer is working with Hooke on two or more jobs
concurrently, and then it is impossible to decide to which each particular
entry relates. Further difficulties are raised by eminent benefactors to
the City being connected with several charities. Sir William Turner, for
instance, was president of the associated hospitals (Bedlam
For the sake of clarity it has seemed best to treat each individual building separately, and, as there is no adequate index to the largest portion of the Diary, to quote a certain number of the entries. The modern method of dating the year from January 1st has been used throughout, thus when Hooke writes 'February 1678/9.' it is here dated 1679. A list of the craftsmen working on each building has been given. In the Diaries, naturally enough, these craftsmen figure under their surnames without initials or descriptions except in rare cases. Many of these names occur in the accounts of the City Churches and other buildings published by the Wren Society, and also in The London Masons of the 17th Century (1935), by Professor Douglas Knoop and Mr. G. P. Jones. These have been considered legitimate means of identifying the trades of the crafts-men employed by Hooke.
In the Department of Manuscripts of the British Museum is a miscellaneous collection of drawings, called Add. MSS. 5238, some of which, as for example Bedlam and the plan of the Quay, are certainly by Hooke
The buildings which Hooke is known to have designed, though they cover a period of more than twenty years from 1670 to early in the nineties, show very little development in style. The chief influences observed are early seventeenthcentury French, and Dutch. Hooke in his Diary mentions tile purchase or borrowing of several French and Dutch books and prints of architecture. Bedlam, though essentially French in conception, shows Dutch influence in its detail. The roofs are of a form common throughout the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century in France and are especially typical of de Brosse and Lemercier. Richelieu, one of Lemercier's most important works, and of which Hooke possessed the engravings by Perelle, is perhaps the most extravagant example of this kind of composition The treatment of the pavilions with separate roofs inevitably tends to break up the design, and Hooke shows that he has not succeeded in surmounting this difficulty any better than many of his eminent forerunners. It is possible that the rather unfortunate handing of the entablatures at Aske's Almshouses, which run through from the low wings into the main block, is an attempt to rectify this lack of unity so noticeable at Bedlam. The planning of Ragley, with its wings treated as pavilions, seems to be reminiscent of de Brosse’s treatment at the Luxembourg, except that at Ragley the pavilions have not got separate hipped roofs and the general effect is in consequence less French than at Bedlam. Another possible French reminiscence at Ragley is the treatment of the order on the central feature of the front, where the complete entablature is not carried across under the pediment, an omission so disapproved of by the eighteenth-century critics of the works of du Cerceau and Lemercier at the Tuileries. The roof of the central feature of Add. MSS. 5238, no, 56, possibly Montague House, with its curved slopes crowned with a balustrade, is also a typically French feature.
The Dutch influence at Bedlam is to be found in the motif of swags, with windows above and below, placed between the pilasters on the fronts of the three pavilions. A similar
See British Museum, Department of Manuscripts, Add.MSS.5238, nos 63, 73,
74, reproduced Wren Society vol v, pl xxxv.
7 See British Museum, Department of Manuscripts, Add.MSS.5238, no. 83, reproduced Early Science in Oxford, vol x, p. 62.
device is to be found in several of Ving Boons's 8 plates. The same motif appears in between the lower order in the courtyard front of the Physicians' College, and swags are somewhat similarly used on the exterior of the Theatre. Hooke certainly possessed a copy of Ving Boons though he did not buy it till 1674, when the Diary also records the purchase of a Le Muet. 9 Ving Boons, however, was first published in the forties, with a second edition in 1660. The treatment of the centre feature in relation to the roof in the design of Sir Walter Young's house, as published by Campbell, 10 also suggests Dutch influence, for it is a common device in Ving Boons. The centre feature of Add. MSS. 5238, no. 56, seems to come from the same source. Hooke, however, was familiar with a higher authority than the Dutch for this type of design, for it appears in Rubens's Palazzi di Genova (1622), a work the influence of which throughout northern Europe in the mid-seventeenth century can hardly be exaggerated and a copy of which Hooke certainly possessed.
Dutch and French works are not the only sources from which Hooke drew, and the Diaries mention his possession of such obvious works as Vitruvius, Serlio, and Evelyn's Parallel of ancient Architecture with the modern (1664). From these he would derive a more orthodox treatment of the normal Renaissance motifs than from some of his Dutch and French books. He draws on them all indiscriminately. This is also true of Wren in his early works, and makes the problem of Hooke's share in the City churches even more obscure. Equally there is nothing in the manner of the Navy Office as shown in the extant engravings to help to determine the question of authorship left open by the documents. This similarity in handling their sources raises the doubt whether among the drawings published by the Wren Society, as early works of Wren, there may not be some drawings of Hooke's to be found, apart from the drawings of the Monument and the drawing referred below to the Physicians' College. All these are in Add. MSS. 5238, but in view of the close connection between the two men it would not be surprising to find some in the collection at All Souls.
The principal sources of information concerning Dr. Robert Hooke are given below. With the exception of Aubrey's Brief Lives and certain sections of Early Science in Oxford, the writers have been interested almost exclusively in Hooke's scientific work.
Philips Ving Boons, Granden en Afbeeldsels der voornamste Gebouwen, Amsterdam,
9 Pierre le Muet, Maniere de bien Bastir pour toutes sortes de Personnes, 1623. First English translation 1675.
10 Colin Campbell, Vitruvius Britannicus or the British Architect, 2 vols., 1717-25.
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