Christopher Wren’s design for a new St Paul’s Cathedral was approved on 27 August 1666, one week before the Great Fire destroyed the original. The rebuild still proved a tortuous process, with many opinionated and influential stakeholders. Work eventually began in 1675 and, to mounting disquiet, was not completed until 1710 (by the end Wren’s salary was withheld to persuade him to speed up). His original ambitious plans for a classically elegant rebuild of the whole city were rejected: too much costly compensation for landowners was involved. But he obtained the spiritual monopoly, re-building in all 53 churches (87 existed before the fire, but some parishes were merged). His favoured style was Roman classical, but he adapted pragmatically to the often irregular plots: there are ‘Gothic Wrens’ like St Mary Aldermanry, for instance. Others reflect the vision of gifted deputies, like Hawksmoor’s St Mary Woolnoth.
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