London Unveiled

great places to visit off the beaten path.

St. Alfege, Greenwich ~ a rare Hawksmoor Church.

Nicholas Hawksmoor is one of Britain’s most famous architects.  He started work as a clerk for Sir Christopher Wren at age 18.  He worked with Wren on Chelsea Hospital, Hampton Court and St. Paul’s Cathedral, among other iconic buildings.   Later he helped with, and finished, the construction of Blenheim Palace, and he also built Castle Howard.  He was commissioned to complete Kings College, Cambridge and he also designed the west towers of Westminster Abbey (completed posthumously).  It is still debatable as to how much Wren influenced Hawksmoor, or the young Hawksmoor influenced Wren.  Despite such a prolific career it is somewhat surprising that there are only 6 churches in London designed and built by him – St. Alfege’s in Greenwich is one of them and an excellent example of Baroque architecture. See another of our posts for information on Hawksmoor’s St. Mary Woolnoth: http://wp.me/p2r6no-3x

History:  Alfege (Alphege) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1006 to 1012.  He was killed 19-April-1012 by Danish raiders who had held him captive for 7 months (the first Archbishop to be murdered).  To commemorate him a church was erected on the place of his death.  Several churches have existed on this spot – the 2nd church stood here from 1290-1710.  The current church, built by Hawksmoor began construction in 1712 and was completed in 1714.  It incorporated the medieval tower (now refaced and topped with a spire).  The church was badly damaged by incendiary bombs during WWII and was restored in 1953.

Other Interesting Facts:  2012 marked the 1000 yr anniversary of Alfege’s death – an event recognized by a pilgrimage and service by the current Archbishop of Canterbury.  King Henry VIII was baptized here in 1491.   The organ console from 1552 is still viewable. General Wolfe, famous for his defeat of the French at Quebec City in 1759 but who died in combat in Canada, is buried here. In fiction, Charles Dicken’s novel Our Mutual Friend a wedding occurs here. The church is located within the Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visiting:  The church is generally open Mon-Fri 11-4 (2pm on Thur), Sat 10-4, and Sun 12-4.  Informationl panels throughout the church provide details on its history.  Guided tours can be arranged through the church office.  There are services throughout the week.  Visit their website for details: http://st-alfege.org/

Located at:  Greenwich Church Street, Greenwich SE10 9BJ

Closest Transit:  Cutty Sark Station (DLR) or Greenwich Pier.

One comment on “St. Alfege, Greenwich ~ a rare Hawksmoor Church.

  1. Pingback: The Painted Hall ~ arguably the greatest work of art in London not in a museum. | London Unveiled

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This entry was posted on November 30, 2012 by in Churches, Free Activities, Greenwich, Historic Buildings and tagged , , .
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