ST PAUL'S CATHEDRAL. Important briefing document endorsed 'Officers for St. Paules church,' autograph corrections and deletions by the architect JOHN WEBB, [c.1631-1669]
Lot 167
£ 5,000 - 6,000
US$ 6,600 - 7,900

Lot Details
ST PAUL'S CATHEDRAL. Important briefing document endorsed 'Officers for St. Paules church,' autograph corrections and deletions by the architect JOHN WEBB, [c.1631-1669]
Important briefing document endorsed "Officers for St. Paules church," the main text in an individual Italic hand [quite probably that of Edward Carter], with three 'authorial' revisions in the same hand, and autograph corrections and deletions by the architect John Webb (1611-1672), who worked on the project with Inigo Jones (1573-1652, 'The King's Master of the Works'), and was his pupil, assistant and kinsman, describing the duties of the Officers of the Works responsible for the remodelling of the old Cathedral, with Webb's autograph annotations clarifying both his own and Jones's roles, 3 pages, endorsement in the same hand as the text, some time-staining, folio, no date [between December 1631 and about 4 February 1633; additions by Webb 1643, 1660 or 1669]


  • An important source of information about the roles of John Webb and Inigo Jones in the work on old St Paul's (where Donne was the Dean and which Hollar engraved), one of the major public building and restoration projects of the period. St Paul's Cathedral, begun in 1086, was and is considered to be the nation's church. Archbishop Laud described it as the 'mother church of this City and Diocese and the Great Cathedral of the kingdom', and both he and the James I thought the form and substance to be inseparable; if the Cathedral as a building was in good condition, it must also be in good repair as a spiritual institution. Jones's work on the Cathdral has beeen described as 'the greatest of all Jones's undertakings while Surveyor of the King's Works.' (Scholfield, p. 195).

    By the time of James I, the church was very much decayed (neglect, and the steeple struck by lightning in 1561) and the King appointed Inigo Jones to restore the building. The poet Henry Farley records James comparing himself to the building at the commencement of the work: 'I have had more sweeping, brushing and cleaning than in forty years before. My workmen looke like him they call Muldsacke after sweeping of a chimney.' In addition to cleaning and rebuilding parts of the Gothic structure, Jones added a classical-style portico to the cathedral's west front in the 1630s, which William Benham (Old St Paul's Cathedral, 1902) notes was 'altogether incongruous with the old building... It was no doubt fortunate that Inigo Jones confined his work at St Paul's to some very poor additions to the transepts, and to a portico, very magnificent in its way, at the west end'.

    Laud, then Bishop of London, took the project, from 1633, as his major architectural enterprise ('this Magnificent Work') and was very active in raising funds towards the work, himself diverting all the fines levied by the High Commission to it. The renovations stopped during the Civil War, when the Cathedral's revenues and the unused building materials were seized by Parliament and the site was abandoned, used instead for quartering horses (it was even rumoured that Cromwell considered giving the building to the returning Jewish community to become a synagogue) and the columns of the portico were broken up to accommodate makeshift shops and lofts. But most of the rebuilding had been completed by then, namely the refacing of the whole exterior (except the central tower) and the addition of the great west Palladian portico for which, according to Webb, Jones 'contracted the envy of all Christendom upon our Nation, for a Piece of Architecture, not to be parallell'd in these last Ages of the World' (Webb, A Vindication of Stone-Heng Restored, 1665, p.48). Although the portico was to survive the Great Fire, which destroyed the rest of the building, it was eventually demolished in April 1687 and when Wren started his replacement.

    The present manuscript begins with a list of the officers in charge of the restoration of the cathedral, both Commissioners and otherwise, namely a surveyor [Inigo Jones, who acted in an honorary capacity] (" to make the Platts and geve directions what shall be done from time to time, and of what materialls, and to make the estimate of the charges, all which hee is to make knowne to the com[m]issioners before any proceedings..."); two comptrollers and a paymaster [Michael Grigg], a 'Clark of the Check and ingrosser of the accompts' [John Webb], a 'Clark of the Store and measurer of materialls' [Robert Cooke] and a purveyor [John Williams]. The 'Articens' are also listed: mason, carpenter, plumber, smith and glazier.

    The remaining two pages describe the duties of each officer, including those of Webb as clerk engrosser: " call the workmen and labourers fower times every daie at the least by his booke and to check them in their wages if they be absent [or idle – inserted] hee is to bringe the booke unto the Surveior and Comptrollers with the stile speacifyinge at large what hathe bene done that moneth..."

    In his later autograph corrections Webb states twice that there were actually no comptrollers ("...but all was managed by ye Surveyor Mr Inigo Jones"). His other notes betray a rivalry between him and Jones's substitute, Edward Carter, whose role in the restoration he somewhat down-played. Webb's own job as Jones's assistant included preparing clean drawings and plans from Jones's sketches: "...Mr Webbe copied all ye designes from ye Surveyors Invention, made all ye traceryes in great for ye worke, & all ye mouldings by ye Surveyors direction so yt what the Surveyor invented & Mr Webbe made, ye substitute [Edward Carter] saw putt in worke & nothing else..."

    Edward Carter's charge, however, according to Webb, was 'only to see that these things be sett in hand accordingly, and was or ought to have been at the worke twice everie daie to see that the Clark and Articens doe their dueties...[Webb's corrections in italics]'. Webb's comments may be read as an attempt to deflate Carter's own claims as to his responsibilities. The first likely date for them, therefore, is towards 1643, when rivalry between the two was at its peak: Carter was to replace Inigo Jones as Surveyor and oust Webb from the Office of Works, where he had been Deputy Surveyor. It is possible, too, that Webb's notes date from 1660 or 1669 when Webb was himself bidding for the position of Surveyor-General.

    The main text of the document itself is undated but was probably drafted between December 1631 when the Commission was established and about 4 February 1633 when the Committee of the Commission appointed Jones as Surveyor. By the latter date Laud's fund-raising campaign for the Cathedral was well under way and the work could begin. The work continued until the outbreak of the Civil War.

    As Clerk Engrosser, Webb kept fifteen volumes of detailed accounts for the works at St. Paul's; these are now in the Cathedral's library, W.A.1-15 (vol. 12 is in Lambeth Palace Library, F.P. 321), and are the main primary source for the day-to-day progress and cost of the old Cathedral's remodelling.

    The present document was printed in the London Topographical Record, xviii, 1942, pp. 41-46 under the title 'Inigo Jones and St. Paul's Cathedral'. It has since been cited by various architectural historians, including: H.M. Colvin (general editor), History of the King's Works, III, 150 (1975); J. Orrell, The Theatres of Inigo Jones and John Webb (Cambridge, 1985), p. 15; J. Bold, John Webb (Oxford, 1989); and Vaughan Hart, 'Inigo Jones's Site Organization at St. Paul's Cathedral: "Ponderous Masses Beheld Hanging in the Air"', Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 53, no. 4, December 1994, pp.414-427. It is not mentioned, however, in John Schofield, St Paul's Cathedral Before Wren (2011). See also John Harris and A.A. Tait, Catalogue of the Drawings of Inigo Jones, John Webb and Isaac De Caus at Worcester College Oxford (where Webb's handwriting is illustrated, 1979); and Gordon Higgott, 'The Fabric to 1670', St. Paul's: The Cathedral Church of London, 1604-2004, edited by Derek Keene, Arthur Burns and Andrew Saint (2004). We are grateful to Gordon Higgott for his help and interest.
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  1. Simon Roberts
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