Categories: East Knoyle, Wiltshire | Wadham College, Oxford | All Souls College, Oxford | Gresham College, London | Astronomers | Architects | Fellows of the Royal Society | Members of Parliament, Plympton Erle | Members of Parliament, Windsor | Members of Parliament, Weymouth and Melcombe Regis | Freemen of Winchester | Freemen of Plympton.
Sir Christopher Wren was one of the most accomplished architects of his time, responsible for designing many fine buildings in England. Educated in Latin and Aristotelian physics at the University of Oxford, he was a founder member of the Royal Society (president 1680–82), and his scientific work was highly regarded by Sir Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal. He was awarded contracts for the rebuilding of 52 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including his masterpiece, St. Paul's Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill, completed in 1711. Other notable works by Wren include the Royal Naval College in Greenwich and the south front of Hampton Court Palace.  The survival of St Paul's during the blitz was considered by Winston Churchill to be of prime importance to the morale of a warn torn country. 
Christopher Wren, the second son of the The Reverend Christopher Wren, Rector of East Knoyle in Wiltshire, and his wife, Mary Cox, and nephew of Dr. Mathew Wren, the Bishop of Norwich, was baptised at East Knoyle in Wiltshire on 10 November 1631. "Paternalia" compiled by his son, Christopher, says that he was born on 20 October 1832.  Children usually know the day of a parent's birth but can easily be mistaken about the year. The assumption here is that he was born in 1631, probably on 20th October and was baptised on 10 November.  
In 1635 his father was appointed Dean of Windsor in succession to his own brother, Matthew and the family spent several months each year at the Castle until in 1642 the Deanery was raided by parliamentary soldiers. These were dangerous times for families loyal to the Crown. Indeed Christopher's uncle Matthew, the Bishop of Ely, was sent to the Tower in December 1841, released in May 1642 then returned there in August where he would remain for 18 years. The family took refuge at East Knoyle and sometimes at Bristol. Little is known about young Christopher's education until he went to Wadham College, Oxford in 1650. He is thought to have attended Westminster School for some time.  He was particularly interested in mathematics and science, and by the age of seventeen had several inventions to his credit. These included an instrument that wrote in the dark, a weather clock, a pneumatic engine and a new sign language for the deaf. This was probably in connection with the efforts of his brother-in-law, William Holder to teach the deaf Alexander Popham to speak.  William Holder was the rector of Blechingdon and it was there that the Wren family retreated after being evicted from East Knoyle in 1646. 
At Oxford Christopher gained a reputation as a brilliant scientist. He carried out a series of experiments that was to prove very important for health care. For example, he showed how it was possible to send people into a deep sleep by injecting them with opium. Wren himself used this system to remove a spleen from a dog. He also successfully used a syringe to transfer blood from one dog to another. A student of astronomy he became interested in the laws of motion. He carried out several experiments on this subject, and when Isaac Newton developed the theory of gravity he was quick to point out that he owed a great deal to the work of Wren.  He graduated BA in 1650 and MA in 1653 as noted in Cambridge Alumni though he was never a student. 
In 1657 Christopher was appointed as professor of astronomy at Gresham College in London.  His inaugural speech shows clearly how he was thinking. "Mathematical demonstrations being built upon the impregnable foundation of geometry and arithmetick are the only truths that can sink into the mind of man, devoid of all uncertainty"  Christopher was part of the group of mathematicians, scientists and scholars that met to discuss new ideas and in 1662 Charles II granted them a charter to establish the Royal Society of London for Promoting Natural Knowledge. In 1661 he was appointed Assistant Surveyor of the Royal Works.
In 1665 he went abroad for the only time to visit Paris, missing the worst of the outbreak of plague that ravaged London that summer but was back in the city by March 1666 in time to witness the event that was to make his name immortal. On 2nd September, 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the City of London and Christopher was appointed Surveyor-general for rebuilding London and St. Paul’s Cathedral.  His brief included rebuilding more than fifty churches in the city.  St. Paul's took thirty-five years to build. The most dramatic aspect of St. Paul's was its great dome, the second largest dome ever built (the largest was St. Peter's Basilica in Rome).
St Paul's Cathedral
Christopher married Faith Coghill at the Temple Church on 7 December 1669.  The brief marriage to Faith produced two children: Gilbert, born October 1672, who suffered from convulsions, died at about 18 months old and was buried in the chancel of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and Christopher. Christopher was knighted on 14 November 1673. Faith died of smallpox in 1675 and on the 24th February 1677 Christopher married Jane Fitzwilliam. The ceremony was performed by his brother-in-law, Dr William Holder.  Jane bore him a daughter, Jane, and a son, William.
Having unsuccessfully sought election to Parliament in 1667 and again in 1674 he was, in 1685, returned to Parliament as member for Plympton in Devon, receiving also the freedom of the borough. He was returned for Windsor in 1689 and for Weymouth in Dorset in 1701. According to the Ailesbury list he voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant when James II fled the country in 1688.  In 1698 he made mention of his younger son, William who was in some way disabled. He called him 'poor Billy … lost to me and to the world'.
St Paul's was declared complete by Parliament on Christmas Day 1711. Christopher was 80 years old. Other buildings designed by him included the Chelsea Hospital (1692), , The Custom House,  Tom Tower, Oxford (1682) , Hampton Court Palace  and, of course, The Monument. 
"In later years Wren complained to his son that Charles had done him a disservice in making him an architect, and that he would have made a better living in medicine".  London would have been the poorer.
When Sir Christopher died on 25 February 1723 he became the first person to be buried in the new cathedral. His son, Christopher, placed a memorial near his tomb which is covered by a simple slab of black marble. The memorial reads in part Lector, Si Monumentum Requiris, Circumspice. (Reader, if you seek a monument, look around you). 
The Wren Building at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg Virginia was not so named until 1931, named in Sir Christopher's honour. The design was not attributed to him until the 18th Century and the current building, restored in 1928, differs in many ways from the original. 
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Christopher is 28 degrees from Rosa Parks, 24 degrees from Anne Tichborne and 14 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.