Christopher Wren FRS

Christopher Wren FRS (bef. 1631 - 1723)

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Dr Sir Christopher Wren FRS
Born before in East Knoyle, Wiltshire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married (to ) in Temple Church, City of London, Englandmap
Husband of — married (to ) in St James, Westminster, London, Englandmap [uncertain]
Descendants descendants
Died in London, Middlesex, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 15 Jun 2011
This page has been accessed 2,291 times.

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.

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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. [1] 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. [2]

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. [3] 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. [4] [5]

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, [6]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. [7] 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. [8] William Holder was the rector of Blechingdon and it was there that the Wren family retreated after being evicted from East Knoyle in 1646. [9]

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. [10] He graduated BA in 1650 and MA in 1653 as noted in Cambridge Alumni though he was never a student. [11]

In 1657 Christopher was appointed as professor of astronomy at Gresham College in London. [12] 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" [13] 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. [14] His brief included rebuilding more than fifty churches in the city. [15] 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. [16] 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. [17] Jane bore him a daughter, Jane, and a son, William.[18]

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. [19] 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), [20], The Custom House, [21] Tom Tower, Oxford (1682) [22], Hampton Court Palace [23] and, of course, The Monument. [24]

"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". [25] 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). [26]


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. [27]


  1. BarbieRamsey51 originally shared this to Choate Family Tree on' (edited)
  2. Wikipedia: St Paul's Cathedral
  3. Paternalia or Memoirs of the Family of the Wrens
  4. Baptismal record East Knoyle Christopher son of Christopher (Wren added later) Nov 10th. Note that date is recorded out of order
  5. Has free images of Baptisms of two Christophers at East Knoyle
  6. Wikipedia: Matthew Wren
  7. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Sir Christopher Wren
  8. Wikipedia: William Holder
  9. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Sir Christopher Wren
  10. Cannot find the source for this observation. ODNB entry for Isaac Newton says "In August 1684 Newton received a visit from Edmond Halley, and this intrusion proved to be decisive. In London, Halley had been in a discussion with Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke about the shape of an orbit in an inverse square force field. Clearly Hooke was misled in thinking that he alone had come upon the inverse square relation. Newton had derived it twenty years earlier, and apparently Halley and Wren had done the same more recently"
  11. Cambridge Alumni: Christopher Wren
  12. Wikipedia: Gresham College and the formation of the Royal Society
  13. Paternalia or Memoirs of the Family of the Wrens
  14. History of Parliament online: WREN, Sir Christopher (1632-1723), of Scotland Yard, Whitehall
  15. Wikipedia: List of Christopher Wren churches in London
  16. Marriage record Temple Church, London (Christopher Wrene married Faith Cogg 7 December 1669). Viewed at Ancestry. Text only
  17. Marriage record St James, Westminster Feb 24th 1676 (OS) Sir Christopher Wren and Madam Jane FitsWilliams were married by Dr William Holder sub Dean of the Chapel
  18. Sir Christopher Wren Sir Christopher Wren. Cites: George Edward Cokayne, editor, The Complete Baronetage, 5 volumes (no date (c. 1900); reprint, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1983), volume II, page 105. Accessed 15 June 2013
  19. History of Parliament online: WREN, Sir Christopher (1632-1723), of Scotland Yard, Whitehall
  20. Wikipedia: Royal Hospital Chelsea
  21. Wikipedia: Custom House, City of London,
  22. Wikipedia: Tom Tower
  23. Wikipedia: Hampton Court Palace
  24. Wikipedia: Monument to the Great Fire of London
  25. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Sir Christopher Wren
  26. Merriam-Webster: 10 Latin words to live by

See also

  • page 181, The Wren Society Volume XVIII, Oxford University Press, 1941, Arthur T. Bolton & H. Duncan Hendry editors
  • Elmes, James (1852). Sir Christopher Wren and his times. Chapman & Hall.
  • The Architecture of Wren, Redhedge, 2nd Edition 1988, Kerry Downes page 131
  • The Introduction of Self-Registering Meteorological Instruments, Robert P. Multhauf; United States National Museum Bulletin, 1961.
  • Grattan-Guinness, Ivor; Landmark Writings in Western Mathematics, 1st ed., 2005, pp. 64–65
  • Hart, Vaughan (1995). St Paul's Cathedral: Sir Christopher Wren. Phaedon. ISBN 0-7148-2998-6.
  • "Sir Christopher Wren". The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. Retrieved 30 September 2006.
  • Tinniswood, Adrian (2001). His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514989-0.
  • "Sir Christopher Wren (English architect) : Concurrent projects – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 12 June 2012.

Other sources

  • Only says there is no evidence Sir Christopher has living descendants
  • "Discover the Crypt – St Paul's Cathedral, London, UK". Retrieved 6 September 2009. Got message Not secure.
  • J Wren 1750 Unidentified
  • "Wren, Sir Christopher: Biography from". Retrieved 6 September 2009.
  • "Wiltshire Council – Wiltshire Community History Get Wiltshire History Question Information". 17 May 2003. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  • Tinniswood 2001, p. 184 (Some time earlier, Faith had dropped her wristwatch into a pool of water. It had been sent to Wren in London for it to be repaired. This letter was part of a package.)
  • Tinniswood 2001, p. 239
  • Clare Buchanan (11 April 2013). "Sir Christopher Wren's magnificent home up for sale". Richmond and Twickenham Times (London). Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  • Tinniswood 2001, p. 366
  • Elmes 1852, p. 411
  • London: city guide – Google Books. 2008. ISBN 978-1-74104-712-7. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
  • Sir Christopher Wren: Natural Cause of Beauty
  • Bolton and Hendry, eds., The Wren Society, 20 vols.
  • Jardine 2003, p. 440
  • Westminster Abbey Muniments
  • From re Lutyens: Lutyens' Neo-Georgian work, which he jokingly referred to as his "Wrennaissance Style" (after the great English baroque architect Christopher Wren) is typified by the use of English baroque forms and details.
  • "Manifesto of 1778 issued by The Lodge of Antiquity, formerly The Old Lodge of St Paul, to preserve the Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth" (PDF).
  • Mark Noble, Biographical History of England, [1806] p.327
  • Ward, J. (1740). The lives of the professors of Gresham College.
  • Krieger, Larry S. (2003). The Americans. Rand McNally. ISBN 0-618-37719-0.
  • Escott, John (1996). London. OUP. ISBN 0-19-422801-0.
  • Downes, Kerry (1988). The Architecture of Wren. Redhedge. ISBN 0-9513877-0-7.
  • Campbell, Dr James (2011). Was Sir Christopher Wren a Freemason?. Prestonian Lecture. privately printed.


  • Wren-730 was created by Lanny Wren through the import of lannywren.ged on Jun 2, 2015.

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No known carriers of Christopher's Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA have taken yDNA or mtDNA tests.

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Images: 4
Sir Christopher Wren (portrait by Godfrey Kneller 1711)
Sir Christopher Wren (portrait by Godfrey Kneller 1711)

St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1824
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1824

Chelsea Hospital
Chelsea Hospital

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On 21 Mar 2018 at 01:20 GMT Gillian Thomas wrote:

Hi Lanny, I've added the England Project as manager of Sir Christopher Wren. We would welcome your ongoing involvement with the profile, and would also be delighted if you decided to join the project. Please contact me if you would like to join.

On 14 Mar 2018 at 06:06 GMT Gillian Thomas wrote:

Hi Lanny, I am a leader of the England Project. Project protected profiles like this one, now need to be managed by a project. The England project would be pleased to manage this profile. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss. I'll go ahead in the meantime to request trusted list access. Thanks. Gillian

On 27 Feb 2018 at 10:10 GMT C. Mackinnon wrote:

Wren-730 and Wren-212 appear to represent the same person because: Same man. See G2G debate about birthdate. Married in England.

On 24 Feb 2018 at 17:40 GMT C. Mackinnon wrote:

Is there any source that says he had a second given name let alone that it was Michael? It would have been very unusual. ODNB and HOP don't mention it.

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.

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