Victorian London - Buildings, Monuments and Museums - St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral .... Divine service commences here at three-quarters past 9 in the morning, and a quarter past 3 in the afternoon, the choral parts of which are beautifully performed; and during the hours above mentioned the lower parts of the cathedral and the monuments may be seen free of charge, which at other times are as follows - to the body of the church, 2d. ; to the whispering gallery, the outside stone gallery at the base of the dome, and railed gallery at the top of it, 6d.; to the ball, 1s. 6d. ; to the library, great bell, geometrical staircase, and model room, 1s. ; clock, 2d.; crypt or vaults, 1s. ; Admission, except during the hours of divine service, is obtainable at the north door only.

St. Paul's Cathedral,* (** The first cathedr5t of this name is supposed to have been erected about the year 610.) from its majestic dimensions and great altitude, is the most conspicuous edifice in the metropolis; and from the above circumstances, and the general style of Grecian architecture in which it is composed, it is always mentioned immediately after St. Peter's at Rome. It stands on an eminence, to the north of the river Thames, on the same spot where, in majestic pomp, stood the ancient Gothic cathedral, so excellently delineated by Dugdale and Hollar, and which perished in the memorable conflagration of 1666. Its great restorer, Sir Christopher Wren, was of opinion that there had been a church on this spot in the time of the Romans, which was confirmed by his discovering the foundations of the original presbyterium, or semi-circular chancel; but he exploded the notion of there having been a temple of Diana, as vulgarly supposed. The first stone of the present edifice was laid on the 21st of June, 1675 ; and the last, or highest stone on the top of the lantern, 1710; shortly after which, her majesty Queen Anne, accompanied by both Houses of Parliament, attended divine service in the new cathedral the interior decorations, however, were not completed till 1723. The expense was defrayed by the nation, (principally by a small tax on coals,) and it amounted to about 1,500,000l. sterling. In compliance with the general custom of the Christian world, this edifice is built in the form of a cross, having a noble dome, rising from the intersection of the nave and transept. The west front consists of a grand portico, flanked by capacious towers, and consisting of twelve columns of the Corinthian order below, (within which are the entrances) and eight columns of the Composite order above, supporting a triangular pediment, in which is a large basso-relievo of St. Paul's conversion. On the apex of the pediment is a statue of St. Paul, and to the right and left St. Peter and St. James; these statues are eleven feet high. The choir is terminated by a semicircular recess for the altar, and it displays some fine carving by Grinling Gibbons. Round the dome is a circular gallery, denominated the Whispering Gallery; above which are eight paintings, by Sir James Thornhill, illustrative of the principal events of St. Paul's history. Over the arches of the nave and dome, and in other parts of the buildings, are displayed various flags, the trophies of recent wars ; a few of which were taken at Valenciennes by the Duke of York, but the greater part were captured by our gallant naval admirals, Howe, Nelson, Duncan, and Keith; the flags so gloriously won in the battle of Trafalgar are mostly hung beneath the dome. The monuments and statues which have been erected here within the last forty-two years (the first being that of the illustrious Howard in 1796), in commemoration of those who have bravely fallen in the service of their country, or promoted its best interests by the cultivation of the moral virtues, have greatly increased the attractions of this capacious edifice. Here, immediately under the centre of the dome, in the vaults beneath the pavement, inclosed in a tomb of granite, repose the mortal remains of the hero Nelson, who fell at Trafalgar on the 21st of October 1805. He was interred on the 9th of January 1806, after one of the most splendid naval and military processions (by water from Greenwich and by land from the Admiralty) that was ever witnessed in this kingdom. His brave companion in arms, Admiral Lord Collingwood, was buried near his tomb. Various other illustrious persons have also been deposited in these vaults, particularly its architect, Sir Christopher Wren the eminent painters, Sir Joshua Reynolds, B. West, and Sir Thomas Lawrence, successively presidents of the Royal Academy; J. Barry, J. Opie, H. Fuseli, Esq.; and J. Rennie, engineer. Many of the monuments in the area of the cathedral are extremely fine, but it is impossible to describe them in this sketch; they record the memory of the following personages John Howard the philanthropist, Dr. Johnson, Sir William Jones, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Viscount Nelson, Captain Duff Marquis Cornwallis, Captain John Cooke, Captain Burgess, Captain Faulkner, Captain Miller, Captain Hardinge, Major General Dundas, Captain Westcott, the Generals Crawford and Mackinnon, Major-Generals Mackenzie and Langworth, Lord Rodney, Captains Moss and Riou, Earl Howe, Sir Ralph Abercrombie (an equestrian monument), Sir John Moore, KB., Admiral Lord Collingwood, Sir Isaac Brock. Major-General Hoghton, Sir William Myers, and Major-Gcneral Le Marchant.


The dimensions of St. Paul's from east to west, within the walls, are - - - - - - 510
From north to south, within the doors of the porticos - 282
Its height within, from the centre of the floor to the cross - - - - - - - 340 -
Ditto, from the vaults below - - - - - 404 
The circumference of the dome within is - - - 330
The diameter of the ball - - - - 6
From the ball to the top of time cross - - - 30
The breadth of Site west entrance - - - - 100
The diameter of the columns of the porticos - 4
The height to the top of the west pediment under the figure of St. Paul - - - - - 120
The height of the towers of the west front - - 287
The circumference of the clock-dial - - - .57
The length of the minute-hand - - 8 
The length of the hour-figures - - - 2ft. 2 1/2in.

There are two splendid celebrations annually in this church namely, the Music Meeting, in the months of May, for the relief of the widows and orphans of clergymen; and the assembly of the Parochial Charity Schools, in the months of June. The principal objects of curiosity, independently of the monuments, are, the Vaults, the Whispering and Golden Galleries, the Ball amid Cross, the Library, the Model and Trophy Room, and the Clockwork and great Bell ; the latter weighs 11,4 70lbs.* (*The highest or last stone on the top of the lanthorn was laid by Mr. Christopher Wren, the son of the great architect, in the year 1710; and thus was this noble fabric, lofty enough to be discerned at sea eastward and at Windsor to the west, begun and completed in the space of thirty-five years by one architect, the great Sir Christopher Wren; one principal mason, Mr. Strong; and under one Bishop of London, Dr. Henry Compton; whereas St. Peter's at Rome, the only structure that can come its competition with it, continued one hundred and fifty-flve years in building, under twelve successive architects, assisted by the police and interests of the Roman see.)  The prospects from the upper gallery are extremely interesting. From this height the metropolis and its busy multitudes assume the mimic appearances of a fantoccini; and the spectator removed, as it were, out of his usual sphere of natural sympathy, and contemplating the bustle of the diminutive throng below, involuntarily asks himself, "About what are those little inconsequential animals engaged ?"

source: Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

... The ascent to the ball is by 616 steps, of which the first 260 are easy, and well lighted. Here the Whispering Gallery will give you breath ; but the rest of the ascent is a dirty and somewhat fatiguing task. Clock Room . -In the south-western tower is the clock, and the great bell on which it strikes. The length of the minute- hand of the clock is 8 feet, and its weight 75 lbs.; the length of the hour-hand is 5 feet 5 inches, and its weight 44 lbs. The diameter of the bell is about 10 feet, and its weight is generally stated at 4 1/4 tons. It is inscribed, "Richard Phelps made me, 1716, and is never used except for the striking of the hour, and for tolling at the deaths and funerals of any of the royal family, the Bishops of London, the Deans of St. Paul's, and, should he die in his mayoralty, the Lord Mayor. The larger part of the metal of which it is made formed "Great Tom of Westminster, once in the Clock Tower at Westminster. The Library is not very valuable. The Model Room contains, in a shamefully dirty mutilated state, Wren's first and favourite plan for the rebuilding of the Cathedral. This is quite a study, and additionally interesting, as it shows how well Wren was aware of the difficulties he had to contend with in his art, and how completely he had foreseen the minor objections raised to the minute details of particular parts of the present building. The dome, however, of the present Cathedral is surely finer than any part of the rejected model? The Whispering Gallery is so called, because the slightest whisper is transmitted from one side of the gallery to the other with great rapidity and distinctness. The Stone Gallery is an outer gallery, and affords a fine view of London on a clear day. The Inner Golden Gallery is at the apex of the cupola and base of the lantern. The Outer Golden Gallery is at the apex of the dome. Here you may have a noble view of London if you will ascend early in the morning, and on a clear day. The Ball and Cross stand on a cone between the cupola and dome. The construction is very interesting, and will well repay attention. The ball is in diameter 6 feet 2 inches, and will contain eight persons, "without, it is said, "particular inconvenience. This, however, may well be doubted. The weight of the ball is stated to be 5600 lbs., and that of the cross (to which there is no entrance) 3360 lbs. 

source: Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

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St. Paul's Cathedral, the most conspicuous building in the metropolis, is also the largest Protestant church in the world. Tradition has it that the original building was erected in the second-century, that it was destroyed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, rebuilt subsequently and desecrated by the Saxons, who held impious revelry within its walls. William the Conqueror gave a charter which conferred the property in perpetuity upon the cathedral, and solemnly cursed all persons who should attempt to diminish the property. In 1083, and again 1137, St. Paul's suffered from fire and in the Great Fire the cathedral was totally destroyed. In 1673 Sir Christopher Wren was employed to build a new edifice, and years later the present St. Paul was completed. Looked at from the outside the cathedral is truly imposing. The upper portion of a composite order of architecture; the lower one Corinthian. Built in the form of a cross, an immense dome rises on eight arches over the centre. Over the dome is a gallery, and above the gallery is the ball and the gilded cross, the top of which is 404 feet from the pavement beneath. The most attractive view of the cathedral is obtained from the west front, in Ludgate-hill, whence admission is to be gained after ascending a flight of stone steps. The west front opens at once into the nave. Immediately on right is a recess, not unlike the private chapels in Westminster-Abbey, containing a monument to the great Duke of Wellington. A figure representing Arthur Wellesley lies under a canopy of bronze, and the names of his many victories are sculptured below. On the other side of the nave, to the left, is a military memorial; the colours of the 58th Regiment hang over it, and a marble bas relief in commemoration of the members of the Cavalry Brigade who fell in the Crimea. A little farther on are two brass tablets, one on each side of the black doors, which are sacred to the memory of the two Viscounts Melbourne. These tablets bear the details of the loss of H.M.S. Captain, September 7, 1870. An illustration of the ship is engraved on the brass, and the names of the officers and men who perished with her. Although there is no dearth of "storied urn and animated bust" in St. Paul's, it must be confessed that the general impression produced by the inside of the cathedral is a gloomy one. The interior is almost conspicuous in its dearth of stained glass, and the few frescoes which decorate the supporting arches of the dome only serve to illustrate the poverty of the cathedral in artistic effort. It is impossible, too, to forget that St. Paul's is a show, despite the notices displayed everywhere which beseech the visitor to remember the sacred character of the edifice. Nothing of any passing interest is to be seen in the nave, but the active visitor may, after paying a fee of 6d., ascend a winding staircase to the whispering gallery, which runs round the base of the dome. As this is perfectly circular, a whisper may be heard round the wall from one side to the other, and an intelligent attendant will explain certain experiences of his own anent this curiosity in architecture. On a level with the whispering gallery will be found the clock and the canon's library. The latter is not particularly interesting, but the clock is worth a visit, though we do not advise persons with delicate ears to approach it about the time of its striking the hour. Above is a stone gallery, whence, if the day be clear, a fair view of London and the Thames may be obtained; but if the visitor be still more ambitious, he may ascend more winding stairs, and reach the golden gallery far away above the dome. Thence upwards he may climb more steps until he reach the ball, an expedition which maybe undertaken once in youth, but hardly ever again. The ball is hollow, is large enough to hold several people, and a visit to it entails the payment of another fee. As fine a view, however, as is necessary for ordinary people may be obtained from the golden gallery, which is, by-the-way, no inconsiderable journey from the nave. Another fee of sixpence will admit the visitor to the crypt, which lies underneath the nave and chapel. Behind an iron railing, which, however, may be entered, stands a porphyry sarcophagus, in which are the mortal remains of the Duke of Wellington. Farther on is the sarcophagus containing the body of Nelson, and this lies exactly under the dome. To the left of Nelson is Collingwood, and to the right is Cornwallis. At the end of the crypt is the funeral car on which Wellington's coffin was carried to its last resting-place. The car is made of the cannon taken by the Duke from the French, and cost some £13,000 to construct. Just outside the railing is a granite tomb, under which is buried Picton, who fell at Waterloo, and on the south side of the altar is the painters' corner. Here are buried Dance, West, Wren, Sir T. Lawrence, Turner, James Barry, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Opie, J. Dawe, Fuseli, Rennie, Cockerell, and, Sir Edwin Landseer. Services are held daily in the cathedral, to which the public are ad. muted; but during these hours no one is allowed to visit the sights. NEAREST Railway Stations, Mansion House or Blackfriars (Dist.), and Ludgate-hill (L. C. & D.); Omnibus Routes, Newgate-street, Ludgate-hill, and Aldersgate-st; Cab Rank, St. Paul's Churchyard

source: Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

Now I want you to pay a visit with me to ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL. As we walk through the streets, we continually catch glimpses of the noble building. But though no good general view of it can be obtained from the ground, we will go nearer, and see how old Father Time has been employed on its surface. We gaze up at it, noting its weather-worn appearance: the stains of dark grey, the rich touches of black, and the lighter greys mixed irregularly together, add to its beauty and grandeur. We notice at the top of the granite steps the noble portico of twelve columns, with eight, in pairs, above them. Inside the pediment, or triangular space above time columns, is a representation of St. Paul's conversion. In the centre, at the top of the pediment, is a statue of St. Paul: one of St. Peter stands on his right, and St. James on his left. Around the towers are figures of the other apostles. The left tower contains a fine peal of bells, and the right tower the clock.
    We walk round and come to the south door, over which we notice the motto, 'RESURGAM.' This motto was suggested to Sir Christopher Wren under peculiar circumstances. Wanting to mark the exact spot over which the centre of the dome should rise, he called to a workman for a piece of stone. A piece of an old tombstone was brought, on which was engraved this one word of Latin. Taking its meaning, 'I shall rise again,' lie thought the word most appropriate for the motto of the cathedral church which was to rise grandly from the ruins of burnt London.
    Old St. Paul's was the idol of Londoners; but, like the temple in the time of our Saviour, it had become a meeting-place and lounge for the citizens. Wickedness of all kinds abounded within its walls; and, during the civil war, horses were stabled inside, and so much injury was done that it was found necessary to thoroughly restore it. In 1666 the Great Fire laid the old church low, and heft it a mere mass of ruins. The task of rebuilding it was committed to that grand architect, Dr. - afterwards Sir - Christopher Wren, to whom the City of London owes so much. During thirty-five years the noble cathedral which we now see was in course of erection. The first stone was laid in June, 1675; and though the building was sufficiently advanced for service to be held in it in December, 1697, it was not till 1710- forty-four years after the destruction of its predecessor - that the topstone was placed over the cupola, and the great church completed. During these long years Wren's annual salary was only £200. But he enjoyed an artist's best reward in seeing his noble conceptions carried into lasting shape; amid it was his delight, to the very close of his life, to be taken once a year to revisit his grand work.
    We will now enter the building. As the door closes behind us, it shuts out all the rush and noise of the city; and though there are many people here, yet the silence is very solemn. The service has just commenced; so we seat ourselves to listen to the shrill and harmonious voices of the choir as their singing mingles with the grand tones of the organ, filling the building with its music, and leading our thoughts to the time when, we hope, we and all our young readers will join in the music of the skies. After the service we take a peep at the choir. The organ, which used to stand over time entrance, is now divided into three parts: the swell and choir organ on the south; the solo and great organ on the north; and the pedal organ under one of the arches. Some of the finest carvings in the world adorn this part of the building. At time end of the choir are three stained windows, representing the Crucifixion, the Agony, and the Ascension. At the south entrance to time choir is the first statue placed in the cathedral. It is that of the noble and great philanthropist, John Howard. Dr. Johnson's statue is at the north entrance to the choir. Amongst the numerous monuments we more particularly notice those of Sir Henry Lawrence, Turner, Lord Nelson, Sir Astley Cooper, and Sir John Moore, the brass tablets in memory of the officers and seamen of H.M.S. Captain, amid the statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds.
    We now go down to the crypt, and, of course, the first thing we want to see is the tomb of Sir C. Wren. It is a plain slab, bearing this inscription:


Near his tomb lie the remains of some of our most celebrated artists - Reynolds, Barry, Opie, West, Landseer, amid Foley. And in the enclosed portion of the crypt we find the tombs of the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson. The funeral car, on which the body of the Duke of Wellington was carried to the cathedral, is next shown to us. It was cast from guns taken in his various battles.
    After visiting the library, the clock, and the whispering gallery - from which we get a good view of the paintings in the dome - we grope our way up the circular stairs, and at length emerge into the light. We are at the top of the cupola, with the bail and the cross above us, and London is spread out before us. Let us look for places of interest. Yonder is the Crystal Palace, glittering in the sunlight. There are St. Thonmas's Hospital, the Houses of Parliament, the Embankment, time Strand, Fleet Street, the Post Office, the Royal Exchange; and there we can just see a small portion of City Road Chapel. The Thames towards Greenwich is hidden by the mist that has settled upon it just beyond the Tower. A dull, buzzing sound reaches us as we watch time busy multitudes in the streets. See how quickly that boy with time parcel under his arm is making his way down the street. And there is our well-known blind friend, using his stick as lie slowly creeps along. We could almost fancy we hear his well-known cry, Buy the boot-laces.' Yes, there they go, old and young, rich and poor, strong and weak. How many, we wonder, amidst their business, are laying up for themselves 'treasure in heaven?'
   We linger awhile gazing on the view around us, amid then descend. Passing towards the front doors, we stop to look at the rent and torn flags of the Household Cavalry and the Coldstream Guards. The names of Waterloo, Inkermann, and Sebastopol, cause us to think of the many desperate struggles that have taken place around them. Yes! we are proud of the bravery of our soldiers, and we delight to have their pierced flags and their monuments in our public places. But we are none the less proud of our peaceful heroes. We hope the great monument of Sir Christopher Wren will stand for ages, teaching by its motto, Resurgam, that we, too, 'shall rise again.'

source: Uncle Jonathan, Walks in and Around London, 1895 (3 ed.)


This noble Cathedral is the third largest church in Christendom, being only surpassed he St. Peter's at Rome and the Cathedral at Milan. The old Cathedral was burnt in 1666, and the fist stone of the one designed by Sir Christopher Wren was laid in 1675, divine service being celebrated twenty-two years later. The great architect is buried in the east end of the crypt. The building cost, according to Milman, £736,750, and not only was it virtually completed by one architect and under one bishop, but the same master-builder who laid the first stone also laid that crowning the cupola. The great dome is 112 feet in diameter, 27 feet less than that oI St. Peter's. The Cathedral is 500 feet in length, and the height to the top of the cross from the road is 370 feet.

source: The Queen's London, 1896


Sir Christopher Wren's first thought was to build St. Paul's Cathedral in the shape of a Greek cross, but the great architect was overruled, and the present long nave and choir are the result. The Cathedral is 500 feet long, and 118 feet broad. From the point of view at which our picture is taken, the edifice looks somewhat bare, but this defect is being gradually remedied. The lower part of the dome is visible, and beyond, at the end of the choir, the altar and the marble reredos are to be seen. Beneath the central arch of the north aisle (on the left) is the monument to the Duke of Wellington, and opposite the door of the south transept, in the passage to the nave, is the memorial of Lord Nelson.

source: The Queen's London, 1896


 St. Paul's Cathedral, after St. Peter's at Rome and Milan Cathedral the third largest Christian church in the world, was erected on the site of the old Gothic fane (destroyed in the Great Fire) by Sir Christopher Wren, on whose memorial tablet in the Cathedral are the noble words, "Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice".  The Choir possesses a fine dignity. The stalls on either side are the work of Grinling Gibbons, Beyond is the striking Reredos, of Parian marble, unveiled in 1888. The sculptures by  Guellemin illustrate incidents in the life of Christ, and above the pediment are figures of the Virgin and Child, the Risen Lord, and St. Peter and St. Paul. The vaulting and walls of the Choir are being decorated with mosaics after the designs of Mr. W. B. Richmond R. A.

source: The Queen's London, 1896


Seen from across the river, the dome and western towers of St. Paul's Cathedral loom larger than ever, and beside the magnificent proportions of Wren's masterpiece, the spires of neighbouring City churches fade into insignificance. Bankside, from which our view is taken, is, though much altered, a very old part of London, on the Surrey side, between Blackfriars and Southwark Bridges Across the heavily-laden barges, which are always plentiful at this part of the Thames, St. Paul's steamboat pier may be distinguished from the closely huddled wharves that hide the body of the Cathedral. These wharves are not without an element of the picturesque in their irregularity and confusion of outline, and they afford striking evidence, of course, of the busy trade carried on hereabouts.

source: The Queen's London, 1896


Our panoramic views from St Paul's Cathedral are taken from the Golden Gallery, above the dome. The portico of the General Post Office is easily recognised in the foreground, with the Administrative and Telegraph offices across St. Martins-le-Grand, at the corner of Newgate Street. Behind the Post Office (on the right) is seen the square roof of the Goldsmith's Hall. Near the middle of the view, marked be a flag-staff, is the characteristic tower of St. Giles', Cripplegate, where Milton, Foxe, and Frobisher are buried, and Oliver Cromwell was married. To the north-east ct the Goldsmiths' Hall is the Gothic tower of St Alban's, Wood Street, and still further on, towards Finsbury Square, is that of St. Bartholomew's, Moor Lane.

source: The Queen's London, 1896


In the foreground of this picture appears Paternoster Row, with Stationers' Hall Court. Then (on the left) comes the tower of the Memorial Hall in Farringdon Street, with the Inns of Court Hotel further on, in the dim distance, backed by the dome of the British Museum Reading Room. To the right of our view the lofty buildings on Holborn Viaduct are noticeable-the Imperial and Holborn Viaduct Hotels; then the cupola of the City Temple, and, a little to the left of it, the square, pinnacled tower of St. Andrew's, Holborn. Nearer the centre is the First Avenue Hotel; while on the right, against the background formed by the northern heights of London, are the twin towers of Regent Square Presbyterian Church and St. Pancras Station and Hotel.

source: The Queen's London, 1896


Looking south-west from St. Paul's, one sees the tower of St. Anne's, Blackfriars, in Queen Victoria Street; just behind it, the inclined roof of St. Paul's railway station, with the London, Chatham, and Dover railway bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, and, in the mid-distance, Waterloo Bridge. At the beginning of the Victoria Embankment the curved front of the Royal Hotel stands out prominently; the next buildings visible on the Middlesex bank are, in succession, the South-Eastern railway terminus, the Northumberland Avenue hotels, the National Liberal Club block, the lofty towers of the Houses of Parliament, and the twin towers of Westminster Abbey. On the Surrey side are numerous factories, two shot towers, and in the distance, on the left, the spire of Christ Church, Westminster Bridge Road.

source: The Queen's London, 1896