Christchurch Cathedral

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The locations of Hawksmoor and Wren churches and monuments are shrouded in mystique and said to be linked to an intricate pattern of ley lines and sacred geometry criss crossing across London.

Nicholas Hawksmoor was a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren and was involved in a church-building project as part an Act of Parliament of 1711 which required the building of fifty new churches to serve the new populations on the fringes of London. By 1731 when the programme drew to a close, Hawksmoor designed 6 of the 12 completed churches, one of them being the imposing Christ Church Spitalfield.

The great architect of the new London was of course Sir Christopher Wren – astronomer, geometer, Royal Society founder member, MP and architect. He also appears to have been a Freemason. On 18 May 1691, the antiquary and bio­grapher John Aubrey noted: “This day… is a great convention at St Paul’s Church of the fraternity of the adopted masons, where Sir Christopher Wren is to be adopted a brother…”

Working with Wren were two other notables, John Evelyn and the notorious Nicholas Hawksmoor. The latter was nicknamed “the devil’s architect”, and his Masonic credentials are not in doubt. Hawksmoor’s membership was recorded in 1691, when he became Wren’s assistant. Other acknowledged Freemasons include John James, the second surveyor appointed alongside Hawksmoor, and Nathaniel Blackerby, treasurer to the commission building new churches.

To the builders of the new London, the city was to be the New Jerusalem. Rome was in the hands of Catholics, so London must succeed it as the capital of the true faith. This was reinforced by a popular theory that the English were the descendants of the Lost Tribe of Israel, who disappeared into the West after the destruction of the kingdom in 722 BC. Londoner William Blake – who had a tendency to employ Masonic imagery – was merely echoing this idea when he wrote of Jerusalem being “builded here” decades later. This belief was a help to those who believed that Britain should be a global empire, a true successor to Rome, with a temporal and religious capital to match it.

Several concepts were put forward for the new street plan. All of these did away with the warren of tiny streets and alleys and imposed some sort of regularity. Some, such as the plans put forward by cartographer Richard Newcourt, were simple grid patt­erns. But both Wren and Evelyn had more complex ideas, and it has been suggested that Evelyn’s plan bears a marked resemblance to the Sephiroth or Tree of Life from the mystic Cabala, “the best hieroglyph of the known and unknown universe”. Cabalism was a popular topic among esoteric philosophers of the day, with its mathematical and geometric approach, some of which was assimilated into Freemasonry.