Penrose Architectural Drawings

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Penrose Architectural Drawings

The Drawings of Francis Cranmer Penrose
1852-1897
SPCAA/D/1

Francis Cranmer Penrose (1817-1903) was an architect, classical scholar, founder of the British School in Athens, astronomer, and Surveyor to the Fabric of St Paul's Cathedral for 45 years during the second half of the nineteenth century. Appointed to St. Paul’s in 1852, Penrose played an important role in the Cathedral’s history. He admired Christopher Wren, the building’s architect, and saw his own work as contributing to the completion of Wren’s ‘masterpiece’.
 
The drawings held in the Architectural Archive were created by Penrose in the course of his long tenure at the Cathedral and mark a period of immense change to the decorative embellishment of the interior. These changes were informed by the collective mid-Victorian vision of the Cathedral clergy and they provide a unique record of both the building in the late nineteenth century, and the ingenuity and inventiveness of Penrose himself.
 
Penrose meticulously recorded everything he did, and the Architectural Archives contain over 380 drawings by him and his team of designers and draughtsmen, in addition to transcripts of Annual Reports submitted by Penrose to the Dean and Chapter. Together these records form an important resource for research into the history of the Cathedral and the processes of architectural design, commission and interpretation.
 
The main focus in  Penrose' early years as surveyor was to improve the Cathedral interior, both in its aesthetic quality, and in quality of usage. His removal of the quire screen which once separated the chancel from the nave, and the redesign of the quire by installing choir stalls, seats and desks, and the repositioning of the organ meant the liturgical use of the cathedral was changed dramatically.
He also experimented with new decorative designs for the dome, investigated and fixed signs of deterioration, and opened up the area underneath for worship. He also brought the cathedral’s crypt into use, installing the mosaic flooring and the tomb for the Duke of Wellington.
 
Some of Penrose’s other most famous contributions to the Cathedral as we see it today include the new placement of the Wellington monument, and the installation of the font and pavement in the south chapel. He also conducted what could be considered experimental and innovative work including the instalation of gates on the west steps controlled by a hydraulic mechanism, and mirrors in the cathedral dome to reflect light and make it brighter.
 
It is thanks to his archaeological investigations that the east end of the old cathedral, the site of Paul’s Cross in the churchyard and the remains of the fourteenth century Chapter House, were discovered.  Penrose was thought to have used Wren’s original drawings, a 1658 engraving by the engraver Wenceslaus Hollar, combined with his own conclusions, to produce a plan of the structure that burnt down in the fire of 1666. His original plan is still used today, and much of the archaeological material, including the stonework fragments from the pre-Fire cathedral, is retained within the cathedral collections.
 
Penrose retired from St. Pauls in 1897, at the age of 80, and died in early 1903, at the age of 86. His drawings were catalogued in 2009 with the assistance of a grant from the Delmas Foundation and descriptions can be found on the Cathedral’s online catalogue.