Copper plate engraving, no attribution.
From book by William Thornton 'The new, complete and universal history, description and survey of London and Westminster London'. Printed for Alex Hogg, [c.1785].
Small foxing roundel in lower image, light foxing along left page border.
32 x 21.5 cm
Old St Paul's Cathedral was the medieval cathedral of the City of London that, until 1666, stood on the site of the present St Paul's Cathedral. Built from 1087 to 1314 and dedicated to Saint Paul, the cathedral was the fourth church on the site at Ludgate Hill. Work on the cathedral began during the reign of William the Conqueror after a fire in 1087 that destroyed much of the city. Work took more than 200 years, and construction was delayed by another fire in 1135. The church was consecrated in 1240 and enlarged again in 1256 and the early 14th century. At its completion in the middle of the 14th century, the cathedral was one of the longest churches in the world and had one of the tallest spires and some of the finest stained glass. The cathedral was already in severe structural decline by the 17th century. Restoration work by Inigo Jones in the 1620s was halted by the English Civil War. Sir Christopher Wren was attempting another restoration in 1666 when the cathedral was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. After demolition of the old structure, the present, domed cathedral was erected on the site, with an English Baroque design by Wren
The Spire Fire
On 4 June 1561 the spire caught fire and crashed through the nave roof. According to a newsheet published days after the fire, the cause was a lightning strike. In 1753, David Henry, a writer for The Gentleman's Magazine, revived a rumour in his Historical description of St. Paul's Cathedral, writing that a plumber had "confessed on his death bed" that he had "left a pan of coals and other fuel in the tower when he went to dinner." Whatever the cause, the subsequent conflagration was hot enough to melt the cathedral's bells and the lead covering the wooden spire "poured down like lava upon the roof", destroying it. This event was taken by both Protestants and Catholics as a sign of God's displeasure at the other faction's actions. Queen Elizabeth contributed towards the cost of repairs and the Bishop of London Edmund Grindal gave £1200, although the spire was never rebuilt. The repair work on the nave roof was sub-standard, and only fifty years after the rebuilding was in a dangerous condition.