Christ Church, Spitalfields

This is one of Hawksmoor’s finest churches, built 1714-29 but its construction was plagued by lack of funds. It towered over the poor area of Spitalfields, with many small cottages built for the Huguenot who had fled persecution in France. It was instigated by an Act of Parliament of 1710 which established a Commission to build 50 churches in London and Westminster. It was funded by a duty on coal entering the city of London which was originally levied to fund the rebuilding of St Paul’s and other city churches destroyed by the Great Fire.

But I have long been intrigued as to why the church needed to be so huge, so monumental. It seems to have been making a very powerful statement about faith, or was it about power?

Queen Anne passed a lot of acts which we still benefit from, especially the world’s first copyright act and the lapsing of the Stationers’ Company’s monopoly on printing which led to the establishment of provincial newspapers and within a generation, a massive surge in literacy. All of this is good, but was it pure altruism?

She also had to deal with the battle between High and Low Church politicians, as well as the growing numbers of Non Conformists and Catholics who objected to paying church rates. The presence of a group of foreign Nonconformists – though their skills and industry were good for the nation, also undermined support for the national church.

She passed the Occasional Conformity Act in 1711 also known as “An Act for Preserving the Protestant Religion”. It followed several bills aimed at undermining Whig politicians and ensure parliament was in the hands of the Tories.

The Corporation Act of 1661 stated that only Anglicans could hold public office. But following The Restoration of the Monarchy, The Toleration Act of 1689 was passed to allow office holders to take occasional communion in Anglican churches.

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