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2002 articles 1982 articles

'A pleasing example of skill in old age': Sir Christopher Wren and Marlborough House

Arthur Searle

Abstract

THE lease of the site of what was to become Marlborough House was first granted to the Duke of Marlborough by the Crown in 1708. The Duke left the whole matter of the projected town house to his Duchess, so the choice of architect was hers. In her own words: 'I sent for Sir C. Wren and told him I hoped it would be no trouble to him to look after the building I was going to begin. . .' By this time Wren was in his late seventies and anyway much occupied with the control of royal building works in his role as Surveyor-General. He was assisted in many projects, whether for the Crown or others, by his son Christopher, who had entered the Office of Works as Chief Clerk and Clerk Ingrosser in 1702. The younger Christopher was particularly involved with the work at Marlborough House, to the extent that it has been suggested that this was a deliberate attempt on the part of the ageing architect to gain his son credit for the design of a major building, and with it an increased chance of higher office.

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