My first meeting during my visit to London last Wednesday was in Finsbury Square in South Islington, just outside the northern boundary of the City of London. I was done by 5 o’clock and needed to make my way over to St Pancras for a meeting at 6:30 so had a little time to spare as it’s only a short hop on the tube. So I decided to take a slightly longer route back to Old Street tube station via the Barbican and then along Whitecross Street as I’d never been in that part of London before.
Walking up Whitecross Street the view along the road was dominated by an unusual church spire. “There’s only one architect who could have designed that” I thought. “Nicholas Hawksmoor”. I was right. The church in question was Saint Luke’s Old Street. It was designed by John James, but Hawksmoor was responsible for the spire, the west tower and the flanking staircase wings. So now I can say I’ve seen all 6 1/2 of Hawksmoor’s London churches!
The spire is particularly distinctive, a fluted obelisk. Probably unique for an Anglican church, but that’s Hawksmoor for you!
There’s a nice sketch of the spire here.
Originally there was a brass weather vane on top of the spire that local people thought looked like a louse, earning the church the name “Lousy St Luke’s”
The church was consecrated in 1733, but suffered from subsidence due to being built on marshy ground and repairs were already being undertaken in 1734, Damaged during the London Blitz and suffering badly from subsidence the building was declared unsafe in 1959. The roof was removed and the church abandoned. It was derelict for many years but it was restored at the beginning of the 21st Century so today the church building is a music centre operated by the London Symphony Orchestra and known as LSO St Luke’s. It is the home of the LSO’s community and music education programme, LSO Discovery.
The BBC have also filmed some concerts there, including this one by P J Harvey from 2004, not long after it reopened