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Building St Paul's

James W P Campbell


The story of one of London's most famous landmarks and the people who built it


The mighty dome of St Paul’s Cathedral has dominated London’s skyline for centuries. Here is the story of those who built it, and how.

The architect, Sir Christopher Wren, is well known, but what of the contractors and overseers, the quarrymen, stonemasons and carpenters who shaped the materials? James W. P. Campbell has scoured the records to recreate life on a seventeenth-century building site, to explain how some workers were poorly paid while others became millionaires, and to unravel the struggles for control and money that threatened to undermine the whole enterprise.

Campbell’s account reaffirms St Paul’s not only as one man’s masterwork, but as an incredible collaborative achievement.


'A taut study … Campbell provides a wealth of detail about Wren's construction methods … lively and informative'
Daily Telegraph

'Fascinating … enthralling … compulsory reading for students, and anyone who wants to understand how buildings got built'
Building Design

'A colourful picture of the ordinary workers who built London's mighty St Paul's Cathedral'
Family Tree Magazine

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 19.8 x 12.9 cm

Extent: 176 pp

Illustrations: 52

Publication date: 16 January 2020

ISBN: 9780500295502

Contents List

1. A New Dome for London • 2. The Astronomer Architect • 3. Fire and Destruction 4. Models, Designs and Warrants • 5. The Demolition Men • 6. Life in the Office of Works • 7. The Phoenix Rising • 8. Financing the Works • 9. The Wealth of Masons • 10. Carpenters and Scaffolding 11. Getting Materials • 12. Collapsing Vaults and Flying Buttresses • 13. The Race to Finish the Choir • 14. Roofing the Cathedral • 15. Designing the Dome • 16. Catenary Curves and Parabolic Conoids • 17. The Telescope in the Tower • 18. Frauds and Abuses • 19. The Cathedral Completed

About the Author

Dr James Campbell, an architect and art historian, is Seear Fellow in Architecture and History of Art at Queen’s College, Cambridge. His books include The Library: A World History and Brick: A World History, both published by Thames & Hudson.

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