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RICS 150

18 SEP 2018

Joseph A. Burrell & John A. Townsend: St Paul’s Cathedral

In the 1970s, chartered surveyors Joseph A. Burrell and John A.Townsend were part of the team engaged to work on the restoration of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

In 1971, the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Peter Studd, launched a £3 million appeal for restoration work, which was to be undertaken over a 7-year period. A ’Quantity Surveyor to the Fabric’ was appointed - to establish a value for the appeal. Traditionally, in earlier times, the ‘Surveyor to the Fabric’ was an Architect.

This role was taken by Joe Burrell, FRICS the senior partner of Burrell, Hayward and Budd, Chartered Quantity Surveyors. John Townsend, FRICS was working for the firm at the time and was assigned to the project.

The firm undertook a survey of the damage to the external elevational stonework, based on a detailed examination of a typical bay and an extrapolation to represent the whole of the exterior. The main bomb damage to the North Transept had been repaired at the time, of course.

The detailed examination also included the many statues and decorative carvings, some of which were thought to have lost up to 12mm of surface detail. The appeal also included the provision of glass doors forming an airlock to the main West doors (to prevent external atmospheric pollution damaging the interior of the building – and the provision of a lift within the spiral staircase up to the Triforium, to provide safer access to the Whispering Gallery and other upper areas of the building. Consideration was also given to creating a new exhibition space at Triforium level.

The Cathedral, in its current form, was built after the destruction of a previous church on the site during the Great Fire of London in 1666. Dr Wren (as he was then) was one of several architects consulted concerning the restoration of the former building, before its destruction – and various plans were prepared. However, no work was commissioned as the Great Fire intervened. 

Soon after the Great Fire, Wren was appointed ‘Deputy Surveyor General and Chief Architect’ for the rebuilding of the city, having previously been appointed as the architect for the reconstruction of St Paul’s. Work began in 1685 but was not completed at the time of Wren’s death in 1723 – the completion was overseen by his deputy, John James, who was eventually appointed to succeed him.