Thomas Hardwick’s drawing
of Christchurch in what was
then called Stafford Street
As a young man Thomas Hardwick went to Italy to study architecture, returning with his portfolios full of measured drawings and views of classical buildings. These were to be his pattern books for the rest of his life. When Turner was a young man he was employed by Thomas Hardwick and would have been familiar with Hardwick’s portfolio, so the Italian drawings may have helped to influence Turner’s later paintings. Turner's perfect understanding of how one stone weighs down on the next, and the stability he gives to the most damaged of his ruins, are based on a profound knowledge of structure and not on mere artistic intuition, so he may have learned some of this expertise in Cosway Street.
Thomas Hardwick's drawing of the Dome and his section looking from North to South, are typical of his drawing style and of his building methods. In style the church is classical Italian, with the crypt, on wide brick footings, sleeper walls supporting the floor, the nave with two side aisles and tiered balconies supported on round pillars. Aisle ceilings are flat, while the nave rises to a beautiful, curved plaster ceiling with semicircular side windows along both sides of the clerestory. The ceiling is so exceptional that it has been separately listed from the building.
In 1822 the balcony was filled with tiered seating which blocked off the light from the bottom of the tall side windows. Thus the light from the tops of the windows lit the balcony, while light from the bottom of the windows was directed through curved lunettes into the side aisles below. The shape of these lunettes is outlined by the bracing under the tiered seating. Since the redevelopment in the 1980s these semicircular lunettes above the balcony floor have been cut off by the new gallery floors above and the window heads form part of the balcony lighting.