WREN, Christopher (1675-1747), of St. James’s Street, Westminster, Mdx. and Wroxall, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. 18 Feb. 1675, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Christopher Wren* by 1st w. educ. Eton c.1686–91; Pembroke, Camb. 1691; M. Temple 1694; travelled abroad (France, ?Italy) 1698, (Holland) 1705. m. (1) 14 May 1706, Mary (d. 1712), da. of Philip Musard of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, jeweller to Q. Anne, 3s. (2 d.v.p.); (2) 8 Nov. 1715 (with £6,000), Constance (d. 1734), da. of Sir Thomas Middleton*, wid. of Sir Roger Burgoyne, 4th Bt., of Wroxall, 1s. suc. fa. 1723.1
Dep.-clerk of works ?1694–?1702; chief clerk of works 1702–16.2
Commr. building 50 new churches 1711–15.3
Freeman, New Windsor 1711.4
Wren lived in the shadow of his father. After an extensive education, he was employed in his father’s office as deputy-clerk of the works, while engaging in other scholarly pursuits such as coin-collecting and latterly compiling a celebration of his father’s work, Parentalia, which was eventually published in 1750 by his own son Stephen. Wren’s parliamentary ambitions were concentrated on New Windsor, where his father was comptroller of the works. He was admitted as a freeman of the borough on 7 May 1711, a mere 11 days before a by-election was due, but any ambitions he had of contesting this election were checked by the weightier claims of Charles Aldworth* and Samuel Masham*. When Masham was elevated to the peerage on 1 Jan. 1712, Wren announced his intention to contest the resulting by-election, only to withdraw in the face of Aldworth’s superior claims to Court backing. It would seem that Wren was looking for an office, for an undated remark by Arthur Maynwaring* to the Duchess of Marlborough revealed Whig prejudice against him: ‘I should be sorry if Mr Wren got any thing he had a mind to, who is a sad little knave.’ The Duchess could not have been pleased early in 1713 when Wren’s father petitioned the Queen on behalf of his son for Sir John Vanbrugh’s position of comptroller of the works (in effect his deputy), Vanburgh being the architect chosen for Blenheim. Wren was able to gain election at New Windsor at the 1713 election, finishing top of the poll. On the Worsley list he was described as a Tory who would often vote Whig, and on another list of the 1713 Parliament, which reclassied Members re-elected in 1715, he was noted as a Tory. His moderate Toryism contrasted with the attitude of his fellow Member, Aldworth, with whom he often seemed at odds.5
Wren was re-elected in 1715, but unseated on petition. He also lost his post in the works office. After these setbacks he appears to have settled down to the life of a country gentleman, living at Wroxall, in a property bought by his father for £19,600 in 1713 from Wren’s future wife’s family (but only after an Act had been secured on the Burgoyne estates in Bedfordshire providing Wren senior with security). He died on 6 Sept. 1747.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. C. Wren, Parentalia, p. ix; Wren Soc. xix. 153; Eton Coll. Reg. 1441–1698, p. 380; IGI, London; Genealogists’ Mag. iv. 2; Add. ch. 16169; J. W. Rylands, Recs. Wroxall Abbey, p. xl.
- 2. Wren, p. ix; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 385; xxx. 485.
- 3. E. G. W. Bill, Q. Anne Churches, p. xxiii.
- 4. Windsor Bor. Recs. i. 125.
- 5. Hearne Colls. ii. 254, 288; x. 326; Berks. RO, Braybrooke mss D/EN/F23/2, Northumberland to Aldworth, 31 Dec. 1711; Add. 61461, f. 115; BL, Trumbull Alphab. mss 51, Thomas Bateman to Sir William Trumbull*, 16 Mar., 13 May 1713.
- 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxx. 485; H. Colvin, Biog. Dict. Brit. Architects, 921; Rylands, pp. xl–xlii, 196–7; HMC Lords, n.s. x. 89–90.