Sir Christopher Wren architect of St Bride's Church

The Wren Talk was established in 2012 as part of the Inspire! Appeal to carry out essential restoration to preserve the spire and ensure the future of St Bride’s.

The Talk, which has become an annual event in the church’s cultural calendar, has celebrated Wren’s many achievements, not only as an architect, but also in the fields of astronomy, mathematics and physics.

Whilst focussing on his many church spires, which still provide the vital glue to the City of London’s skyline, Wren Talks have also discussed contemporary issues, such as transport, infrastructure and the management of the City urban landscape that affects our lives, work and play in the sprawling City and its environs.

Paul Finch, editor of the Architectural Review and former editor of the Architects’ Journal, was instrumental in establishing this annual lecture; we are delighted that he continues to chair the event each year.

Painting Credit: Sir Christopher Wren, by Godfrey Kneller, 1711, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, NPG 113

Archive of Wren Talks

Many of the past talks are available below to watch or listen to online

Sir Terry Farrell gave the inaugural Wren Talk at St Bride's Church in 2012

“From Wrenaissance to Wrengeneration”

The inaugural talk was delivered by leading architect and urbanist Sir Terry Farrell who spoke to a packed St Bride’s of Sir Christopher Wren’s masterplan for London after the Great Fire – which, of course, was never implemented – as well as his plans for various parts of the capital.

Farrell claimed that London is a better city for its lack of a ‘grand plan’ such as that seen in Paris, and Wren’s subsequent contribution to the city, the 56 churches and many other buildings is unsurpassed.

Ken Shuttleworth gave the 2013 Wren Talk

Ken Shuttleworth, founder of Make, delivered the second Wren Talk, when he considered how Wren might view the City if he were alive today; Shuttleworth, who is particularly known for working in and around the City of London, (he is the architect behind the Gherkin and City Hall), commented: “Wren would largely be impressed with the City skyline”.

Peter Rees gave the 2014 Wren Talk

“Rees on Wren”

Peter Rees, Professor of Places and City Planning at The Bartlett School of Planning and former head Planning Officer for the City of London, gave the 2014 Wren Talk.

Simon Thurley gave the 2015 Wren Talk

“Accident or Artifice? Designing a Capital from Wren to Abercrombie”

Simon Thurley, academic and architectural historian, took a broad historical perspective on the planning of London from the Great Fire to the Blitz, asking what the defining characteristics of London’s growth are and how have they contributed to the city we have today.

Adrian Tinniswood Wren Talk 2016

“The Great Fire of London”

Writer and historian Adrian Tinniswood pieced together the human story of the Fire and its aftermath, providing a reconstruction of what happened to schoolchildren, and servants, courtiers and clergymen.


“Celebrated, Forgotten and Remembered: Sir James Thornhill and the Legacy of the Painted Hall”

Wren designed the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, which includes the great Painted Hall, one of the most spectacular and important barqoue interiors in Europe which was conceived and executed by British artist Sir James Thornhill. Dr Anya Matthews is Research Curator for the Painted Hall conservation project.

Eric Parry RA gave the 2019 Wren Talk

“From Spires to Towers – the Politics of the Skyline”

Eric Parry RA, architect, designer, writer, educator and Royal Academician, discussed the historical changes in the politics of the City of London skyline.

Jeremy Melvin gave the 2020 Wren Talk

“Nicholas Barbon – the man who transformed London”

Jeremy Melvin, architectural writer and historian, discussed the life and work of a notorious and influential 17th century Londoner, Nicholas Barbon, who invented fire insurance, advocated free trade and helped transform London.

Professor Tony Traves, LSE London

London after COVID: How fast will the city recover and how might it change?

Professor Tony Travers, Visiting Professor in the LSE Department of Government and Director of LSE London, delivered the tenth annual Wren Talk.

Rory Coonan

Christopher Wren before Architecture: the ‘British Leonardo’ – his impact on physiology, astronomy, engineering, practical inventions and experimental philosophy

Rory Coonan, former director of architecture at the Arts Council of Great Britain, and honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects delivered the eleventh annual Wren Talk.


1666 and all that: Wren, the Great Fire and its global legacies

Professor Elizabeth McKellar, author of The birth of modern London: the development and design of the city, Professor Emerita in Architecture and Design History at the Open University, and president of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, delivered the twelfth annual Wren Talk.