View previous topic | View next topic

Howdo & Myth & Fortean Times

Page 1 of 1

821210.  Thu Jun 02, 2011 5:46 pm Reply with quote

I'm new to these pages, like most folk I assume, and hope to chat with everyone accordingly. Until then I wanted to post about a thing I heard on a QI episode then later found what I'm about to mention. If anyone has heard the same or wants to say their reply then all is good. What follows I read in a magzince called Fortean Times which I often read and then also on and I trust they are very reliable. The QI episode I saw this on related to geometry and seemed tp further the myth that this debunks.


The myth

When Sir Christopher Wren was designing the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, he envisaged an unsupported ceiling. His patrons, convinced that such a structure would collapse, insisted that he insert some columns. He reluctantly agreed – but years later, maintenance workers discovered that the columns stopped a few inches short of the ceiling. Wren had secretly ensured his posthumous vindication.

The “truth”

There are no columns of any kind in the Sheldonian – so that seems to be the end of that. However, this story is also attached to various other Wren buildings, most notably Windsor Town Hall (aka Windsor Guildhall), a project which Wren saw to completion after its original architect had died. It’s true that Windsor does have four non-supporting columns, but no one has ever managed to find any evidence at all of them causing a dispute between Wren and his employers. One theory is that they started out as supporting columns, but have settled over the centuries, leaving an unintended gap; another is that they are purely decorative.


'The facts and a good story', BBC online, 12 July 2008.
British Society for the History of Mathematics
'Windsor Guildhall', Windsor Berkshire site
'The Guildhall at Windsor', The Royal Windsor website
'Windsor, quirky facts and myths', BBC Berkshire, 19 November 2009.


The same basic story is also told about Brunel and the Maidenhead Bridge, Brunelleschi and Florence Cathedral, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Are any of the versions true? If you can make any of them stand up without scaffolding, please don your hard hat and reflective jacket and report to the letters page.

821221.  Thu Jun 02, 2011 7:12 pm Reply with quote

Hi fojo81, welcome to the forums!

I hope that someone else will be able to explain the question which you raise, but one thing which I can note here. That article from the Fortean Times is taken from its Mythconceptions column, which is written by a gentleman named Mat Coward. As it happens, Mr Coward is also a member of the QI research team.

What did the show say which contradicted the article?

821267.  Fri Jun 03, 2011 6:03 am Reply with quote


I didn't know that the Mythconceptions column and QI shared a connection. Good times. If I remember right there was no contradiction. The subject arose when Greek Columns were mentioned and the names of three types. At this point Wren's Columns were mentioned and what exactly the tour guides said on the matter. It was what the tour guides told tourists that was the main point. The episode seemed to move on after that. I admit that I did miss the rest of the episode so I don't know if they came back to this subject at a later point but the mention reminded me of what I'd seen in Fortean Times.

821395.  Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:15 pm Reply with quote

Welcome fojo81 :-)

821398.  Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:23 pm Reply with quote

Hi; welcome to QI.

821427.  Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:56 pm Reply with quote

Welcome :)

821446.  Fri Jun 03, 2011 11:33 pm Reply with quote

What did the show say which contradicted the article?

I dunno - but the show certainly gave the impression that is outlined in fojo's post.

The same basic story is also told about Brunel and the Maidenhead Bridge, Brunelleschi and Florence Cathedral, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Are any of the versions true?

So any comment from Mr Coward?

821462.  Sat Jun 04, 2011 3:21 am Reply with quote

Bob whether or not YOU saw an implication is surely down to you. It was Rob Brydon who was relating the "what the guide said" story. Stephen actually calls this story a fable then talks about some where else that Wren had an argument as PROBABLY being true .
With everyone talking over everyone else it is hard to make out what Stephen is agreeing too, I can see where Bob gets his implication from but it didn't strike me like that .

No doubt minerva will have it transcribed on her siye or it will be available as a YouTube clip to get the exact words.

and welcome fojo.

Last edited by soup on Sat Jun 04, 2011 4:01 am; edited 1 time in total

821465.  Sat Jun 04, 2011 3:43 am Reply with quote

Welcome, fojo.

822160.  Tue Jun 07, 2011 7:31 am Reply with quote

Thank you for all the welcome messages. Like I said the whole thing reminded me of what I read about the subject in a magazine I buy which was interesting all the same. I hope all is well today :-)

822261.  Tue Jun 07, 2011 1:57 pm Reply with quote

How do, fojo.

Sorry, I'm a bit late with my greeting. Don't know why I haven't said hello before, but... hello!
; )

Spoilt Victorian
822265.  Tue Jun 07, 2011 2:07 pm Reply with quote

*Turns up for the party long after everyone else has left*
"Hi Fojo!"

Prof Wind Up Merchant
822305.  Tue Jun 07, 2011 3:38 pm Reply with quote

Hello fojo81.

I think Alan Davies was klaxoned stating they touched the ceiling.

dr bartolo
822367.  Tue Jun 07, 2011 11:25 pm Reply with quote

Good sir, if I remember correctly, the building in question mentioned on QI Was the haymarket, not the theater in Oxford


Page 1 of 1

All times are GMT - 5 Hours

Display posts from previous:   

Search Search Forums

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group