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  • hilly 10:06 pm on February 13, 2016
    Tags: , military, ,   

    St George’s Garrison Church presentation at Shooters Hill Local History Group 

    Visitors to St. George’s Garrison Church Sunday opening

    Visitors to St. George’s Garrison Church Sunday opening

    Shooters Hill Local History Group‘s next meeting at Shrewsbury House this Thursday, 18th February at 8.00pm is a presentation about St. George’s Garrison Church. Steve wrote with the details:

    Julie Ricketts, Heritage Project Officer for St George’s Garrison Church, Woolwich will be giving a presentation to the Shooters Hill Local History Group on Thursday 18 February at 8pm at Shrewsbury House, Bushmoor Cresent, Shooters Hill.
    A visitor fee applies.
    Julie will be covering the Garrison Church’s past and present and discussing plans for future events as well as volunteering opportunities.
    All welcome.

    It’ll be interesting to hear about what’s planned for St George’s. They have recently appointed a board of trustees to be responsible for the church and the area of land around it as far as the Second Boer War memorial on the corner with Woolwich New Road. The board will be chaired by Tim Barnes QC, champion of many Greenwich causes: he was chair of the Greenwich Society and the St Alfege’s restoration appeal and is currently also a trustee of the Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice and chair of the Friends of Westcombe Woodlands. Other trustees include the Bishop of Woolwich, the officer Commanding the Woolwich Barracks and Woolwich Common councillor David Gardner.

    Royal Artillery Barracks seen from St George's Chapel

    Royal Artillery Barracks seen from St George’s Chapel

    Now that phase 1 of the restoration of the chapel is complete the team there are thinking about raising money for phase 2. They are keen to replace the wooden doors at the entrance with glass doors so that the interior will be visible to passers-by, and further work is needed on the pulpit and altar as well as the other mosaics. Public access and use of the chapel is important, and from the start of the year it has been open every Sunday from 10.00am to 1.00pm, with help from a team of volunteers, and it is planned to open for longer when the weather improves later in the year.

    Volunteers will be key to the future of St George’s, and Julie will be talking about volunteering opportunities at her presentation on Thursday. It should also include some of the marvellous photographs of the garrison church in it’s heyday. Well worth a visit to Shrewsbury House.

    Detail of the altar at St George's

    Detail of the altar at St George’s

    Memorial to the fallen of Woolwich

    Memorial to the fallen of Woolwich

  • hilly 9:26 pm on November 10, 2015
    Tags: , military,   

    Woolwich remembers 

    Memorial to the fallen of Woolwich in St George's Garrison Church

    Memorial to the fallen of Woolwich in St George’s Garrison Church

    A memorial to recognise the sacrifices of all soldiers based at the Woolwich Barracks, as well as civilians, who died as a result of military activity or conflict will be unveiled at St. George’s Garrison Church tomorrow, 11th November 2015. The names of 10 soldiers and one civilian, including that of Fusilier Lee Rigby, are listed on the memorial plaques.  Lee’s mum,  Lyn Rigby and her family will attend the ceremony.

    The ruin of the Garrison Church seems a very appropriate place for such a memorial, which is mounted in the wall at the right hand side of the peaceful garden. The church also contains other memorial plaques and the  Victoria Cross memorial with its recently restored marvellous mosaic of St George and the Dragon, and the names of all the Royal Artillery personnel who won the Victoria Cross from the Crimean War to the middle of the Second World War.

    Plaque on memorial to the fallen of Woolwich in St George's Garrison Church

    Plaque on memorial to the fallen of Woolwich in St George’s Garrison Church

    Plaque on memorial to the fallen of Woolwich in St George's Garrison Church

    Plaque on memorial to the fallen of Woolwich in St George’s Garrison Church

















    The men commemorated died in conflicts since the end of the Second World War, including Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and the bombing of the Kings Arms in Woolwich by the IRA:

    Warrant Wardmaster James McDuff
    Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
    Died 9th February 1946, aged 51

    Private George Turner
    Royal Norfolk Regiment
    Died 27th June 1952, aged 19

    Fusilier Denis Jacobs
    Attached to the Royal Fusiliers
    (City of London Regiment)
    Died 25th November 1952, aged 25

    Fusilier Stanley Anstead
    The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
    Died 25th November 1952, aged 22

    Gunner Richard Dunne
    The Royal Artillery
    Died 7th November 1974, aged 42

    Alan Horsley
    Died 7th November 1974, aged 20

    Private Christopher Gordon Rayment 
    The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment
    Died 4th August 2004, aged 22

    Fusilier Donal Meade
    The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
    Died 5th September 2005, aged 20

    Lieutenant Tom Tanswell
    The Royal Artillery
    Died 27th October 2006, aged 27

    Lance Corporal Jake Alderton
    The Royal Engineers Regiment
    Died 9th November 2007, aged 22

    Fusilier Lee Rigby
    The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
    Died 22nd May 2013, aged 25

    When I dropped into the Garrison Church on Sunday the lettering on the central white marble memorial stone hadn’t been finished. The missing words are two well-known lines from Robert Laurence Binyon’s poem “For the Fallen”:

    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.

    Memorial to the fallen of Woolwich in St George’s Garrison Church

    Memorial to the fallen of Woolwich in St George’s Garrison Church

  • hilly 9:49 pm on June 20, 2015
    Tags: , military, ,   

    St George’s Chapel Restoration 

    Dr David Carrington and Kalypso Kampani with part of the mosaic restoration

    Dr David Carrington and Kalypso Kampani with part of the mosaic restoration

    Greek mosaic specialist Kalypso Kampani and her team of conservators expect to complete the current phase of mosaic restoration work at St George’s Garrison Church by the middle of July. The marvellous mosaics, which were installed by Antonio Salviati around 1870, include the Venetian glass mosaic of St George and the dragon, part of the Victoria Cross memorial. Kalypso’s team come from historic building repair and restoration specialists, Skillingtons who won the contract for the restoration of the mosaics in late 2014.

    There was standing room only on 9th May in the meeting room at Woolwich Library for the presentation about St George’s Chapel. Julie Ricketts who is the Heritage Project Officer responsible for the St George’s project gave an interesting presentation. She talked about the history of the Garrison Church and showed some old pictures of the church before it was partially destroyed by a V1 flying bomb, with some I hadn’t seen before of the 1500 capacity interior. I was also unaware of the extent to which cast iron was used in the construction of the church: there were cast iron pillars and iron was also used for the roof and balconies structures. Cast iron column capitals can still be seen in the ruin today.

    As well as the Heritage Lottery Fund a lot of other organisations provided funding for the project:

    The Heritage of London Trust Ops. has been working on a restoration project at St. George’s, with funding and assistance from a variety of sources: Ministry of Defence, Royal Artillery, HLF, English Heritage, John Paul Getty Foundation, Community Covenant Fund, Pilgrim Trust, Cory Landfill, Lord Ashcroft, Foyle Foundation and VC and GC Associations.

    Julie’s presentation also gave details of the on-going restoration work and the plans for the future of the chapel.

    Mosaic restoration in progress at St George's Chapel

    Mosaic restoration in progress at St George’s Chapel

    There are two aspects to the first phase of work on the mosaics by Skillingtons’ team. The mortar backing on many of the smaller mosaic panels needs to be replaced. Those panels were removed from the chapel after fixing the mosaic tesserae in place by attaching muslin cloth to them using a glue made out of rabbit skin. Then the mortar between the tesserae is replaced from behind in the workshop, following which the panels are replaced in the chapel. In this phase missing parts of those mosaics are not being renewed; it is hoped this might be done in a future phase if funding is found.

    Missing parts of the St George mosaic are being replaced in situ in the chapel. Missing sections are created, as shown in the photograph above, using new tesserae which are made by a producer in Greece. As well as the mosaic the letters in the marble tablets inscribed with the names of the deceased gunners who won the Victoria Cross from the Crimean War to the middle of WWII are being restored.

    The conservators are concerned about the stability of some other memorial panels in the chapel, especially the alabaster panel shown below which is to the right of the St George mosaic. There has been a request for emergency funding to ensure this panel doesn’t deteriorate further.

    Alabaster panel in St. George's Chapel

    Alabaster panel in St. George’s Chapel

    After the presentations we all walked up the hill to the chapel where the new tensile fabric roof was being attached to the glulam timber-framed arch. The tensile roof was constructed by Fabric Architecture, with Thomas Ford and Partners as the conservation architects for the project. There’s much more detail about the project and photos of the work progressing on the Fabric Architecture website, for example:  the main vaulted roof beams each weigh around 6 tonnes and they sit atop 8 supporting columns weighing around 750kg each.

    It had been expected that the roof would be in place in time for our visit, but completion was delayed by strong winds. Resisting strong winds was an important factor in the design: the structure’s foundations need to be strong enough to prevent the roof being blown away as well as supporting the glulam framework.

    Some of the visitors at St George's Chapel in May

    Some of the visitors at St George’s Chapel in May

    What will happen to St Georges once the work is complete? Whilst the chapel will remain a consecrated place, there are plans to make the space available for community group events and school visits. Current ideas include concerts by the Royal Artillery Band, Greenwich University Big Band and Woolwich Singers and services for local veterans organisations and the Woolwich British Legion.

    In the short term the chapel will be open to the public on the following dates:

    Saturday 27th June – Armed Forces Day
    Saturday 12th September – Ride & Stride
    Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th September – Open House weekend

    Julie is looking for volunteers to help for a couple of hours at the Greenwich great get together/Armed Forces Day festival on the 27th June to “greet members of the public at St. George’s Garrison Church, give out an information leaflet, ask them to sign the Visitors’ Book and shake a collection bucket!” You can sign up for this using an online calendar or by contacting Julie Ricketts by e mail: hpostgeorgeswoolwich@gmail.com or telephone 0754 6265480.

    In the longer term Heritage of London are setting up a friends group to look after future events. Volunteers are sought, for the following areas: Events, Finance, Membership, Education & Outreach, Building & Gardening, Publicity, Media & Communications and Fundraising.If you’re interested contact Julie using the contact details above. St George’s chapel is also on Twitter and on Facebook.

    The restoration of the Garrison Church was originally agreed before the 2012 Olympics, so it’s been a long project, but its looking like it will have been worth the wait. Great Greenwich Get Together/ Armed Forces Day leaflet

  • hilly 10:37 pm on May 5, 2015
    Tags: , military, ,   

    St George’s Chapel Restoration 

    St Georges Chapel Flyer May 2015

    If you have been past the grade II listed St George’s Garrison Church recently, you’ll have noticed that the restoration work is well under way, with the substantial wooden beams that will hold the new tensile fabric roof all in place. The restoration of the marvellous mosaics has also started. Pictures of the restoration have been published on the chapel’s new twitter feed @HpoSe18

    There’s a rare chance at 1.00pm this Saturday, 9th May,  at Woolwich Library to learn more about the restoration and visit the chapel. Julie Ricketts, the Heritage Project Officer for the restoration, sent details:

    Learn about the restoration project at St. George’s Chapel, Woolwich and plans to return it to community use. Find out how your community group can use the venue. Take part in Heritage Open Day and Armed Forces Day. Discover our range of volunteering opportunities.
    Presentations from the architect and mosaic conservator, followed by a visit to the site in Grand Depot Road. Refreshments provided.
    No invitation required, all welcome from 1pm in the Reader Development Room, Woolwich Library. Contact Julie Ricketts, Heritage Project Officer, e-mail hpostgeorgeswoolwich@gmail.com, Tel 0754 6265480 Twitter https://twitter.com/HpoSe18, & on Facebook

    I understand that the plan is to set up a friends group for the chapel and make it available to community groups. Should be an interesting afternoon, I’m really looking forward to learning more about the restoration of the mosaics.

    Remembrance Sunday, St George's Garrison Church Woolwich

    Remembrance Sunday, St George’s Garrison Church Woolwich

    St George shown in the Victoria Cross Memorial mosaic in St George's Garrison Church Woolwich

    St George shown in the Victoria Cross Memorial mosaic in St George’s Garrison Church Woolwich


  • hilly 11:26 am on February 1, 2015
    Tags: , military,   

    Military Rule 

    One of the new signs on the Castlewood footpath

    One of the new signs on the Castlewood footpath

    Clive Barbour, who has been campaigning, successfully, to have the Castlewood footpath reopened has also been checking up on the by-laws mentioned on the new signs put up by the MoD. I’ll let Clive describe what he discovered:

    Your readers will remember that the main reason that the MOD closed the path was because the students from the Sixth Form College in Red Lion Lane were causing a nuisance and leaving rubbish. Well, it turns out that the MOD, courtesy of the Woolwich Military Lands Byelaws, already had all the necessary powers to prevent nuisance and depositing rubbish so there was absolutely no need to deprive us of our footpath for 18 months.
    The Statutory Instrument is well worth a look though and can be accessed here:
    First of all the SI presumes use of the lands by the public in paragraph 2 which provides that “any use of or entry upon the Military Lands by the public shall be subject always to the restrictions, prohibitions and other provisions of these Byelaws.” And most significantly of all it provides that “nothing in these bylaws shall interfere with the lawful exercise by any person of any public right of way”.  I shall be reminding the MOD and the Royal Borough of Greenwich of that in the coming months…
    But we should take notice though that there are some things that it is totally illegal to do upon the Military Lands. These include:
    – engaging in or carrying on any trade or business;
    – engaging in prostitution (surely not on Shooters Hill…!);
    – looking for casual employment, and very interestingly it specifies “whether by way of carrying soldiers’ kits or otherwise howsoever”;
    – loitering or committing a nuisance or behaving in an indecent or unseemly manner (students take note…);
    – engaging in gaming, betting or wagering.
    The curry houses and kebab shops will be very shocked to note that distributing any handbills leaflets and other literature or printed matter on the military lands is an offence. It is also forbidden to assemble any number of persons for the purpose of the public and private meeting of any kind or address such persons when assembled.  I suspect this probably precludes picnics but I am uncertain if two people walking dogs constitutes a meeting.  Readers may wish to take legal advice!
    Other prohibited activities include camping, grazing animals, growing crops, removing timber or wild flower roots, (but interestingly not wildflowers themselves) and fishing.
    We should also note carefully that any person who rides a horse or cycle or drives of horse-drawn on mechanically propelled vehicle must stop if a military policeman in uniform or a War Department Constable in uniform requests “by the holding up of his hand to do so and shall not proceed further until the policeman or constable gives him the signal to proceed”. And should we be rushing off to commit any of these offences then be warned that it is possible for a constable to take us into custody and bring us before the Magistrates’ Court where, if convicted, we would face a fine not exceeding £5 pounds.   Although a more modern footnote to the SI says this now has been updated  to £500 as the fine levels go up periodically.
    The SI also includes a map of the Military Lands which is very interesting to look at as it shows the extent of the land is owned by the Ministry of Defence after the Second World War. These include parts of Red Lion Lane that are now privately owned and what appears to be part of the new Tesco in Woolwich along with the newly built flats complex behind it. There are also lots of references to interesting places I am not sure if they continue to survive in a different guise including the Municipal Gardens, Cambridge Cottages, the Military Families’ hospital, the Shrapnel Barracks, the Nursing Sisters’ Quarters Sportsground Number Five and St John’s Passage.
    And if you wish to have a personal copy of the Byelaws, apparently they can be obtained at the price of one shilling for each copy from Government House, New Road, Woolwich.  I hope someone has told the residents of the Governor’s Place development…

    I’ve included a copy of the map of the Military Lands that Clive mentions below; it’s an interesting historical record of streets that have been erased by all the development in the intervening 56 years.

    Good Luck to Clive in his continuing efforts to protect the path for future walkers.

    Map of Areas of Military Land in "The Woolwich Military Lands Byelaws"

    Map of Areas of Military Land in “The Woolwich Military Lands Byelaws”

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