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.
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.
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.
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.
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
St George’s Garrison Church will be open for London Open House weekend, despite not appearing in the Open House brochure. Between 10am and 5pm on the 19th and 20th September we’ll be able to see the marvellous mosaics after phase 1 of their restoration and the new tensile fabric roof that protects them. It is planned to have a mini-autumn festival at the church, with food and arts and craft stalls. There is no charge for stalls, if you’d like to take part contact Julie Ricketts, the Heritage Project Officer, on firstname.lastname@example.org. Also contact Julie if you’re interested in helping other Friends of St George’s to show visitors round on either of the two days.
It’s a mystery why the restored church isn’t included in the Open House brochure, especially when an article about the restoration and the new roof appeared in the RIBA journal. The only reason I’ve heard is that they “had too many churches already”.
The weekend of 19th and 20th September looks like being packed with interesting local events. As well as St George’s Garrison Church and London Open House, Shrewsbury House is hosting its own open house on the Saturday, there’s the Woolwich Carnival also on Saturday, Severndroog Castle are holding an autumn festival as part of their Open House on Sunday, and The Walking Time Machine has a Battle of Britain Anniversary Special walk on Sunday. More about all of these below.
Shrewsbury House‘s Open House is free and runs from 12 ’til 4 on Saturday. It includes:
Activities & Presentations by User Groups
Photography, Yoga, Keep Fit, Singing, Fencing, Wine Making, Short Matt Bowls, Tai Chi, Beavers, Jujitsu, Pilates, etc etc Children’s & Family Activities
Toddler & Pre-School activities, Face Painting, Ballet & Street Dance. Live Music & Dance
in the Princess Charlotte Room Bubbly & Cake on the Kent View Balcony
A Pop Up Indulgent Cafe with a View complete with Millinery, Hand Made Jewellery & More Tours of the House
with Spoken Guide by Local Historian
There is also a “What do you want your Shooters Hill to be?” wall chart quiz which sounds interesting.
Woolwich Carnival is on Saturday 19th between midday and 5.00pm. Sounds good from their description:
Inspired by the diverse and active community groups in the Greenwich area the Woolwich Community Carnival Committee are bringing back carnival to Woolwich this summer on Saturday 19th September.
Woolwich Carnival will be a celebration of local culture and community. There will be a parade, costumes, live music, dance, community stalls, food and crafts, steel drums and plenty of good vibes – a great way to bring neighbouring communities together for a day of collective summer festivities.
This year’s theme is Feeling Good – all things that make us happy.
The local highlights of London Open House for me are the Gordon Square walk and talk and the opening of the Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral (formerly Granada Cinema), both on Saturday, and the Severndroog Castle Autumn Festival on Sunday.
Meet: Sat 10.30am next to the big TV screen, General Gordon Square SE18 6HX. First come basis. N D T
A tour and talk looking at the problems and potential of seating in public places, focusing on Gordon Square, Woolwich. A ten minute documentary film will be shown in a nearby venue, made in collaboration with users of Gordon Square.
Gustafson Porter 2011.
An unexpected highlight of Open House a couple of years ago was a walk and talk about the Woolwich Squares. This gave a fascinating insight into the challenges of designing and developing Gordon and Beresford Square and the solutions that were adopted, often with tricky negotiations, such as the late addition of a requirement to have the large screen in Gordon Square. The description of the project to transform the square has some fascinating snippets:
This project aims to transform Woolwich into one of London’s best-connected, most sought-after riverside areas. Developed with the local community, the landscape masterplan draws on the town’s rich architectural and military heritage to create two multi-functional, fully-accessible spaces called ‘Garden’ and ‘Ballroom’, connected by Greens End’s revitalised streetscape.
Gordon Square is a daytime garden which can be layered with different uses, including specialist markets and public events. A scrim of water in its lawned amphitheatre can also be transformed into an ice rink. Beresford Square is a more formal space supporting a daily market. Its east side illuminates with the setting sun and changing patterns of light encourage local residents to linger and meet against the dramatic backdrop of Arsenal Gate.
I’ve never heard the water feature called a “scrim of water” before, and love the thought that it could be turned into an ice rink, though the slope might make it interesting!
The former Granada Cinema at the end of Powis Street, which is now the Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, is a very welcome new addition to Open House this year. It will be open on Saturday between 1.00pm and 5.00pm. Its description in the Open House guide barely does it justice: “Lavish and atmospheric former cinema with interior by Theodore Komisarjevsky, converted to Bingo Hall in 1960s. Grade II* listed.” Komisarjevsky, once a stage designer for the Russian ballet, designed the interior in gothic style and used motifs from European cathedral buildings such as Amiens, Rouen and Lyons in the auditorium, so it doesn’t seem inappropriate that it is now used as a cathedral. I was allowed to have a look round the cathedral last year, some of my photos are here on Flickr, and was very impressed both by the building itself and by the care with which it had been restored. Well worth a visit.
Severndroog Castle is always worth a visit, both for the building itself and the excellent views from the top. For this years Open House the volunteer team are also planning an Autumn Festival, with “singers, musicians and folk or Morris dancers. Also, local food producers, in particular fruit and vegetables or cheese.” The castle will be open on Sunday between 10.30am and 4.30pm, with tours every half hour.
On Sunday it would easily be possible to combine a visit to St George’s Garrison Church and Severndroog Castle with an afternoon guided walk, the Walking Time Machine Battle of Britain Anniversary Special, led by local archaeologist Andy Brockman. Andy’s last guided walk was fascinating, and this one promises to be equally so. It starts at at 2.00pm at the Oxleas Wood Cafe, and is described in the History Mill Facebook group:
To remember the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz the History Mill invites you take take part in a special guided walk to see how in the Autumn of 1940 Shooters Hill and Plumstead prepared to face the Luftwaffe and a possible German Invasion.
Where: Meet at the Oxleas Wood Cafe
When: 2pm Sunday 20 September 2015
Duration: Approximately two hours ending at the Old Mill Pub, Plumstead Common.
The Battle of Britain and the Blitz are part of the mythology of modern Britain but seventy five years ago they were all too real.
In September 1940 the sky above London was criss crossed with the vapour trails of Luftwaffe bombers and British Spitfire and Hurricane fighters while down below the ARP Service, the Home Guard and other civilian services worked with the anti-aircraft and barrage balloon crews to help protect London and its civilian population from the German onslaught.
At the back of everyone’s mind was the fear of a German invasion which could come at any moment and would inflict on London the damage wrought in Madrid and Warsaw.
This special anniversary History Mill timewalk will be led by conflict archaeologist Andy Brockman and will visit the sites associated with that momentous Summer of 1940 on Shooters Hill, including some of the sites seen in the Time Team “Blitzkrieg on Shooters Hill”, and demonstrate how the local landscape was taken over by a Total War, the effects of which we are still seeing today.
Families and well behaved dogs welcome.
Please dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable footwear suitable for a two hour walk on pavements and through local parks.
Free: Donations to the Plumstead Make Merry welcome.
What a great weekend in prospect, I feel exhausted just thinking about how to get round everything. Oh, and I almost forgot that Woodlands Farm has its Autumn Equinox Walk on Sunday at 10.00am too.
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.
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.
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.
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: email@example.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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
The first step of the work, currently underway, is to convert two rooms near the entrance to the chapel into a kitchen and toilet, but the major change is to construct a new cover for the apse, which is where the memorial mosaics are located together with the marble tablets listing the names of Royal Artillery soldiers who were awarded the VC and the war in which they won it. APEC Architects, who prepared the planning documents, considered various options for the new canopy but the final decision was for a free-standing glulam timber-framed arch with a tensile fabric covering as envisioned in the picture below.
Restoration work will take place in slower time than the contruction, which is not surprising as it does include specialist restoration of the mosaics themselves. Another of the planning documents contains photographs and details of the proposed internal restoration work:
Remnants of steel framed glazed roof (damaged in high winds)
Proposal: Remove the damaged roof as it is no longer required. Repairs to brickwork at the top of the walls to be carried out as required.
Victoria Cross memorial mosaic
Proposal: Mosaic to be restored by appropriate specialist
Other memorial mosaics/remnants of glazed roof structure
Proposal: Mosaics to be fully restored by appropriate specialist. Remnants of glazed roof structure to be removed and brickwork repaired as appropriate.
Memorial mosaics/damage to brickwork
Proposal: Mosaics to be fully restored by appropriate specialist. Damaged brickwork to be repaired.
Proposal:All gates to be removed for X-ray inspection. Any defects are to be repaired before the gates are reinstated.
Proposal:The bricked up access to the undercroft space is to be opened up to provide a space for storage. A timber plank door, within a timber frame, is to be installed within the arch. Steel reinforcement is to be in place on the inside face of the timber door for security reasons.
It doesn’t sound like it will all be done in time for the Olympics, though the initial work may be, but at least the process of preserving the ruin and making it more accessible has started.
I was really pleased to read in the Mercury that the Heritage Lottery Fund had awarded a £396000 grant to put a tensile roof (of similar material to the O2 Dome) above the ruins of St George’s Garrison Church to conserve the remains, and to preserve the stunning mosaics that still decorate the walls. And also pleased that it is planned that the site will be fully accessible to the public once the work is complete in just over 2 years time; the detail of these marvellous mosaics should be seen by many more people.
“St George’s Garrison Church – built between 1863-67 to serve the Woolwich Garrison community – was designed in the Lombardi style of stock brick construction with red and blue vitrified detailing, and was decorated internally with mosaics, inlaid marble, and monuments to battles and servicemen fallen in armed conflict. It became the Royal Garrison Church in 1928 after a visit by King George V, however was reduced to a roofless shell after being hit by a V2 Flying bomb in 1944. Subsequently partly demolished to leave only the lower sections of the perimeter walls, the remains of the church now enclose a walled garden that has the feeling of a ‘secret’ garden.
Today, the church remains consecrated and is used for open air services by Service personnel in the Royal Artillery Barracks, and significant decorative interior remains. Notably, this includes the Victoria Cross memorial with a mosaic depicting St George and the Dragon, flanked by marble tablets inscribed with the names of all deceased gunners who won the Victoria Cross from the Crimean War to mid World War II. Ownership, as part of this project, is due to be transferred from the Ministry of Defence to HOLT Op at the start of November.”
I visited the church on one of its rare openings, on London Open House day a few years ago, and was struck by the detailed and colourful mosaics. These include the Victoria Cross Memorials’ St. George and the Dragon, a Peacock and a Phoenix rising from the ashes. An article from Dulwich OnView gave some background on the mosaics:
“Recent research by English Heritage has revealed that the mosaics were added in 1903 by Messrs Burke & Co of Newman Street in London – they include a wonderful peacock, the symbol of the Resurrection, and a phoenix, the symbol of immortality.”
The BBC Inside Out London programme on Monday 7th November at 7.30 will feature an item about the church and the efforts to conserve it.