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

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

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: 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

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, Tel 0754 6265480 Twitter, & 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


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”

The Bandmaster of Bonnie Blink

Drawing of proposed new portico for Bonnie Blink
Drawing of proposed new portico for Bonnie Blink

With the departure on Sunday of the Royal Artillery Band from Woolwich , their home since 1762, it was strangely fortuitous that I came across a file last week in the London Metropolitan Archives which led me to the story of possibly the band’s greatest bandmaster, Cavaliere Ladislao Zavertal.

It was my first visit to the archives, and after being issued with my History Card, I checked through the catalogue for local information. I was immediately intrigued by an entry about Bonnie Blink at 67 Eglinton Hill, and it was the first file I ordered from the archive. Who was Bonnie Blink, I wondered? An actress, perhaps, or a lady of ill repute? It turned out to be the name of a large house at 67 Eglinton Hill (also then known as 255 Eglinton Road), the home of Cavaliere Zavertal, and the file contained the documents for his planning application in 1897 to build a portico onto the front of his house.

Side view of proposed new portico for Bonnie Blink
Side view of proposed new portico for Bonnie Blink

Amongst the contents of the file are a large sheet of drawings and plans detailing the proposed new portico, including the side and front views of how Bonnie Blink would look after the work was complete, shown above. This sheet also has a map showing the surrounding properties at that time: most of today’s houses hadn’t been built. Further down the hill were just the three houses that are now 53 – 57 Eglinton Hill, next door to a nursery – Dallin Road had not yet been created. Next door up the hill,  labelled 257 Eglinton Road, was a large house on a wide plot set well back on Mayplace Lane. Interestingly the next houses further up the hill are labelled Portland Terrace, and make up the handsome Victorian terrace that now starts at number 79 Eglinton Hill.

The file also contains a delicate, decaying plan entitled “Freehold Land at Shooters Hill Kent for sale by auction by Mr Whittingham at the Town Hall Woolwich on Friday 7th April 1865 at 6 for 7 O’Clock.” This shows the boundaries of the numbered plots of land in Eglinton Hill, Brent Road and Cantwell Road to be auctioned, together with a set of “Stipulations”: for example: minimum vales of properties to be built on the plots; prohibition on carrying out the trade of innkeeper or victualler or retailers of wines, spirits or beer; and, unfortunately for Cavaliere Zavertal, a ban on any part of a property being erected within 20ft of the road. His proposed portico fell foul of this covenant and his application was rejected.

Ladislao  Zavertal was born in 1849  in Milan into a musical family: his parents and uncle were musicians of repute. He started his career as a composer and conductor in Milan, and then moved to Glasgow where he conducted the Glasgow Orchestral Society, Hillhead Musical Association and the Pollokshields Musical Association and was Special Instructor to the Glasgow-based Band of the North Devon Regiment. Perhaps it was while living in Glasgow that he came across the house name Bonnie Blink, meaning Beautiful View. In 1881 he applied for the vacant position of Bandmaster of the Royal Artillery Band and was appointed to the position on 10th December that year.

Wikimedia Commons image of Ladislao Zavertal by Jan Vilímek

Zavertal moved to Woolwich, where he presided over the “halcyon days” of the Royal Artillery band according to wikipedia:

The halcyon days of the Band, and particularly of the Orchestra, began in 1881 under the baton of the eminent Moravian conductor, and composer, Ladislao Zavertal. His reputation had preceded him, and audiences swelled quickly at his Woolwich concerts, which included appearances by many distinguished guests, leading to frequent state banquet performances, by royal command of Queen Victoria. The audiences often included such devoted luminaries as Sir Edward German, Antonín Dvo?ák, and Sir Edward Elgar – the latter drawing inspiration from the Orchestra in some of his own compositions. Dvorak, a personal friend of Zavertal’s visited him at his home in London on many occasions, and sought his advice on scoring for orchestra. His Symphony No. 9 (‘From The New World’) was rehearsed by the Royal Artillery Orchestra at Woolwich under the observation of the composer. Zavertal recommended he re-score the chromatic scale passages, originally designated to the strings, instead, for woodwind … The result impressed Dvorak greatly. The symphony was first performed privately in 1893 to an invited audience in the Royal Artillery Theatre. Zavertal introduced to Britain, music by Smetana (overtures and incidental music from ‘Prodana Nevesta’, and ‘Vitava’). On hearing the band for the first time (at a church parade), Dvorak commented “It sounds like a beautiful organ.”

As well as his achievements as a bandmaster and conductor, Cavaliere Zavertal was a prolific composer, and his skills were recognised with titles and medals from around Europe. He merits a whole chapter of the book Memoirs of the Royal Artillery Band by Henry Farmer who was a Royal Artillery bandsman under Zavertal’s mastership. This book lists Cavaliere Zavertal’s many honours:

Cavaliere Zavertal is now a naturalised British subject, and the senior bandmaster in the service. He received his commission as honorary second lieutenant on the 28th December, 1898, which was followed on the 15th November, 1899, by the full rank.
For his services during the Diamond Jubilee Celebration, Queen Victoria bestowed on him the Jubilee Medal, and in March, 1901, His Majesty King Edward VII. decorated him at Marlborough House with the Royal Victorian Order, appointing him a member of the fifth class. He has also received official recognition from several European monarchs. For doing credit to the Italian art in a foreign country, King Humbert nominated him Cavaliere of the Crown of Italy. His Majesty the King of Greece conferred on him the high honour of the Order of the Redeemer. The late King of Servia appointed him a Knight Companion of the Royal Order of Takova, and the Sultan of Turkey bestowed on him the Commander’s Star of the Osmanieh. Some years ago a further distinction, valuable because of its extreme rarity, was conferred on him when the Society of St. Cecilia of Rome elected him one of its members.
On the 26th June, 1896, the Duke of Cambridge, Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Artillery, visited Woolwich, and decorated Cavaliere Zavertal with the Saxe-Coburg- Ernestine Order of Art and Science, conferred on him by His Royal Highness the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. There was a full parade of the Royal Artillery in garrison in honour of the event, when the Duke of Cambridge read the letter which had been received from the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Cavaliere Zavertal retired as Bandmaster in 1906.

Picture from Memoirs of the Royal Artillery Band by Henry George Farmer
Picture from Memoirs of the Royal Artillery Band by Henry George Farmer

The departure of the Royal Artillery Band from Woolwich after 252 years will be marked by events this weekend

In February the Royal Artillery Band is departing Woolwich to take up permanent residence in Tidworth.  Their departure will be marked with a Farewell Weekend of events.
The outline programme so far is:
8 Feb    Charity Band Concert in aid of local charities. Concert will be in the afternoon in the Woolwich Hall
9 Feb    1345    Band depart RA Barracks and march to General Gordon’s Square
1400    Band performs to guests & public
1420    Presentation of OP Herrick medals to some members of the band by the Mayor of Greenwich
1425    Speeches & presentations to Greenwich Council on behalf of the Regiment.
1430    Band march to Firepower
1435    Band play on No1 Square
1445    Move into Firepower to unveil RA Band display.

And what has become of Bonnie Blink now, more than a century after Cavaliere Zavertal’s proposal for a portico was turned down? As the picture below shows the planning process has not been kind to the house. Gone are the beautiful bays and the elegant arched windows, replaced with small, square UPVC framed double glazing. The only architectural adornment remaining, and common to the house now and the drawing at the top, seems to be the stone finials at each end of the roof. I wonder what Cavaliere Ladislao Zavertal would have thought of how his grand house ended up?

67 Eglinton Hill
67 Eglinton Hill
Rooftop finial at 67 Eglinton Hill
Rooftop finial at 67 Eglinton Hill

Woolwich Great Get Together/Armed Forces Day

Great Get Together Leaflet

The Great Get Together/Armed Forces Day festival will be a sadder event this year following the murder of Lee Rigby just near the Royal Artillery Barracks. However this opportunity for members of the public to show their support for “the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops to Service families and from veterans to cadets” is sure to be well attended. Last time it was held, two years ago, some 15,000 people attended.

The festival is organised by the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Army and runs from 11.00am to 6.00pm on Saturday, 29th June  at the Royal Artillery Barracks. It should be an excellent day, the Armed Forces Day web site lists the events and activities:

On Saturday 29 June the Royal Artillery Barracks will be hosting one of the UK’s largest Armed Forces Day events. The event is combined with the Great Get Together Festival – a large and vibrant community celebration. The array of attractions will include a military and vintage vehicle display zone, historical re-enactments, walk round entertainers, a live music stage, charity and commercial stalls, animal displays, lazer quest, zorbing balls, fairground rides, sports taster sessions and many other things for all ages to see and do. At the heart of the event is a large arena with a thrilling programme of spectacular military displays and marching bands, along with stunt car shows, bird of prey demonstrations, and more. Entry to the event is free. Visitors will be able to park in dedicated parking areas for a small charge. The event is organised by the Royal Borough of Greenwich in partnerhsip with the Army at the Royal Artillery Barracks. When it was last held in 2011 it attracted between around 20,000 people

Amongst the stalls in the marquees will be one from Shrewsbury House who are publicing the many and varied activities that happen at the house, including the fact that they are now licensed to hold civil and marriage ceremonies there.

Royal Artillery Barracks Woolwich
Royal Artillery Barracks Woolwich

Big Curry at Shrewsbury House

2nd Battalion of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment march through Woolwich
2nd Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment march through Woolwich

Shrewsbury House are holding a Big Curry evening in April to raise money for the Army Benevolent Fund, a charity that supports soldiers, former soldiers and their families. The Soldier’s Charity Big Curry has been running for 6 years and is supported by a number of celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver, Brian Turner and Heston Blumenthal. Since it started it has raised £860,000 for the ABF.

Len’s e-mail with details of the Shrewsbury House event said:

Shrewsbury House are holding a charity night for the Army Benevolent Fund, this charity has been going since the early 1900’s and they have been holding charity events all over the Country to raise money for those that need it.

We are restricted to 70 tickets which are on sale at £16.50 pp, this includes Curry, Entertainment, Complimentary drink on arrival and entry into a prize draw. The dress is smart casual and is to be held on Saturday 20th April from 7 pm to 11 pm. We have tried to make this coincide with St George’s Day and will hopefully bring out the best of British and aid and assist our soldiers that need that little bit extra.

If you wish to purchase tickets, either let me know by email or by going into Shrewsbury House.

Sounds like a great evening for a very good cause.

Big Curry at Shrewsbury House Leaflet

2nd Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment march through Woolwich
2nd Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment march through Woolwich

Heraldic Stones

Royal Coat of Arms in a Shooters Hill garden
Royal Coat of Arms in a Shooters Hill garden

Ever since I was shown the stone coat-of-arms (above) hidden in a Shooters Hill garden  I’ve been curious about what it was, where it came from and how it got there.

It looks like a royal coat of arms. The garter inscribed “Honi soit qui mal y pense” surrounding the shield shows that this is the coat of arms of a Knight or Lady of the order of the garter,  and appears on royal coats of arms used in England. There is also, to my eye, a small fragment of a motto scroll under the shield with what could be the O  and part of the M and N of  Dieu et mon droit, which is the motto of English monarchs.

That it is a royal coat of arms has suggested to some people that the stonework originated at Shrewsbury House, which has a royal connection. Princess Charlotte of  Wales, the daughter of the future King George IV,  had lived there from the age of 3 in 1799 possibly until 1804, under the care of her governess Lady Elgin.

This suggestion doesn’t seem quite right to me,  for a couple of reasons. Firstly because pictures of the old Shrewsbury House don’t show the coat of arms, and the style of its architecture doesn’t seem consistent with the style of the stonework. More convincingly though, the details of the heraldic symbols on the shield suggest an earlier date and an association with the first Hanoverian monarchs George I and II rather than George III and IV.

Royal Arms of Great Britain (1714-1801) on Wikimedia Commons
Royal Arms of Great Britain (1714-1801) on Wikimedia Commons
The Coat of Arms in a Shooters Hill garden
The Coat of Arms

The  fourth quarter of the arms is very distinctive to the first Hanoverian monarchs, as wikipedia says:

The Elector of Hanover inherited the throne following the death of Queen Anne under the provisions of the Act of Settlement 1701, becoming King George I. The fourth quarter of the arms was changed to reflect the new King’s domains in Hanover (Brunswick–Lüneburg, surmounted by the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire for the Holy Roman office of Archbannerbearer/Archtreasurer).

There is a hole in the stonework where  the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire would have been; perhaps this indicates that a representation of the crown in a different material was fixed to the arms. The  fleurs-de-lis in the second quarter  are a reminder of the English monarchs’ claim the French throne, going back to King Edward III. The later Georges dropped this claim and removed the fleurs-de-lis from the arms.

This coat of arms was used from 1714–1800 when the union of the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland necessitated a major change. The old Shrewsbury House was built in 1789 when  these arms would have been current, but there isn’t a known royal connection there until the princess in  1799.

If not Shrewsbury House where else could the stonework have come from? Most of the mansions and grand houses of Shooters Hill seem to have been built in Victorian times, in the middle of the 19th century, and where there are photographs there is no sign of the Hanoverian royal coat of arms. I’ve checked pictures of Castlewood House, Falconwood House, Warren Wood, Jackwood and Shrewsbury House and none of them show stonework like that in the image above. Colonel Bagnold mentions a couple of older residences.  One was Broom Hall, built by John Lidgbird in 1733, which he describes as “a handsome Georgian house”,  demolished in 1937. He doesn’t mention a royal connection, and I haven’t found any pictures other than the colonel’s sketch of a set of shutters with John Lidgbird’s initials written in clout nails. Blomefield House, just to the west of Broom Hall, appears to have been in existence in 1720 and got its name from  General Sir T. Blomefield who lived there and was Superintendent of the Royal Gun Factory from 1780. Again no royal connection, and no images of the house. However both these older properties are worth following up as possible sources for the arms.

Our first Hanoverian, George I, is credited  with founding the Artillery in 1716  when he issued a Royal Warrant to set up two permanent field artillery companies of 100 men each based at Tower Place in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, so I wondered whether  the coat of arms could have come from one of the many historic military buildings in Woolwich that have since been demolished. On the 1866 Woolwich OS map there is a Royal Marines Barracks on Frances Street, known as the Red Barracks, then nearby the Cambridge Barracks and also a Royal Engineers Barracks, the Grand Depot Barracks,  between Woolwich New Road and Love Lane where the Tesco monolith now stands. However the dates of these buildings are 19th century, after the first two Georges, and unlikely to include their coat-of-arms.

So no final answers to my questions about the cost-of-arms, yet, but there’s some interesting lines to follow up on.

Unicorn supporter
Unicorn supporter

St George's Garrison Church Restoration

The dragon shown in the Victoria Cross Memorial mosaic in St George's Garrison Church
The dragon shown in the Victoria Cross Memorial mosaic in St George’s Garrison Church

I see work has started on the restoration of the grade II listed St George’s Garrison Church, another “Heritage at Risk” building close to the Olympics shooting and archery venue. Hopefully this will  result in more people being able to see its marvellous mosaics. The organisation responsible for the restoration, Heritage of London Trust Operations, aims to make the church suitable for use as a small scale venue for appropriate events. It “intends to run occasional events at the chapel that will cater for fifty to a hundred people” as well as to provide access for “formal and informal educational visits”. A local friends group of volunteers will be established to help co-ordinate the running of the venue.

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.

APEC Architects' vision of the new apse canopy
APEC Architects’ vision of the new apse canopy

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.

Entrance gates

Proposal:All gates to be removed for X-ray inspection. Any defects are to be repaired before the gates are reinstated.

Undercroft access

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.

Vine mosaic in St George's Garrison Church
Vine mosaic in St George’s Garrison Church