Restoration I

St George’s Bloomsbury, London

St George’s church in Bloomsbury, which is now part of the London Borough of Camden, was designed by the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor and completed in 1730.  It was built as part of the New Churches Act of 1711 when Queen Anne’s Tory government set aside funding for fifty new churches in the environs of London.  Bloomsbury was then outside of the main centres of the metropolis and part of St Giles parish, which struggled to cope with the high number of parishioners.  It occupies an unusual site, and originally had an east-west axis, which was then altered to a north-south axis.

A major programme of restoration began in 2002 and lasted until 2008, at a cost of £9 million.  The project was supported by the World Monuments Fund (Britain) and garnered awards from the Georgian Group and a Natural Stone Award for Craftsmanship.  The restoration saw a return to Hawksmoor’s east-west axis for the nave, and newly modelled ‘beasts’ (two lions and two unicorns) at the base of the spire, completed by the skilled specialist sculptor-mason Tim Crawley.

This restoration had gathered high profile supporters including the TV architectural historian Dan Cruishank, but mention must also be paid to the pioneering work of the late Lord Kennet and his wife Lady Kennet (Wayland and Elizabeth Young).  They established the Hawksmoor Committee and helped save Christ Church Spitalfields, another Hawksmoor church, and set the precedent for placing historic value on Hawksmoor’s work generally.