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34

BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON

HISTORIC CHURCHES

23

RD ANNUAL EDITION

MOSAIC CONSERVATION

AT THE ROYAL GARRISON

CHURCH OF ST GEORGE

Kalypso Kampani

T

HE 19TH-CENTURY mosaics

by Antonio Salviati at the Royal

Garrison Church in Woolwich,

London had been deteriorating for many

years. A major conservation project was

undertaken in 2015 to save them.

THE CHURCH

The Royal Garrison Church, also known

as St George’s Chapel, is located on the

Grand Depot Road in Woolwich within

the Royal Artillery Barracks site.

The church, dedicated to St George,

was built in 1863–67 in an early Christian/

Italian Neo-Romanesque style and was

designed by the architect Thomas Henry

Wyatt. The elaborate internal decorations

included 1870s mosaics of Venetian glass

(designed by JR Clayton of Clayton and

Bell and executed by Antonio Salviati,

Burke and Co), stained glass windows in

the nave (also by JR Clayton) and a variety

of decorative stone dressings.

The Italianate church became a royal

garrison church in 1928, but in June 1944

it was hit by a V1 flying bomb which

destroyed its roofs, walls and windows.

Much of the remaining structure had to

be demolished, leaving just the roofless

transept and chancel, with its semi-

circular apse, at the east end of the site,

and the entrance porch at the west end.

After the war a walled public garden

was created within the ruins of the nave.

The apse retains marble memorials to

members of the Royal Artillery who

were awarded the Victoria Cross and

exceptional mosaics of Venetian

smalti

(glass mosaic tiles). The latter include

an excellent representation of St George

and the Dragon, which forms part of the

Victoria Cross Memorial.

Today, the church remains

consecrated and is still used for open-air

services by personnel from the nearby

Royal Artillery Barracks. However,

exposure to the elements, particularly

rain and frost, has resulted in the gradual

deterioration of the building and the

memorial mosaics, which required urgent

conservation and restoration treatments.

The Royal Garrison Church was listed

at Grade II in 1970 and was later placed

on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk

Register due to its poor condition. Heritage

of London Trust Operations (HOLTOP

– a building preservation trust) became

involved in 2008, and took ownership from

Defence Estates three years later.

The trust developed a scheme to

safeguard the surviving mosaics and

increase public access with the advice

of a diverse professional team. The team

included APEC Architects Limited,

who designed a new canopy roof (later

provided by Fabric Architecture) to

span the surviving structure at the

east end of the site, helping to ensure

its future. A package of conservation

Completed in 2015, a new tensile fabric and glulam canopy spans the surviving structure at the east end of the site, helping to ensure its future. (Photo: Chris Mansfield)