BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON
RD ANNUAL EDITION
AT THE ROYAL GARRISON
CHURCH OF ST GEORGE
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 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
(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)