St George's Bloomsbury
The Restoration of the Lion and Unicorn Sculptures of St George’s, Bloomsbury
This Georgian church was consecrated on 28 January 1730 by Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London. Previously part of the parish of St. Giles in the Fields, this new parish was the result of rapid development in the area during the latter part of the 17th and early part of the 18th centuries. The Commissioners for the Fifty New Churches Act of 1711 appointed Nicholas Hawksmoor, a pupil and former assistant of Sir Christopher Wren, to design and build this church on land purchased from the widow of Lord John Russell.
The grandeur of Hawksmoor’s majestic design has inspired many. The stepped tower, influenced by Pliny’s description of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and topped with the only statue of George I, is depicted in William Hogarth’s well-known engraving “Gin Lane” (1751). The Portico is the most handsome Georgian portico in London based on the Temple of Baalbek in the Lebanon. Charles Dickens used St. George’s as the setting for “The Bloomsbury Christening” in Sketches by Boz. The Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope was baptised here in 1824. Richard Meux Benson, founder of the first Anglican religious order for men, the “Cowley Fathers”, was also baptised in the church. The funeral of Emily Davison, the suffragette who threw herself in front of the King’s horse, took place here in 1913. Emperor Haile Selassi of Ethopia attended a controversial requiem for the dead of the Abyssinian war in 1937.
St. George’s has been a centre of worship and service in Bloomsbury for the past 250 years. It provided a place of refuge during the Gordon riots and has offered through its parochial charities practical, social and educational assistance to the local community.
Today St. George’s continues its mission to Bloomsbury. During the day the church is rarely empty. Tourists visiting the British Museum, local business people, students from the nearby University of London, and passers-by, come for prayer or meditation, to admire the architecture, or simply out of curiosity. Whatever the reason, few leave without having been touched by the holiness that is in this place.