The Restoration of the Lion and Unicorn Sculptures of St George’s, Bloomsbury
For many years, a masterpiece of English Baroque Architecture had languished forgotten and decaying in Central London. This is the Church of St George’s Bloomsbury, designed by the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor in the early 18th Century.
St George’s, Bloomsbury
Until the last 40 years, Hawksmoor himself was not given the recognition he deserved, but the World Monument Fund in Britain has taken up his cause, and has drawn attention to the plight of St George’s by putting it on its list of 100 most endangered sites. Following a donation of $5 million from the estate of the American benefactor and Anglophile Paul Mellon, and matching funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a much deserved restoration of the entire church has been completed.
The tower and steeple of St George’s is one of Hawkmoor’s most inspired dramatic and theatrical designs. It is based on the Roman author Pliny the Elder’s description of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (Bodrum, in Turkey) One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it was famed for its superb sculptures and friezes, fragments of which are now on display in the British Museum, a stone’s throw away from the church.
Like the famed Mausoleum, St George’s spire is adorned with sculpture, but major elements of it were removed in a restoration of the 1870’s. Gigantic Lions and Unicorns originally clung to the four corners of the steeple.
As part of the restoration, these extraordinary sculptures have been recreated and restored to the building. The Cambridge based Architectural Carvers and Stonemasons, Fairhaven of Anglesey Abbey Ltd (now Fairhaven Stone Ltd), were selected to undertake this unique project, headed by the Sculptor Tim Crawley who in 1998 carved the Modern Martyrs for Westminster Abbey.
Harris Digital Productions was commissioned by the World Monuments Fund in 2004 – 2005 to record the reinstatement of the Lions and Unicorns for St. George’s, Bloomsbury, London.