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St Georges
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St Georges

The dedication of this fashionable London church and the name of the nearby square are trumpetings of King George I, the first monarch of the House of Hanover. A great ornament of his court, George Frederick Handel, the famous composer, was a parishioner here from 1724 to 1759. Handels house still stands in Brook Street (next door, incongruously, to that of Jimi Hendrix). Handel was in very grand company, for the first Vestry (or parochial council) of St Georges in 1725 included no fewer than seven dukes and fourteen earls. Some of their names appear on the gallery fronts to mark their service as churchwardens.

St Georges

The interior, seen from gallery level, preserves its Georgian ensemble but incorporates such later alterations as the black and white marble flooring.

St Georges was built in 1721-5 to the designs of John James as one of the Fifty New Churches. James is generally regarded as a competent but less original architect than his contemporaries, such as Hawksmoor and Gibbs, and this church is sometimes given faint praise as a result.

St Georges

The organ in the west gallery was first built in 1725 by Gerald Smith, with Handels advice. It was last rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison in 1972.

This is perhaps a little unfair, as the Commissioners of the 1711 Act had ordered James to keep the cost to £10,000. Given that this sum was only a quarter of the total spent on St Jonhs, Smith Square, James could not be expensive. Nevertheless, his treatment of that perennial problem of 18th-century church design, the west end, is successful here. He deployed a hexastyle Corinthian portico one of the first three for a London church to stand forward in St George Street by straddling the pavement, for the west elevation was the only one that was afforded any prominence by the churchs site. He combined the portico with a modest but appropriate tower, which avoids the impression of riding on the roof, as at St Martin-in-the-Fields; and yet it was the example of St Martins that was copied elsewhere. The tower here is similar to Wrens cupola for the Royal Hospital at Chelsea and also to some of the steeples of his City churches. The north elevation, however, which faces Maddox Street, evidently took Hawksmoors ideas as models, and brought an impression of strength to a wall that might have been dull. The east elevation features a substantial Venetian window. The unexpected statues of dogs under the portico (two seated pointers) were brought from a shop in Conduit Street that was bombed in 1940. The obelisks were lamp standards.

St Georges

John Jamess west portico and tower dominate St George Street, seen here facing Hanover Square.

The interior has galleries that are supported on square piers and that carry in turn four-bay arcades on Corinthian columns with gilded capitals. There is a straight entablature and a segmental ceiling. The east end is slightly recessed behind a wide, segmental arch. Sir Arthur Blomfield arranged the choir and laid down the black and white marble floor. His nephew, Reginald Blomfield, introduced the screens north and south of the choir in 1926. The reredos is a wide one, with canted ends, and chiefly features a rather dark painting of the Last Supper by William Kent. The stained glass in the east window and in the gallery east windows has a distinguished history. It is Flemish glass that was made in about 1525 for a Carmelite church in Antwerp by Arnold of Nijmegen; it was later placed in a church at Malines. Thomas Willement adapted it for St Georges in 1840. The glass depicts the Tree of Jesse and was given by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, in thanksgiving for the return of a ship, the Victoria, from Magellans circumnavigation. Willement replaced the image of the Emperor above the figure of Jesse with that of St George. In the original window, God the Father appeared at the top, but the figure was not used here and was taken instead to Wilton Parish Church near Salisbury. The Pulpit is original, but its tester was removed in 1871 and it was lowered in 1894. It stands on six fluted Corinthian columns and boasts fine wrought-iron stairs/

St Georges

One of the east windows, whose glass was originally made for a Carmelite church in Antwerp in 1525 by gift of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

The west gallery houses an organ that was first built by Gerard Smith in 1725. It was last rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison in 1972, and it is housed in a splendid five-towered case. Handel was naturally asked about the suitability of the organ, and devised tests for those who applied to be organist. Imagine being tested by Handel!

St Georges

The gallery fronts are inscribed with the names of past churchwardens. The first Vestry, or parochial council, of 1725, included seven dukes and fourteen earls.

St Georges has been noted for its fashionable weddings since Georgian times. Among those married here were the Duke of Sussex (the sixth son of King George III); Disraeli; the future American President, Theodore Roosevelt, who was described as a ranchman; Joseph Grimaldi the clown; H.H. Asquith, later Prime Minister, whose wedding was attended by three other politicians who served in that office; George Eliot; and Marconi.

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