St George's, Bloomsbury

Last updated

St George's, Bloomsbury
Parish Church of Saint George in Bloomsbury
St. George's, Bloomsbury (7568761112).jpg
St George's, Bloomsbury
LocationBloomsbury Way, Bloomsbury, London WC1A 2SA
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Anglo-Catholic
Heritage designationGrade I
Architect(s) Nicholas Hawksmoor
Style Classical
Diocese London
Rector David Peebles
Honorary priest(s) Rene Jarrett
James Walters

St George's, Bloomsbury, is a parish church in Bloomsbury, London Borough of Camden, United Kingdom. It was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and consecrated in 1730. The church crypt houses the Museum of Comedy.



William Hogarth, Gin Lane, with the church tower (centre) William Hogarth - Gin Lane.jpg
William Hogarth, Gin Lane , with the church tower (centre)

The Commissioners for the Fifty New Churches Act of 1711 realised that, due to rapid development in the Bloomsbury area during the latter part of the 17th and early part of the 18th centuries, the area (then part of the parish of St Giles in the Fields) needed to be split off and given a parish church of its own. They appointed Nicholas Hawksmoor, a pupil and former assistant of Sir Christopher Wren, to design and build this church, which he then did between 1716 and 1731. This was the sixth and last of his London churches. St George's was consecrated on 28 January 1730 by Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London. Its construction—which cost £31,000—was completed in 1731.

The Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope was baptised at the church in 1824. The wedding of F. B. Chatterton, manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, took place in 1853. Richard Meux Benson, founder of the first Anglican religious order for men, the Society of St John the Evangelist (also known as the "Cowley Fathers"), was baptised in the church. A funeral service for Emily Davison, the suffragette who died when she was hit by the King's horse during the 1913 Derby, took place that same year. The funeral was officiated by Claude Hinscliff and C. Baumgarten, both part of the Church League for Women's Suffrage. [1] Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia attended a controversial requiem for the dead of the Abyssinian War in 1937.

Until 2006 the church was the subject of major conservation work led by the World Monuments Fund and closed to visitors, with the congregation continuing as normal in its parish life, holding services in a nearby chapel. The building reopened fully from October 2006, including a new exhibition on the church, Hawksmoor and Bloomsbury housed in its undercroft.


Interior St. George's Church, Bloomsbury, London, UK - Diliff.jpg

The land on which the church is built ("Ploughyard") was bought for £1,000 from Lady Russell, widow of the Whig rebel Lord William Russell who had been executed in 1683. [2] This was a substantial sum and its expenditure on a narrow and rectangular plot of land on a north–south axis, hemmed in by buildings on all sides, seemed to fly in the face of the commissioners' 1711 stipulation that "no site ought to be pitched upon for the erecting [of] a new church where the same will not admit the church to be placed East and West".[ citation needed ] Perhaps the orientation of the site was deemed a surmountable obstacle, especially since the site met the needs of the commissioners in that it was situated "amongst the… better sort ... [and on] the larger and more open streets, not in obscure lanes, nor where coaches will be much obstructed in the passage."[ citation needed ] In 1715, the Commissioners agreed that the church would be constructed on the north to south alignment. [3]

The land purchase was the work of Nicholas Hawksmoor, one of the two surveyors appointed by the commissioners of the 1711 act. Unlike others appointed by the commissioners, Hawksmoor continued to work as a surveyor of the 1711 act churches until his death in 1736. Of the 12 churches completed, he was responsible for designing six, of which St George's Bloomsbury was the last. His final designs for St George's, however, were only commissioned and then adopted after earlier designs by James Gibbs and Sir John Vanbrugh (who proposed building a church with the altar in the north) were rejected by the commissioners.

The stepped tower is influenced by Pliny the Elder's description of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and topped with a statue of King George I in Roman dress. Its statues of fighting lions and unicorns symbolise the recent end of the First Jacobite Rising. The portico is based on that of the Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek, Lebanon.

The tower is depicted in William Hogarth's well-known engraving "Gin Lane" (1751) and by James Mayhew in the children's book Gaspard's Foxtrot (2021). Charles Dickens used St George's as the setting for "The Bloomsbury Christening" in Sketches by Boz .

Detail of the tower Spire of St George's Church, Bloomsbury.jpg
Detail of the tower

The statue of George I was humorously described in a rhyme:

When Henry VIII left the Pope in the lurch,
The Protestants made him the head of the church,
But George's good subjects, the Bloomsbury people
Instead of the church, made him head of the steeple.

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 24 October 1951. [5]

Opening times and services

Services are held on Monday and Wednesday at 1:10 pm and Sunday mornings at 10:30 am. The church is usually open to visitors from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm every day of the week.

St George's runs educational workshops and lectures for schools, families and adults. It also hosts events and classes for the local community events (flower festivals, dance, choir classes).


St George's Bloomsbury is located on Bloomsbury Way, next door to the Bloomsbury Thistle Hotel.


A hymn used on St George's Day (written by Ursula Roberts, wife of the rector[ when? ]) begins:

A maid in fetters wailing
Her sore and sorry plight
A foul and slimy dragon
A brave and glorious knight!
(chorus) Let lusty voices sing!
"St George for Merry England"
Triumphant echoes ring.

Museum of Comedy

The crypt was renovated and used as an art gallery in the 1990s. [6]

Since April 2014 it has housed the Museum of Comedy. [7] [8] The museum focuses on the history of British comedy and includes photos, posters, props, clothing and costumes, scripts, films and videos of British comedic performers and shows. [9] There is also a 100-seat performance space. [10]

Related Research Articles

Nicholas Hawksmoor was an English architect. He was a leading figure of the English Baroque style of architecture in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries. Hawksmoor worked alongside the principal architects of the time, Christopher Wren and John Vanbrugh, and contributed to the design of some of the most notable buildings of the period, including St Paul's Cathedral, Wren's City of London churches, Greenwich Hospital, Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. Part of his work has been correctly attributed to him only relatively recently, and his influence has reached several poets and authors of the twentieth century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bloomsbury</span> District in West End, London

Bloomsbury is a district in the West End of London. It is considered a fashionable residential area, and is the location of numerous cultural, intellectual, and educational institutions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Alfege Church, Greenwich</span> Church in London, England

St Alfege Church is an Anglican church in the centre of Greenwich, part of the Royal Borough of Greenwich in London. It is of medieval origin and was rebuilt in 1712–1714 to the designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor.

John James was a British architect particularly associated with Twickenham in west London, where he rebuilt St Mary's Church and also built a house for James Johnson, Secretary of State for Scotland, later Orleans House and since demolished. Howard Colvin's assessment of him was that of "a competent architect, but he lacked inventive fancy, and his buildings are for the most part plain and unadventurous in design".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St John's, Smith Square</span> Concert hall in London, England

St John's Smith Square is a redundant church in the centre of Smith Square, Westminster, London. Sold to a charitable trust as a ruin following firebombing in the Second World War, it was restored as a concert hall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Mary Woolnoth</span> Church in London, England

St Mary Woolnoth is an Anglican church in the City of London, located on the corner of Lombard Street and King William Street near Bank junction. The present building is one of the Queen Anne Churches, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. The parish church continues to be actively used for services, with Holy Communion every Tuesday. St Mary Woolnoth lies in the ward of Langbourn.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Clarke</span>

George Clarke, of All Souls, Oxford, was an English architect, print collector and Tory politician who sat in the English and British House of Commons between 1702 and 1736.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Anne's Limehouse</span> Church

St Anne's Limehouse is a Hawksmoor Anglican Church in Limehouse, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It was consecrated in 1730, one of the twelve churches built through the 1711 Act of Parliament.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St George in the East</span> Church in London, England

St George-in-the-East is an Anglican Church dedicated to Saint George; located on Cannon Street Road, between The Highway and Cable Street, in the East End of London. Behind the church lies St George's Gardens, the original graveyard.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Christ Church, Spitalfields</span> Church in London, England

Christ Church Spitalfields is an Anglican church built between 1714 and 1729 to a design by Nicholas Hawksmoor. On Commercial Street in the East End and in today's Central London it is in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, on its western border facing the City of London, it was one of the first of the so-called "Commissioners' Churches" built for the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches, which had been established by an Act of Parliament in 1711.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Gibbs</span>

James Gibbs was one of Britain's most influential architects. Born in Aberdeen, he trained as an architect in Rome, and practised mainly in England. He is an important figure whose work spanned the transition between English Baroque architecture and Georgian architecture heavily influenced by Andrea Palladio. Among his most important works are St Martin-in-the-Fields, the cylindrical, domed Radcliffe Camera at Oxford University, and the Senate House at Cambridge University.

Thomas Archer (1668–1743) was an English Baroque architect, whose work is somewhat overshadowed by that of his contemporaries Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. His buildings are important as the only ones by an English Baroque architect to show evidence of study of contemporary continental, namely Italian, architecture.

The Commission for Building Fifty New Churches was an organisation set up by Act of Parliament in England in 1711, the New Churches in London and Westminster Act 1710, with the purpose of building fifty new churches for the rapidly growing conurbation of London. It did not achieve its target, but did build a number of churches, which would become known as the Queen Anne Churches.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Luke Old Street</span> Church in London, England

St Luke's is a historic Anglican church building in central London, and in the London Borough of Islington. It served as a parish church from 1733 to 1959. It was designed by John James and Nicholas Hawksmoor, and is a Grade I listed building.

The year 1730 in architecture involved some significant events.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Giles in the Fields</span> London church

St Giles in the Fields is the Anglican parish church of the St Giles district of London. It stands within the London Borough of Camden and belongs to the Diocese of London. The church, named for St Giles the Hermit, began as a monastery and leper hospital and now gives its name to the surrounding district of St Giles in the West End of London between Seven Dials, Bloomsbury, Holborn and Soho. The present church is the third on the site since the parish was founded in 1101. It was rebuilt most recently in 1731–1733 in Palladian style to designs by the architect Henry Flitcroft.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Michael, Cornhill</span> Church in London, England

St Michael, Cornhill, is a medieval parish church in the City of London with pre-Norman Conquest parochial foundation. It lies in the ward of Cornhill. The medieval structure was lost in the Great Fire of London, and replaced by the present building, traditionally attributed to Sir Christopher Wren. The upper parts of the tower are by Nicholas Hawksmoor. The church was embellished by Sir George Gilbert Scott and Herbert Williams in the nineteenth century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St John Horsleydown</span>

St John Horsleydown was the Anglican parish church of Horsleydown in Bermondsey, South London. Built for the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches to the designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor and John James in 1726–1733, it was noted for its distinctive spire in the form of a tapering column.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Cass</span> British politician and major figure in the early development of the slave trade

Sir John Cass was an English merchant, Tory Member of Parliament and philanthropist. He was also a key figure in the Royal African Company, which was involved in the Atlantic slave trade.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Mary Abbots</span> Church in London , England

St Mary Abbots is a church located on Kensington High Street and the corner of Kensington Church Street in London W8.


  1. Crawford, Elizabeth (2001) [1999]. The Women's Suffrage Movement: a reference guide 1866–1928. London: UCL Press. p. 475. ISBN   9781841420318.
  2. Port, M.H. "Minutes of the Commissioners: 1714 Pages 28-39 The Commissions for Building Fifty New Churches: The Minute Books, 1711-27, A Calendar". British History Online. London Record Society. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  3. Port, M.H. "Minutes of the Commissioners: 1715 Pages 39-45 The Commissions for Building Fifty New Churches: The Minute Books, 1711-27, A Calendar". British History Online. London Record Society. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  4. Weinreb, Ben; Hibbert, Christopher (1993). The London Encyclopaedia (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan. p. 841. ISBN   0333560280.
  5. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1272341)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  6. "CV". Archived from the original on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 2015-06-25.
  7. Cavendish, Dominic (1 April 2014). "London's first Museum of Comedy launches today". Telegraph. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  8. Bruce Dessau (30 May 2014). "Museum of Comedy, St George's Church, Bloomsbury – review | Comedy | Going Out | London Evening Standard". Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  9. "Review: Museum of Comedy". Beyond the Joke. 16 June 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  10. "The Museum of Comedy: where the old ones are the best". Time Out London. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2015.

Further reading

Coordinates: 51°31′03.23″N00°07′28.78″W / 51.5175639°N 0.1246611°W / 51.5175639; -0.1246611