St George's, Hanover Square

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St George's
Saint George Church, Hanover Square.jpg
View from St George Street
St George's, Hanover Square
51°30′45″N0°8′34″W / 51.51250°N 0.14278°W / 51.51250; -0.14278 Coordinates: 51°30′45″N0°8′34″W / 51.51250°N 0.14278°W / 51.51250; -0.14278
LocationSt George Street, Mayfair, City of Westminster, London
CountryUnited Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Heritage designationGrade I
Architect(s) John James
Years built1721–1725
Diocese London
Parish St. George, Hanover Square with St. Mark
Rector Rev. Roderick Leece
Organist/Director of music Simon Williams
Churchwarden(s) Graham Barnes
Mark Hewitt
Verger Matthew Turner

St George's, Hanover Square, is an Anglican church, the parish church of Mayfair in the City of Westminster, central London, built in the early eighteenth century as part of a project to build fifty new churches around London (the Queen Anne Churches). The church was designed by John James; its site was donated by General William Steuart, who laid the first stone in 1721. The building is one small block south of Hanover Square, near Oxford Circus. Because of its location, it has frequently been the venue for society weddings.


Ecclesiastical parish

A civil parish of St George Hanover Square and an ecclesiastical parish were created in 1724 from part of the ancient parish of St Martin in the Fields. [1] The boundaries of the ecclesiastical parish were adjusted in 1830, 1835 and 1865 when other parishes were carved out of it. The ecclesiastical parish still exists today and forms part of the Deanery of Westminster St Margaret in the Diocese of London.


Interior of St George's St George's Church, Hanover Square, London W1 - East end - - 1533369.jpg
Interior of St George's
Street view of St George's in 1787 St George's Hanover Square by T Malton. 1787.jpg
Street view of St George's in 1787

The land for the church was donated by General Sir William Steuart. [2] The church was constructed in 1721–1725, funded by the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches, and designed by John James, [3] who had been one of the two surveyors to the commission since 1716. [4] Its portico, supported by six Corinthian columns, projects across the pavement. There is a tower just behind the portico, rising from the roof above the west end of the nave. [3]

The interior is divided into nave and aisles by piers, square up to the height of the galleries, then rising to the ceiling in the form of Corinthian columns. The nave has a barrel vault, and the aisles transverse barrel vaults. [3]

Burial ground

St George's was opened in the new residential development of Hanover Square with no attached churchyard. Its first burial ground was sited beside its workhouse at Mount Street. When this filled up a larger burial ground was consecrated at Bayswater in 1765. They were closed for burials in 1854, when London's city churchyards were closed to protect public health. Burials at St George's included Mrs Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823), an influential female writer of the "Gothic Novel", the Revd. Laurence Sterne (1713–1768), abolitionist and author of Tristram Shandy, and Francis Nicholson, British military officer and colonial administrator.

The Mount Street ground was later cleared of monuments and turned into a small park. Some of the old tombstones were used for guttering and drainage, and may be seen today. During the First World War the Bayswater ground was covered with 4' of top soil and used for growing vegetables. In 1969 the burial ground was cleared to enable land to be sold off for redevelopment. A skull, part anatomised, was conjectured to be Sterne's and a partial skeleton separated from the other remains to be transferred to Coxwold churchyard by the Laurence Sterne Trust. 11,500 further remains were taken to West Norwood Cemetery and cremated, for burial there. [5] [6]

In Chapter 43 of Jane Austen's 1814 novel Mansfield Park "perhaps you would not mind passing through London, and seeing the inside of St. George's, Hanover Square".

In the William Makepeace Thackeray 1844 novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon the protagonist, Redmond Barry, weds the Countess of Lyndon at St George's, Hanover Square.

In the Sherlock Holmes 1892 story The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor it is the setting of the wedding of the eponymous Lord St Simon and American Hatty Doran, whose disappearance sparks Holmes' investigation.

In the musical My Fair Lady (1956), Alfred Doolittle (Stanley Holloway), having just been provided with an inheritance and having to move into "middle-class morality", invites his daughter Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) to his wedding at this church. [7] Following the invitation, he and his fellows sing "Get Me to the Church on Time".

The church is mentioned as the venue for the forthcoming marriage of Iris Henderson in The Lady Vanishes .

In the Dorothy Sayers novel Busman's Honeymoon , Lord Peter Wimsey's sister-in-law (without consulting him) seeks to have his upcoming wedding held at St George's, Hanover Square.

In Chapter 2 of The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West, it is mentioned that Chris and Kitty got married in this church in February of 1906.


The organ in 2009 (since rebuilt ) Saint Georges Church Organ, Hanover Square.jpg
The organ in 2009 (since rebuilt )

Handel was a regular worshipper at St George's, which is now one of the venues used by the annual London Handel Festival. He used to play the organ, and wrote Messiah in the church. [9] St. George's has a full-time professional choir and a strong choral tradition and is a venue for classical music concerts. A Restoration Fund Appeal was launched on Trinity Sunday 2006 to raise a total of five million pounds, with a target of one and a half million pounds needed for the first phase of essential restoration work to the fabric of the church. A recent concert series in support of the Restoration Fund was supported by the William Smith International Performance Programme and featured solo piano performances by students from the Royal College of Music, including Ren Yuan, Ina Charuashvili, Meng Yan Pan and the London debut of Maria Nemtsova of Russia.

The church is one of the two main bases of the Orpheus Sinfonia, an orchestra of players recently graduated from music colleges. [10]


The following have served as rector of St George's, Hanover Square: [11]

Rector died in post


From its early days, the church was a fashionable place for weddings, [16] which have included those of:

High society weddings at St. George's Hanover Square fell in numbers in the late 20th century, a social change discreetly mentioned in the obituary of the Reverend W. M. Atkins, Rector of St George's from 1955 to 2000. [15]

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