Restoration of the Altar at the Royal Artillery Garrison Church (St George’s Chapel), Woolwich

The altar at the beautiful Royal Artillery Garrison Church in Woolwich has recently been removed for much needed repair and conservation work funded by Historic England.

This and other work to repair and conserve the historic fabric and the memorials at St George's means the building can continue to tell an important story about Woolwich's military heritage and remain an integral part of the local community for years to come.  

Group of people in a workshop standing behind the altar
Altar removed for restoration work

About the church

A vast Italianate gothic church, the Royal Artillery Garrison Church in Woolwich was designed by a member of the Wyatt family and opened in 1863. With an interior richly decorated with mosaics, plus inlaid marble and tiled inscriptions, commemorating artillery men awarded the Victoria Cross, it served as the garrison chapel for the Royal Artillery. Badly damaged by a flying bomb in 1944, the church was left as a roofless ruin before being consolidated as a memorial chapel and public garden after the war.

St George's was listed in 1970 (Grade II) as an important 19th century example of early Christian/Romanesque architecture and because of its links to the highly significant military site of Woolwich. Despite its ruinous state, which itself is an important record of the impact of aerial assault during the Second World War, much of the richly decorated interior of the chancel and the apse survived.

Ensuring its survival

Because of its deteriorating condition, we became concerned about the survival of the church and added it to the Historic England Heritage at Risk Register for London in 2000.

Altar with mosaic on wall behind it
Altar at St George’s Chapel

Since then work has taken place to prevent further damage to the external and internal fabric, including the erection of a protective roof (funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund), allowing further works inside the church to progress.

Historic England provided a grant of £85,000 to support conservation works including the restoration and repair to the mosaics and more recently has offered a further grant of £363,800 to the Heritage of London Trust Operations (who took over the Freehold of the site in 2015) and the Woolwich Garrison Church Trust (the Leaseholders) for further conservation work. This includes the repair of the altar which is being carried out by John Hartley of Tankerdale Ltd at his workshops in Petersfield.

The repaired altar will be returned later this year, when we hope conservation works will be completed and the site will be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.

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