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Technical Case Study: Restoration questions


Reconnecting with Hawksmoor

St George’s posed a fundamental question in the restoration field. Are alterations as much a part of the history of a building as what was there at the start? St George’s had been dramatically altered, largely by the Victorians who shifted the entire layout of the church by 90º.

However, once all the evidence had been unravelled there was little doubt that it was achievable to return the interior to Nicholas Hawksmoor’s original design.

The north-south orientated nave before restoration, showing the blue ceiling and extensive gilding introduced in the early 1970s

Total reorientation

Cleaned, repaired and stripped of gilding, the reredos restored to its original position in the eastern apse

Therefore the most radical aspect of the internal restoration was the reinstatement of the altar in the eastern apse. This alters the whole effect of the space on a visitor. Hawksmoor had created the apse as a special place for the altar, its plaster vault decorated with cherubs and symbols of the Resurrection. Today, visitors to the church now enter via the Western tower and turn right into the open, harmonious interior as Hawksmoor intended.

Work on delivering the dream Hawksmoor scheme is now completed now that the North Gallery, which was removed in the 1780s, has ben reinstated. Extensive historical research has informed the design of the gallery, and the intricate carving and detailing. Now complete, it reflects the South Gallery and the square of worship is defined once more.

Total restoration

There were many other aspects of the restoration that demanded particular attention from WMF Britain. The project included overhauling the roof and stone cleaning on the exterior as well as the installation of disabled access. On the inside we performed repairs to the original decorative plaster ceiling, windows, railings, floors, and furnishings. We upgraded the electrical systems and installed an underfloor heating system.

This project demanded painstaking research from the details of the paint scheme to the entire layout of the church.