The original Victorian Gothic church had severe structural problems because of inadequate foundations. It eventually became too dangerous for the church to be used and the congregation moved out of the church to worship in the Parish Hall. Repair costs proved to be prohibitive and a decision was made to demolish the church, hall and adjacent parsonage and to sell off sufficient of the land for residential development to fund the construction of a new place of worship and parish hall. A plot was sold for a local doctor’s surgery and a small plot was retained for a new Parsonage. A key area at the apex of the corner site was retained for the construction of the new Church and Hall.
In 2003 Planning Approval was received for the proposed development. Contractors, Bryen & Langley, were successfully completing the new church of St. Silas at nearby Nunhead for the Diocese. This was of similar size and projected cost as St. George’s and because of their helpful approach to cost control on that project it was decided to negotiate with them rather than going out to competitive tender. A major benefit of this procurement option was an early start on site. Based on the Planning Approval drawings and the Quantity Surveyor’s cost estimate Bryen & Langley agreed to construct the new building for a Guaranteed Maximum Price. Work started on site in April 2003 and was completed in time for Midnight Mass in December 2004. The project cost was £1.5 million.
The starting point for the overall design of the new building was the requirement to incorporate the original stained glass of the Rose Window and the Orders of Angels. This magnificent Pre-Raphaelite stained glass is the work of Henry Holiday and was carried out in 1900. Originally the glass was at very high level in the west end of the church where it went almost unnoticed by the congregation. It was decided that in the new Worship Area the glass should be set in the east end where it would be the architectural focus of the space. The decision was taken at the earliest design stage to incorporate only the main circular section of the Rose Window. This dictated the main elevational design the building. The curve of the top of the Rose window is carried through to the soffit of the external vaulted pediment and the plastered vault over the sanctuary and is echoed in the curve of the timber trusses that run through the Worship Area and the Hall and unify both areas. The existing stained glass was extensively restored and set into new reconstituted stone tracery. A matching leaf of tracery with polycarbonate on the external face protects the stained glass from the weather and possible vandalism.
The roof design was kept as simple a shape as possible. With a ridge line on the axis of the rose window the roof is pitched to each side at an angle of 35 degrees. A low level roof around the south and west of the hall shades an external south facing terrace and encloses single storey hall storage. The roof finish is Falzinc, a zinc coated aluminium sheet. The roof slopes have integral gutters and the Falzinc is also used for the fascias and soffites to the projecting eaves.
Structurally the building has a steel frame with the main stanchions hidden within wide cavity walls. The red brick used for the external walls echoes the red bricks used in the detailing on the surrounding Victorian houses. The wide cavity walls avoid the need for piers externally or internally and accommodate the natural ventilation intake duct in the Hall. In the Worship Area it was possible to form recesses within the flush internal wall line to house the Tabernacle and Pascal candle. The timber posts running down the wall at the end of the trusses provide electrical cable routes and discreetly house the public address speakers in both the Worship Area and the Hall.
On entering the building the glazed doors to the worship area are straight ahead with a distant view of the baptistery with the font and tabernacle so that every visitor is aware that the main reason for the building is as a place of worship. The original church was a local landmark and it was considered important by the congregation that the new church should have a tower and a clock. We took the opportunity for this architectural feature to mark the entrance of the building. On entering the building the visitor passes under the tower which has a tall double height space lit by a long north facing window. Clock faces are located on the north, east and west elevations of the tower and were paid for by money separately donated by the community. We designed a special St. George and
the Dragon weathervane to cap the top of the new steeple.
The size of the Worship Area was kept to the minimum required to cater for the average congregation of about 100 people. The Hall is situated adjacent to the Worship Area so that, when necessary, the 3600mm high folding/sliding screen can be opened back. The Hall then becomes part
of the Worship Area and 200-250 people can be accommodated.
In the Worship Area natural light comes from the sand-blasted full height glazed screen to the curved Baptistery, mainly reflected off the west wall. Additional natural light comes from the strip of clerestory windows under the deep eaves on the south side and each side of the sanctuary. Artificial
lighting is from up lighters and down lighters set within a lighting cornice located at clerestory level on the north and south walls.
Our design for the Worship Area included new liturgical furniture – altar, font with recirculating water system, lectern, tabernacle, President’s chair, benches, candle stands, flower stands, Pascal candle stand and votive candle shelf.