St George in The East Church - PAYE
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St George in The East Church

St George in The East Church

St George in The East is a Grade I listed church is located in Stepney, London. Prior to being subsumed into The Metropolitan Borough of Stepney in 1927, St George’s also provided the name of the parish itself. In 1965, The London Borough of Tower Hamlets was formed, from the merger of the former Metropolitan Boroughs of Stepney, Poplar and Bethnal Green.

St George in The East is one of just six Nicholas Hawksmoor churches in London and is the largest and, perhaps, the most unusual. It was built between 1714 and 1729, with funding from the Parliamentary act of 1711, generally referred to as The New Churches Act.

The Churches Act set out to commission fifty new churches in the city and the surrounding boroughs. It fell significantly short of its target, but did build a number which would become known collectively as The Queen Anne Churches. Hawksmoor’s church is distinctive for its Portland Stone facade and its “pepper-pot” towers.

Sadly, during a bombing raid in May 1941, Hawksmoor’s church was hit, and the interior was completely destroyed by the subsequent fire. Thankfully the architectural details of the exterior survived completely intact. It was almost 20 years before the interior was reconstructed, and a decision was made to not use the original plans but to complete something radically different. The post war construction was completed in 1964 and created a smaller church, a courtyard and a flat at each corner at First Floor level within the walls of the former building.

As a result of the rebuilding and re-ordering in 1964, we are now experiencing water ingress into the worship space and flats from a number of sources, including flat roofs, exposed inner faces of parapets, poor coping details – all of which are associated with the 1964 interventions. 

A survey was therefore commissioned using a MEWP (Mobile Elevated Working Platform) to allow for close quarter inspection to be undertaken. The purpose of this is to both address the known issues, but also to look at longer term strategising which will help improve weathering details associated with erosion of the original stonework, particularly projecting string courses and copings. 

In order to try and eliminate further water ingress and deterioration, the approach will consider completing stone indents where iron cramps have corroded and are now expanding. This expansion has seen several stones crack and spall, in some cases leading to a health and safety concern as elements fall away from the building.  The survey was also able to confirm that many areas are also in need of widescale repointing, this again will help minimise ingress and should help prevent further deterioration of the stonework.  As with many buildings of this age, this church has been repaired numerous times over its lifespan. We see this latest piece of work as forming part of an ongoing process and will focus on essential renewal of the most critical elements only.  The intention is to retain as much of the original 1729 fabric as is possible, while ensuring that the external fabric is made sound to allow the church to enter the next phase of its life.