Above: The church stands on the north side of Bloomsbury Way.
There are two ‘St George’ churches in Bloomsbury which are not that far apart – the church of St George, Bloomsbury Way and the church of St George the Martyr, Queen Square. They should not be confused with each other because they are quite separate.
St George, Bloomsbury Way, was built 1716–31, under the ‘Fifty New Churches Act’ of 1711, to designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor. The portico is copied from St Martin in the Fields (which stands in Trafalgar Square). The parish of St George was taken out of the parish of St Giles in the Fields in 1724 and the church was consecrated in 1731.
The Fifty New Churches Act was passed by the government of the day to address the problem of a rapidly increasing population in London requiring new parish churches to be created where new communities were springing up. Money was granted to enable 50 new churches to be built on entirely new sites. The resulting new parishes were to be ‘carved’ from parts of older parishes. However, as soon as parishioners heard about new churches being built, they started to ‘shout’ about their own existing church, claiming that it was in poor condition and needed to be rebuilt. Of course, the money provided in the Act was intended for entirely new churches on new sites – not new churches on old sites. While protests were being made, the church of St Alphege, Greenwich, actually fell down, providing the parishioners with a really strong argument for a ‘new church’ on the site of the old one.
The result was a compromise, with some churches being rebuilt – like the one at Greenwich – and others being erected on an entirely new site – like St George, Bloomsbury Way. Some time passed before the compromise was reached and the cost of a new church continued to rise. The money put aside to build 50 new churches only paid for just over a dozen churches and some of them were rebuilds on old sites.
St George stands on the north side of Bloomsbury Way. It is one of Hawksmoor’s splendid churches. He had trained under Christopher Wren but his churches had a style of their own being, in the main, bolder, and certainly built to be noticed. This church has a spire which is stepped and, at the top, is a statue of George I. It is a very unusual design and it is unique in London. Probably because of its position, the church is aligned on a north-south axis of which there are only a few churches in London laid out in this way.