On 11th April the Woolwich Garrison Church Trust hosted a Service to dedicate new gates to replace the wooden barrier that obscured the interior from passers-by. The ceremony of unveiling was carried out by HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO before a congregation of distinguished guests, including Earl Howe from the Ministry of Defence and the French and German Military Attachés. Also in attendance were Matthew Pennycook (local MP), Pieter van der Merwe (Deputy Lieutenant), Judge Kinch QC, (Recorder of Greenwich), and Cllr Peter Brooks (Mayor). Other supporters of the Church who were able to attend included Lord Cope (War Memorials Trust) and Duncan Wilson (Historic England).
The Master Gunner, Lt General Sir Andrew Gregory and the Commanding Officers of two of the military units comprising the Woolwich Station—Lt Col Cross RA and Lt Col Moxey Royal Anglians, also contributed to the Order of Service.
The church, across Grand Depot Road from the Woolwich Barracks, was designed by Thomas Wyatt and built in the 1860s to provide a place of worship. It had the melancholy distinction of being bombed in both World Wars. In the First World War a bomb damaged the rose window at the west end and on 14th July 1944 a V1 flying bomb destroyed much of the building.
A memorial was erected after WW1 to honour men of the Royal Artillery awarded the Victoria Cross. It includes a central mosaic panel, incorporating St George and the Dragon, made in the Venice workshop of Antonio Salvati. This Memorial survives at the East end of the Church and was restored during a previous Heritage Lottery Project, as were the mosaics of the Phoenix and the Peacock. The nave is now a Memorial Garden and is used for Services—the Church remains consecrated ground—and for open air performances, concerts and receptions.
The commission for the new security gates was awarded to Peter Preston of Manifest Design Workshop, Oxford, following a design competition. His design was inspired by the poem
In Flanders Field by Lt. Col. John McCrae:
… and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing. Fly,
Scarce heard among the guns below.”
and incorporates images of the cannon from the Royal Artillery Cap Badge in the lower section, with the flowers of remembrance of Britain, (the poppy), France (the corn flower) and Germany (the forget-me-not) intertwined above, together with four gilded larks.
The gates are painted Prussian blue and were made by Charles and William Normandale of Wheely Down Forge, a well-known Hampshire blacksmith. Farriers of The King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, visited the forge and contributed to the fabrication of the ornamental flowers of remembrance. The King’s Troop fired a Gun Salute during the Service and provided a fanfare by trumpeters.
The Church is open every Sunday to the public and at other times by special arrangements. There is a web-site which provides information including details of forthcoming and public events at the Church www.stgeorgeswoolwich.org.
Brigadier Ken TimbersCommemoration, General, Social Media, Army News