StGeorges Gravesend Wednesday 22 November 17

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Church History

Church History

The Present Building - Exterior

The church is built of stock bricks, in Flemish bond, described in the building agreement as "best Grey Stock bricks" (but in fact yellow in colour). This type of brick was popular 18th and much of the 19th century and is the earliest surving example of its use in Gravesend. They were probably made by an intinerant brickmaker.

The quoins and dressings are of Bath stone. This stone has been used in the south-west since Roman times but was imported into London only in the second quater of the 18th century. This is probably the first use of Bath stone in Kent, outside London area. It is a fairly soft stone and has been replaced by Portland stone where it has decayed.

The Chancel

The Chancel one sees now was built in 1892, together with the vestry which replaced the original one at the south-west corner of the nave. In the 1732 building, the chancel was only 10 feet deep but the work of 1892 extended it by a further 8 feet. The dedication stone cane be seen from Princes Street. The architect for this work and also the north aisle was William Basset Smith (He is called "Barrell Smith" in the faculty).

The Present St. George's

Gravesend was subject to several disatrous fires. On 24th August, 1727 one such blaze swept through the High Street burning down 110 homes and engulfing the church. A fund was set up for the relief of the sufferes to which King George II gave £1,000 and Queen Caroline £500, but none of this was alotted to rebuilding the church. However, the Rector and Wardens applied successfully to Parliament for a loacl Act to rebuilding the church, as one of fifty new churches to be built out of dues on coal coming into the Port of London. The number of churches actually built was considerberably less than fifty, about fifteen in fact, but St. George's was one of the fortunate applicants. The foundation stone was laid by Sir Roger Meredith M.P. in June 1731 and the new building was completed in 1732. The inscription round the tower thanks the King for this. A grant of £5,000 was awarded to Gravesend, of which £3,824 was spent on the actual building. The balance was presumably used for pews, fitting out the interior and the legal expensesof the Act. The new church was finally opened for worship on 11th February 1733.

A local man, Charles Sloane, was the architect and his design comprised only the present nave, with small apse for alter. The main entrance was on the north side,where there was also a gallerThe Pulpity reached by the present stairs. Opposite this entrance, at the centre of the south wall stood the pulpit where the Priest and Parish Clerk sat. Ranged in front of them and filling the nave were box pews, unlocked by the pew-opener for a fee. To local dismay, the new alter table, with curved legs and marble top, was ordered to be covered - as it is to this day.

The survival of the present building as a fine place of worship owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. George Tatchell (1881-1965). In 1951, St. George's ceased for a time to be the parish church of Gravesend and was opened as a "Chapel of Unity". Strong links were forged with the people of the U.S.A. particularly in the State of Virginia where considerable sums of money were donated to preserve a memorial to the Indian Princess Pocahonas. Mr. Tatchell sold his home to move into a flat built into north aisle of the Church. He acted as unpaid Custodian from 1956 until his death. It is certain that without his efforts, St. George's Church would quickly have deteriorated and fallen into disrepair.

The Pulpit

As has been shown, the present pulpit is fourth such platform to be set up in St. George's since 1732. It is made of oak inlaid with holly and ebony, and is the work of Daymond and Sons of Vauxhall. It was instaled min 1907 as a memorial to Revd. J.H.Haslam wo arranged much of the extensive rebuilding work of 1897 (see also Chancel).

The Sconce

Commemorates Savid Varchell, a freeman of the Borough and onetime Churchwarden who dies in 1703. He gave £20 to buy a sconce for the church and was also the donor of the well known charity to which reference has already been made (see Porch).

The candelabra dates from 1735 when the Vestry agreed to replace Varchell's sconce whish had perished in the fie of 1727. The centrepiece was stolen in 1952 and replaced in 1968. A suitable inscription has since been added.

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