St. Georgeís Cathedral, Southwark: 1841-1848

The Beginning

The Catholic congregation of Fr. Thomas Doyleís in Southwark was growing fast. In 1829 The Catholic Emancipation Act relieved Catholics from the chains that bound them and as Fr. Doyleís congregation increased he envisaged a great church for them to worship in.

By 1839 enough money had been raised, for them to buy St. Georgeís Field for three thousand two hundred pounds.

original interior There was a limited competition between four architects, Pugin won with the support of the Earl of Shrewsbury. He designed an extravaganza, to house three thousand people.

However as often occurred, not enough money was raised for the building first submitted by Pugin and the plans had to be scaled down. Myers, Pugin's builder, was always trying to make ends meet, and because of this the spire was never built.

The War

What was finally built was by all accounts very impressive (see the display on the right as you enter the double doors to the Cathedral). Catastrophically the air raids of 1941 put pay to Puginís work. Amazingly under all the rubble was found Puginís altar frontispiece, it was cleaned and restored to the best of their ability, and one can only imagine the delicate carving and intricate designs. It is in three stone panels and is displayed in the cathedral.
Knill chantry Three chapels and two chantrys survived the bombing by the Germans, The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, St. Patrickís Chapel and St. Josephís Chapel, the first is the most ornate with wrought iron gates and an intricately carved altarpiece. The Knill Chantry is beautifully carved, the reredos was designed by Puginís son Edward. Jane Knill was Puginís third wife, it is a riot of stone carving and gold ornamentation.

The Petre chantry is tiny, but a Gothic beauty the Hon. Edward Petre is buried here, he donated a lot of money towards the building of Puginís cathedral. The original tiles are still on the floor.

altar frontage
The pillars that stand in the south aisle are so obviously Pugin, whereas the modern ones are plain, these are embellished at the top with carvings of oak leaves. The east window above the altar, still has the original metal tracery that held the stained glass. chantry The outside of the cathedral is rather austere, there are some stone faces looking down at you but no gargoyles. One can only imagine what Puginís cathedral must have looked like, lofty and awe-inspiring as befitting the way he felt about his faith.
stone pillars

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This original work was created for the World Wide Web by Victoria Farrow, with the support of the Pugin Society. It was constructed by Mike Farrow of Channel Business Internet Systems.
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