Highly Commended

New North Gallery at St George’s Church

Small ProjectJudges Special Award

New North Gallery at St George’s Church

Project Info

The New North Gallery at St George’s, Bloomsbury was constructed by St Blaise, designed by Peter Inskip and Peter Jenkins Architects with structural advice from Sinclair Johnston & Partners Ltd.

St George’s (Grade I) was built 1717-31 to the design of Nicholas Hawksmoor, on a constrained site. It was planned with a traditional east-west configuration with wooden galleries to the north and south. The configuration was altered to north-south in 1782 to make room for a rapidly expanding congregation by removing part of the north gallery. The reinstatement of the gallery forms part of the extensive restoration to resoter Hawksmoor’s original layout of this landmark building.

St Blaise assembled the main gallery structure with carving and spiral stairs constructed off-site by Scaramanga Limited using a timber jog. All works were managed by St Blaise.

The gallery consists of four main elements formed in wood of different origins and species carefully selected as appropriate for the end use.

The basic structural carcass is formed of substantial 350 x 63 grade C24 Baltic Pine elements from Associated Timber with ceiling and floor joists as standard spacings.

At each end, the gallery is reached by complex spiral stairs reconstructed to the original design. These spiral stairs are unusual, in that they have no centre post, and are formed out of eight laminations of 4mm thick birch ply with a 3mm oak veneer to the inner and outer facings. The stairs were first built in the Somerset workshop of Andrew Scaramanga by bending the laminations of plywood around a specially created timber former to ensure the correct diamaters for the inner and outer strings. The spiral stairs were designed by Sinclair Johnston & Partners with the benefit of modern timber working techniques, but without any steel stiffening elements.

The gallery is supported, as the original, by seating on the east and west walls of the church and with immediate columns clad in oak with highly ornate capitals again carved by Scaramanga in English oak sourced by Sydenhams of Maiden Bradley.

The handrail is mahogany to match the originals. Fortunately, a very old stock of Brazilian mahogany was found from Timbmet of Oxford. While this was not FSC compliant, the project was deemed sufficiently important to warrant its use in this very special case.

The panelling to the gallery was made up in sections off-site in home grown English Oak and fitted, assembled and finished onsite.

The panel products were birch ply from Latvia.

The wood in the project, therefore, consisted of the following elements:
1.Two three-quarter spiral staircases, each with 15 winding and 7 parallel treads;
2.Curved and rising oak panelling to each stairwell;
3.Eight tapered oak clad columns with specially carved Corinthian capitals;
4.Curved and straight gallery panels with sloping prayer book rails, dado rails and skirtings;
5.Heavy carved mouldings for the entablature of the gallery;
6.Spiral mahogany handrails with iron balusters;
7.Primary and secondary C34 structural grade softwood in the structural frame.

LocationBloomsbury, London

ArchitectPeter Inskip & Peter Jenkins Architects

Structural EngineerSinclair Johnston & Partners Limited

Wood SupplierSydenhams of Maiden Bradley, Timbmet of Oxford & Associated Timber

ContractorSt Blaise Limited

SpeciesMainly English Oak with some Latvian Birch and Brazilian Mahogany

ClientThe Revd. Dr Perry Butler for the PCC of St George's

JoineryScaramanga Limited