Saint George

 Building St George's, Headstone

Navigation

St George's, Headstone, Pinner View, Harrow
St George's, Headstone, Pinner View, Harrow
CHURCH ARCHITECTURE

In December 1909 the architect for the new church was formally appointed. The church magazine later recalled how the choice came to be made:

‘When this important question was under consideration, a small committee was appointed to inspect new churches in various parts of greater London. After visiting many buildings of different types the committee discovered a really fine church in the neighbourhood of Tottenham. They asked the Verger the name of the architect, and he told them it was Mr J S Alder. Further specimens of his work confirmed the favourable impression, and Mr Alder was appointed. Thus it was not by recommendation, but by merit alone that Mr Alder was chosen, and we need hardly say we have every reason to congratulate ourselves on the choice.’


Original design by J S Alder
Original design by J S Alder

John Samuel Alder was born in Birmingham on 13 January 1847. The family moved to West Malvern, Worcestershire, where, as a young man, he became Clerk of Works in his father’s building firm before being articled to local architect G H Haddon. Between 1872 and 1883 he was Chief Assistant to Frederick Preedy, London based architect and stained glass designer, making a significant contribution to the design of Preedy’s later work and continuing to work for some of his clients after Preedy’s death.

Alder studied with the Architectural Association and visited France and Italy where he made many sketches. He was in practice in Palmerston Buildings, Old Broad Street, EC, in 1887, and in 1898 he was based in Arundel Street, Strand, in partnership with John Turrill. The Royal Institute of British Architects made him a Fellow in 1916. He died on 28 October 1919.



Alder gained a reputation for combining sound building with economy to produce elegant, uncluttered churches. His work, distinguished by a masterly handling of light and space, was in demand at the end of the great period of suburban church building before the First World War. Most of his commissions came from within the Diocese of London; he built outside London at Worcester and Broadstairs.

 


Interior circa 1911
Interior circa 1911

South facing, in red brick and Bath stone, St George’s was conceived to accommodate 750, complete with a tower of 120 feet at the ritual south-west corner. It was decided to build in two stages with the first comprising the chancel, vestries , Lady Chapel, and four of the five bays of the nave envisaged in Alder's design. The foundation stone was laid by Her Grace Adeline, Duchess of Bedford, on 22 October 1910, and the new church with a temporary ‘west’ end was consecrated by Arthur Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London, on 7 October 1911. The writer (possibly Dr Eeles) of a 1947 report for the Council for the Care of Churches said that he was ‘impressed with the dignity and fine proportions of the church’. He was ‘inclined to think that it is the best thing the architect has ever built. The architectural detail is in the true line of the Gothic tradition; he has used massive timbers and the best materials obtainable, and used them with great skill and a certain subtlety … (it) promises, when it is complete, to be one of the best early twentieth century churches in the diocese.’


West end completion drawing, south side
West end completion drawing, south side

A service of dedication on 8 October 1961 finally marked the church’s completion. The nave was extended by one smaller bay, with the combined functional allurements of a narthex, meeting room, storeroom (now kitchen) and toilets, displacing Alder’s vision of a tower. The new work, sympathetically complementing Alder’s building, was to a design by Arthur Betts, architectural draughtsman and member of the congregation, and placed in the charge of architects Messrs Hood, Huggins and York. It cost three times the £7,500 it took to build the main body of the church fifty years before! The building was listed Grade II in 1993.

 

On the death of John Samuel Alder, the church magazine commented:

‘Mr Alder was a man of rare gifts, coupled with a charming personality. No-one of his generation has been so successful in providing beautiful and stately places of worship, often at very moderate cost. We understand that he has designed no less than 15 churches, which have been built, and that he was engaged on several others at the time of his death … During the building of the church, we naturally came much in touch with Mr Alder, and by his good nature, his kindness and his patience, he quickly assumed the position of a friend. As such we shall always regard him. Though he is gone, our church remains a product, and therefore a revelation, of his mind, and so long as it stands it will form a fitting monument to his memory.’


West end elevation
West end elevation

 

headstone, harrow