Saturday, 30 August 2008

St George, Bloomsbury

The spire of St George was one of the oddest in London when I first saw it decades ago, and now it has become one of the oddest anywhere by the restoration of the lions and unicorns gambolling round its base.
The architect, Nicholas Hawksmoor, had included the royal beasts as playful guards for the statue of George I in a toga that stands on top of the s
tepped pyramid that forms the body of the spire. Apparently he did not include them in the estimate and the vestry initially refused to pay for them, and they were raucously mocked when unveiled in 1731. Hogarth included a distant view of the spire with beasts in Gin Lane.
Eventually, the Victorians had them recut as formal knots, and the beasts passed into history. Until recently, when a lavish restoration funded by Paul Mellon (described as a 'philanthropist and galloping Anglophile' in a plaque in the church) brought them back.
The new beasts were carved by Tim Crawley, as close to the originals as possible given that the surviving images are very small and little remained on the tower itself.

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