St George’s Church, Wigan

In a recent post about Pugin, the Victorian architect, Catholic convert and champion of the Gothic style,  that I reblogged a few days ago, visitinghousesandgardens commented that

the English still today perceive the archetypal church as gothic, embracing gargoyles, elaborate rose windows and carved stonework with thick oak furniture sitting in its belly.

I’m quite sympathetic to this view. I’ve always lived in the north west of England where there was a major church building programme in the 19 th Century and the overwhelming majority are Gothic. Old medieval churches (like Wigan Parish Church) were renovated during this period and the Victorians had to make them fit their stereotype of what a medieval church ought to look like, adding new “Gothic” features and ornamentation. Those churches built in other styles from earlier periods stick out like a sore thumb. And this is one of them.

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St George’s is a small Protestant church in the centre of Wigan, on the edge of the town centre. It was built in 1781 before neo-Gothic architecture became the “in thing”. It’s a very simple, but well proportioned, building in the neo-Classical style popular in the 18th Centrury. As it has some decorative features, particularly the curved front below the bell tower and the simple freize on the front, I guess it could be considered to be “Baroque”, but a very restrained English version.

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For many years it was hidden away behind the old Drill hall and some other buildings, but became more visible when the town centre was redeveloped a number of years ago and the Drill Hall was demolished as part of a road widening scheme.

It’s built of red brick that looks particularly attractive in the mornong and evening on a sunny day (that we do get from time to time in Wigan).

I’ve only ever been inside once. Sadly that was for the funeral of a neighbour. But I remember that it was very restrained and simply decorated and that it had some attractive stained glass windows. I managed to find the following pictures on the website of the architects who refitted the church after it was gutted by a fire in the 1970’s.

Photo source: Anthony Grimshaws Associates

Following major fire damage, the whole interior was re-designed and the roof reconstructed. The sanctuary was re-ordered with specifically designed furniture, including a new choir and organ case. All are in ash. A new community hall was created in the existing nave. The extensive repair work included stone, brick, lead and stained glass conservation.

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