The Royal Garrison Church of St. George, Woolwich, London

New crafted iron gates for a bomb-damaged church in London.

Manifest were delighted to be selected to design a new set of iron gates for St George’s Garrison Church in Woolwich (east London), following a competition organised by the Heritage of London Trust Operations. The church is a fine example of Victorian Neo-Byzantine design (listed at Grade II), but suffered bomb damage from a doodle bug raid in 1940.

The inspiration behind the design is the poem In Flanders Field by Lt. Col. John McCrae, which describes the poppies growing between the crosses marking the graves of the fallen. It also describes the larks singing and flying in the sky above the guns below. The poem, and the poppy it describes, have since become the remembrance symbol for soldiers who have died in all conflicts.
Consequently, the decoration of the base of the gates is conceived as an architectural ‘trophy’, incorporating the 9lb gun from the Royal Regiment of Artillery’s Cap Badge.

Above this, the design diffuses into a wild flower ‘meadow’ composed of poppies, cornflowers and forget-me-nots. Poppies are widely recognised as the remembrance flower of the Commonwealth Countries, whereas the cornflower or ‘Le Bleuet de France’ is the national symbol of remembrance in France.  The forget-me-not is the (unofficial) symbol of remembrance in Germany.  In this way, the composition acknowledges the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War (and the first Armistice Day) in 2018; and that whether friend or foe, every life lost is worthy of remembrance. Towards the top, two gilded larks will be concealed in the foliage – something that it is hoped visiting school groups might enjoy looking for, and which will enable the gates to be used as a teaching resource and engagement with local schools.

The gates were officially unveiled by HRH The Duke of Gloucester at the dedication service in April 2018, and won the National Heritage Ironwork Group’s award for “Best New Design in a Heritage Setting” at their Design Awards 2019.