St. George’s church, Woolwich, opposite the Royal Artillery barracks, was built in 1863 in an early Christian-Italian Romanesque style with elaborate internal decoration including mosaics and cladding in a variety of decorative stones. A Venetian glass mosaic of St George and the dragon was installed by Antonio Salviati around 1870, but variations in tesserae shape and placement between this and other mosaics on the site suggest that decorative work may have been completed in phases. The church was gutted during the Second World War when hit by a bomb, and has been preserved since as a ruin and as a memorial.
Its condition has been deteriorating for many years and a major project is currently underway, led by the Heritage of London Trust Operations to provide a new Glulam roof structure, consolidate the wall heads, improve the presentation, and to carry out phase 1 of the conservation and partial restoration of the interiors.
With much of the surviving mosaic decoration already removed in panels by others, in late 2014 Skillingtons won by competitive tender the contract for the conservation and reinstatement of the removed panels, and the in situ repair of the mosaics in the apse. This is our largest mosaic project to date, for which we have set up a team of conservators led by Greek mosaic specialist Kalypso Kampani.
There is substantial funding from English Heritage, with part of the project being to train several of our existing conservation staff in the skills required for this type of work.
We currently have a large team working on consolidating the removed panels, removing the failed backing mortar and consolidating the tesserae from behind whilst they are ‘faced-up’ to the front with muslin cloth fixed with rabbit skin glue. Works are also underway on site with the preparation of the substrate, including stone repairs and removal of rusty iron armatures.
Working closely with the architect (Thomas Ford & Partners) and client, and liaising with other contractors, Phase 1 is due for completion shortly after Easter.