Tercentenary of the Dedication of Hawksmoor's St Alfege Church building in 1718
Marking three hundred years since the Dedication of Hawksmoor's St Alfege Church building 1718 to 2018.
"The Case of the Inhabitants of Greenwich in the Country of Kent and Reasons why they ask Relief for Rebuilding their Parish Church"
So began the petition to parliament in February 2011, 307 years ago, read by the then church wardens of Greenwich Parish Church, seeking to rebuild the medieval church after a storm. This petition began the whole process towards the Fifty New Churches Act of 1711 under which the present church and the rest of the Hawksmoor churches and others like them were built.
This historical event was highlighted with a short re-enactment this week to launch the Tercentenary celebrations of the Dedication of Hawksmoor's St Alfege Church building in 1718. Present churchwardens, Sarah Lavery and Nick Hervey, presented the same petition to The Rt Honourable Nick Raynsford, former Minister for London and local Greenwich and Woolwich MP (1992 to 2015). Dressed in 18th century costume and accompanied by children's church members, Karile and Simon Jones, also in costume, the wardens read the beautifully crafted and clear petition to the Minister, the Leader of the Council, Cllr Denise Hyland, Deputy Lieutenant, Dr Pieter van der Merwe and an audience of about 60 local people and representatives from Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.
The original petition, started the move towards the building of many fine baroque churches. Most of them are north of the river, but two, this one and St Paul’s Deptford are among the best which were built. St Alfege Church is the first of Hawksmoor’s London churches, and the template on which the general plan of the other churches is based.
The Hawksmoor church in Greenwich was built between 1712 and 1716 and dedicated in 1718. It replaced an earlier medieval building, of which the tower, though not visible from the outside, still remains. Part of it had collapsed in a storm and the churchwardens pleaded that they did not have the resources to rebuild it on their own, just as we are relying on the generosity of National lottery players and other donors in the conservation and improvement of the facilities in Hawksmoor’s church today.
St Alfege Church is a Grade 1 listed landmark and is one of the key buildings within the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. There has been a church here for over a thousand years, dedicated to the memory of Alfege, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was martyred on this site in 1012. Henry VIII was baptized here, and many other key historical figures in Greenwich’s royal, maritime and scientific history have close links with the site including Thomas Tallis, General James Wolfe and John Flamsteed.
Revd Chris Moody, Vicar, said: “These churches were built as centres in which beautifully ordered Anglican worship could take place and social action and responsibility towards the local community could be strengthened and maintained. That is a tradition that we are still proud to be part of."
Responding to the presentation, Nick Raynsford said " No one can say that spin is a uniquely modern political characteristic as the good parishioners of Greenwich who composed this petition made absolutely sure it ticked all the boxes and covered all potential objections.”
Future events this year will celebrate other key anniversaries in the life of the Hawksmoor building including:
23 April 1953 The re-consecration of the church by the Bishop of Southwark after war damage and the last major reconstruction by Sir Albert Richardson.
12 June 1711 Royal Assent given bringing the Fifty New Churches Act into force
18/23 September 1718/19 the consecration of the new church by Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester, to be celebrated on 23 September 2018.
St Alfege Church in Greenwich has received a confirmed grant (£1,836,800) from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Heart of Greenwich, Place and People project (announced in December). Thanks to National Lottery players, the project aims to reinforce the church’s position as a heritage asset at the heart of Greenwich, reveal and interpret our hidden spaces and heritage for visitors, school children, their families and a diverse local community. We plan vital repairs to the fabric, will bring to light the splendid work of Nicholas Hawksmoor, improve access to and facilities in the church and enhance landscaping, signage and interpretation.
For a copy of the petition please email email@example.com and visit www.st-alfege.org for more up to date information about the events as they become available or follow St Alfege on Twitter @StAlfegeChurch