The Present Building - Inside

The Porch

Light in the porch is provided by a handsome sconce, presented by William and Jane Russell.  Until 1926 it hung in the chancel and was gas lit. The small door at the north-east corner leads to the ringing chamber and the tower.

The two boards, restored in 2014 and 2017, commemorate a number of different charities.  Among them are those of David Pinnock who provided the original almshouses in King Street, and David Varchell, a former Churchwarden, who died in 1703. In his will, he provided for the Minister to preach a sermon annually on the Sunday before Christmas at about six o'clock: five shillings to buy candles, one and sixpence for the Clerk, one shilling for the Sexton and two and sixpence for the Churchwardens, in addition to a loaf of bread and sixpence for forty poor people. For many years, it was the custom for the boys from the Old Free School, who were clothed under his will, to attend the service and each time his name was mentioned to stand up and bow!

The Nave

 When the church was built, a three-decker pulpit was installed in the centre of the south wall, where the war memorial is now. It incorporated a sounding board which was made into a table for the workhouse in 1819. Opposite was the north gallery which ran the full length of the north wall; the main door to the church was in the middle of this wall beneath the gallery. The existing stairs at the northwest corner led initially to this gallery, and the balustrades and panelling are original. The staircase is ‘…of Good and substantial Oak of the Growth of Kent’.

The church of 1732 featured box pews, with special pews for the Mayor and Corporation and the Churchwardens. The pews at the east end were positioned facing west towards the pulpit which was the focal point of the church, not the altar.

In 1764, a west gallery was built, and an organ by George England was installed out of a legacy of £400 bequeathed by John Ison, the proprietor of The Catherine Wheel inn opposite the old Town Hall in the High Street. A south gallery was added in 1819, reflecting a growth in the congregation at St. George's. At the same time, the pulpit, minister's desk and clerk's desk were moved to the centre of the chancel. A few years later, in 1831, upper galleries were added on either side of the England organ and furnished with forms for two hunderd children. The outlines of these galleries can still be detected on each side of the organ. Gaslight was introduced in 1838 which prompted a move from afternoon to evening services.

The number of churches in Gravesend increased rapidly between 1830 and 1870 in line with expansion of the population and a revival in church worship. It was also a time when Gravesend welcomed a growing number of visitors, especially from London, estimated at between seven hundred and fifty thousand and one million a year. This new energy affected St. George's.  In 1872, the box pews were replaced by open sittings and the three-decker pulpit replaced by a smaller one situated on the north side of the chancel with a reading desk on the south side.

The present font was purchased at this time and placed at the west end of the church where it remained until 1968 when it was moved to its present position. What happened to the original Georgian font is not known.

The Chancel

In the 1732 building, the chancel was just ten feet deep. Its size and furnishings have changed considerably over the years but the ‘Barley Stick’ altar rails and the altar table are original. The table had a marble top and was intended to be undraped. It may have been reduced in width in 1892, the year the chancel was extended by 8 feet.

This extension gave rise to several major changes. The choir was moved from the west gallery to the east end and a new high pupilt was placed in the chancel at the south side. The altar was set up on three steps.  A cross and candlesticks replaced the alms dish as the focus in this part of the church, though the candles were not used until 1926. A shelf was provided for flower vases and a reredos (now dismantled) by Clayton and Bell was added. The altar rails were moved nearer to the altar and the wood work framing ‘The Ten Commandments’ was transferred from the old chancel. Outer panels were added in 1937 as a memorial to Canon Gedge, ‘the blind Rector’, who ministered at St. George's from 1899 to 1925.

Worthy of note are the small paintings on the uprights of the altar rails. These were painted by Mrs. Fletcher of Bycliffe in 1893, copied from those painted by Fra’ Angelico at Florence. They are the last examples of the extensive Victorian paintings which once adorned the church; these were largely the work of Revd. J.H. Haslam, Rector from 1892 to 1899, who painted the ceiling of the apse with ‘more than fifty angels taken from Benozzo Gozzoli's beautiful fresco in Florence’.

During a more recent restoration (1968) the altar was moved forward, the rails restored to their former position and the reredos dismantled.

The Pulpit

The present pulpit is the fourth to be set up in St. George's since 1732. It is made of oak inlaid with holly and ebony, and is the work of Daymond and Sons of Vauxhall. It was installed in 1907 as a memorial to the Revd. J. H. Haslam who arranged much of the extensive rebuilding work of 1897 (see also The Chancel above).

The Sconce

The sconce commemorates David Varchell, a freeman of the borough and onetime Churchwarden who died in 1703. He gave £20 to buy a sconce for the church and was also the benefactor of  the well known local charity to which reference has already been made (see The Porch).

The candelabra dates from 1735 when the Vestry agreed to replace Varchell's sconce which had perished in the fire of 1727. The centrepiece was stolen in 1952 and replaced in 1968. A suitable inscription has since been added.

The North Aisle

 Following the extension to the chancel in 1892, it was decided to increase the floor area of the church and, in 1897, the north aisle was built in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. It provided additional seating and enabled the north and south galleries to be removed, together with the upper galleries at the west end, leaving only the west gallery. The pillars replacing the old north wall are of Aberdeen granite. The small altar and rails were added in 1921 as a memorial to Charles Adelbert Walkey, a chorister who was killed in action in 1915.

Reference has been made earlier to the War Memorial which can be seen on the south wall, but which was situated in the north aisle until 1952. (A separate booklet A Parish at War gives details of those commemorated on the War Memorial.) The panelling was added in 1939 in memory of James Everden, a former Churchwarden.

Mention should be made of the vestries which were also added in 1897 and to which the north aisle is the principal access. It should be noted that entry to the church via a north door could no longer be gained after 1897 and so the west door, beneath the tower, became the main door of the church.

The Oak Clergy Stalls

 On the north side, the stall commemorates David Sparrow, a onetime chorister who was killed in action with the R.A.F. in 1943. He had been articled to the Town Clerk as a solicitor. 

The stall on the south side is in memory of William Spencer Joynes who was Churchwarden at St. James's for 47 years and who died on 25th October 1947. It was formerly the incumbent's stall at St. James's. The Joynes family had lived in the area since the late 17th century and provided mayors and councillors in the 18th century. In the 19th century, in addition to the two Rectors of Gravesend, they served as priests at Holy Trinity, St. James's and Frindsbury.

The Memorial Tablets

Of greatest interest are the two on either side of the church arch.

One commemorates Princess Pocahontas who, most believe, was buried in 1617 in St. George’s. She is, ‘…daughter of the mighty American Indian chief, Powhattan.  Gentle and humane, she was the friend of the earliest struggling English colonists whom she nobly rescued, protected and helped’.

The other is a memorial to General Gordon, Commander, Royal Engineers from 1865 to 1871. He was a considerable benefactor to the poorer people of the town.

The tablet, below the gallery by the stairs, which commemorates the abolition of pew rents for the church in 1897 is also noteworthy.

The OrgansPhotos-835-c.jpg

The original organ in the west gallery was installed in 1764 and paid for a legacy from John Ison, a local innkeeper (see also The Nave). Built by George England, a celebrated organbuilder, it is a fine instrument and incorporates three manuals and a pedal board. Sadly it is not now in working order.

The modern organ in the north-east corner was transferred from another church, St. James's, which was declared redundant in 1968. The name of the original builder is uncertain, although it is thought to be Willis. Certainly Brownes of Canterbury rebuilt it in St. George's. It too is an instrument of high quality, well suited to the clear acoustics of the church.

The Silver

The Georgian Silver, which fortunately survived the fire of 1727, consists of a flagon, two cups and covers, two plates and a spoon perforated for straining wine. It appears these were made in 1718 from two silver cups presented to the church in 1639 - one by the Rector of Chislehurst.

In 1957, the people of Virginia presented to the Queen a cup and plate, copies of the Communion vessels used by the original colonists. They were made to commemorate the 350th Anniversary of the founding of the colony. These the Queen has generously placed in St. George's Church.