Bradshaw says ‘…the Roman Catholic Cathedral … singular evidence of the mutations to which localities are subject and striking proof of our advance in liberality of opinion, occupies a large plot of ground at the corner of the Lambeth Road and nearly facing the eastern wing of Bethlehem Hospital…’.
The Metropolitan Cathedral Church of St George was designed by Augustus Pugin and built between 1840-48 to seat c.3,000 people. The commission included housing for the clergy and schools. After a tricky design and build the Cathedral opened with pomp in 1848 and was the centre of Roman Catholicism in London, and the south of England, until the creation of Westminster Cathedral in 1903. Pugin wanted to recreate the glory of a Mediaeval building, but Pevsner is not complimentary about the results, nor the rebuilding after bombing in WWII. (Photograph © IWM)
Restoration and rebuilding after WWII was by RB Craze who was interested in combining Arts & Crafts and Gothic styles. His main change was to raise the height of the Cathedral by inserting clerestory windows.
Pugin’s work can be seen in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel where he closely supervised every detail. The gates were made by Hardman & Co of Birmingham, a collaboration which would continue for many years.
The Petre Chantry was added by Pugin in 1849 and endowed by the family of the Hon Edward Petre MP, a benefactor of the Cathedral. The work was closely overseen by Pugin himself.
The Knill Chantry was added in 1857, designed by his son Edward, and apparently based on an earlier Pugin design. The Chantry was paid for by the Knill family – the aunt and uncle of Pugin’s third wife, Jane Knill.
Father Thomas Doyle was the founder of the church. He came to the parish in the 1820s and a combination of a large congregation (c.15,000) and the Catholic Emancipation Act, 1829, encouraged him to promote the establishment of a new church.
Bradshaw also tells of ‘…The range of monastic buildings adjoining includes a Convent for Sisters of Mercy, and a school for 300 children.’ Pevsner says ‘.. Beyond the east end bishop’s and clergy houses fill the apex of the triangular site. Their rebuilding by F A Walters (1886-97) to a uniform battlemented height destroyed the picturesque variety of roof-line achieved by Pugin’s original group of clergy house and schools..’.