Oxford History: George Street

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The two chapels in George Street, Oxford


Maps

The two George Street chapels (one Congregational, the other a Church of England chapel of ease for St Mary Magdalen Church) are sometimes confused. This map shows were they were situated:

Side-by-side maps of George Street in the nineteenth century and today

  • On the north side of the street, the building on the left to the south of the parochial schools is St George-the-Martyr Church
  • The next building to the east is George Street Congregational Church.

George Street Congregational chapel (1832–1935)

This opened in 1832 and was the first Congregational chapel in Oxford.

It was a brick building designed by J. Greenshields of London. It had 500 sittings (increased to over 700 by 1851).

In 1875 part of the ceiling of the chapel fell down, and a new ceiling was installed by Mr T. Jones of George Street from designs furnished by the architect Mr Codd, at a cost of £300.

It was completely renovated in 1885, and the following appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 17 October 1885:

GEORGE ST. CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH.
This place of worship has been completely renovated. The roof has been re-slated, the whole of the lead gutters re-layed, and the pannelled ceiling and cornice enriched by the decorative art. A new rostrum has been prescuted [sic], the old lead lights have been re-placed with new of cathedral tinted glass, the walls of the chapel cleaned, the gallery front considerably improved, and the whole place internally repaired and beautified by the energy of a Committee formed for that purpose. The works have been performed by Mr. Kingerlee, under the direction of Mr. Albury, architect, of Reading.

The chapel was restored again in 1911, reopening in November, and a new organ was installed in 1912.

It closed in 1933, and the congregation mostly transferred to Summertown Congregational Church.

In 1935 the George Street Congregational Chapel as well as Nos 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, and 38 George Street were demolished (see photograph), and Threeways House was built on this site.


St George-the-Martyr chapel or church (1850–c.1937)

The Chapel of St George-the-Martyr (often referred to as a Church, but it was in fact a large chapel of ease for St Mary Magdalen Church) was situated on the north side of George Street to the west of the congregational chapel. The lane now called St George’s Place did not then exist, and was part of the church site.

The following report appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 30 June 1849:

LAYING THE FOUNDATION STONE OF A NEW CHURCH.–Yesterday the foundation stone of the new chapel of ease to Magdalen parish church was laid on the spot selected for the purpose in George-street; it is to be designated the Chapel of St. George-the-Martyr. The ceremony commenced with prayers at half-past seven in the morning at the parish church. At eleven the Litany was chanted there by a mixed choir from Christ Church and St. Paul's Church, after which the Clergy proceeded to the site, when prayers appropriate for the occasion were offered up and the 118th Psalm chanted. The ceremony of laying the stone was performed by t he Rev. J. Ley, Vicar of the parish, who was assisted by the Rev. Archdeacon Clerke; the Rev. Dr. Barnes, Canon of Christ Church; the Rev. H. Hussey, the Rev. A. Hackman, the Rev. T. Chamberlain, the Rev. Mr. Spencer, the Rev. Mr. Marshall, the Rev. J. Rigaud, and others. At the conclusion of the ceremony the Clergy and others returned to the church and partook of the Holy Sacrament. The ceremony was witnessed by a larg number of persons.

The chapel of ease was built in the Decorated Gothic style to the designs of P. Harrison, at a cost of £5500. It had a chancel and nave, and a bell-turret at the south-west corner.

It was consecrated in 1850, and on census day 1851 had a congregation of about 125 in the morning and 175 in the evening.

In the early twentieth century the population of the parish of St Mary Magdalen decreased, and the original parish church was again sufficient to serve the George Street area. St George’s is listed for the last time as a place of worship in Kelly’s Directory for 1919.

From 1921 to 1936 the chapel building was used as the Ministry of Labour (men‘s department).

By 1938 it had been replaced by a cinema.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 20 July, 2020

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