St George's Hanover Square Church

St George's Hanover Square Church is an Anglican church in the City of Westminster, central London, built in the early eighteenth century. The land on which the church stands was donated by General William Steuart, who laid the first stone in 1721. The church was designed by John James and was constructed under a project to build fifty new churches around London (the Queen Anne Churches). The building is one small block south of Hanover Square, near Oxford Circus, in what is now the City of Westminster. Owing to its Mayfair location, it has frequently been the venue for high society weddings.

St George's Hanover Square Church
View from St George Street
51°30′45″N 0°8′34″W
LocationCity of Westminster, London
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationChurch of England
Heritage designationGrade I
Architect(s)John James
Years built1721-1725
ParishSt. George, Hanover Square with St. Mark
RectorRev. Roderick Leece
Organist/Director of musicSimon Williams
Churchwarden(s)Michael Beckett
Mark Hewitt
VergerSeamus O'Hare

Ecclesiastical parish

A civil parish of St George Hanover Square, and an ecclesiastical parish, were created in 1724 from part of the ancient parish of St Martin in the Fields.[1] The boundaries of the ecclesiastical parish were adjusted in 1830, 1835 and 1865 when other parishes were carved out of it. The ecclesiastical parish still exists today and forms part of the Deanery of Westminster St Margaret in the Diocese of London. The land for the church was donated by General Sir William Steuart.[2]


The church was constructed in 1721–25, funded by the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches, and designed by John James,[3] who had been one of the two surveyors to the commission since 1716.[4] Its portico, supported by six Corinthian columns, projects across the pavement. There is a tower just behind the portico, rising from the roof above the west end of the nave.[3]

The interior is divided into nave and aisles by piers, square up to the height of the galleries, then rising to the ceiling in the form of Corinthian columns. The nave has a barrel vault, and the aisles transverse barrel vaults.[3]

Burial ground

St George's was opened in the new residential development of Hanover Square with no attached churchyard. Its first burial ground was sited besides its workhouse at Mount Street. When this filled up a larger burial ground was consecrated at Bayswater in 1765. They were closed for burials in 1854, when London's city churchyards were closed to protect public health. Burials at St George's included Mrs Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823), an influential female writer of the "Gothic Novel", the Revd. Laurence Sterne (1713-1768), abolitionist and author of Tristram Shandy, and Francis Nicholson, British military officer and colonial administrator.

The Mount Street ground was later cleared of monuments and turned into a small park. Some of the old tombstones were used for guttering and drainage, and may be seen today. During the First World War the Bayswater ground was covered with 4' of top soil and used for growing vegetables. In 1969 the burial ground was cleared to enable land to be sold off for redevelopment. A skull, part anatomised, was conjectured to be Sterne's and a partial skeleton separated from the other remains to be transferred to Coxwold churchyard by the Laurence Sterne Trust. 11,500 further remains were taken to West Norwood Cemetery and cremated, for burial there.[5][6]

In the musical My Fair Lady, Alfred Doolittle (Stanley Holloway), having just been provided with an inheritance and having to move into "middle-class morality", invites his daughter Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) to his wedding at this church.[7] Following the invitation, he and his fellows sing "Get Me to the Church on Time".

The church is mentioned as the venue for the forthcoming marriage of Iris Henderson in The Lady Vanishes (1938 film).

In the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor it is the setting of the wedding of the eponymous Lord St Simon and American Hatty Doran, whose disappearance sparks Holmes' investigation.


Handel was a regular worshipper at St George's, which is now one of the venues used by the annual London Handel Festival.[9] St. George's has a full-time professional choir and a strong choral tradition and is a venue for classical music concerts. A Restoration Fund Appeal was launched on Trinity Sunday 2006 to raise a total of five million pounds, with a target of one and a half million pounds needed for the first phase of essential restoration work to the fabric of the church. A recent concert series in support of the Restoration Fund was supported by the William Smith International Performance Programme and featured solo piano performances by students from the Royal College of Music, including Ren Yuan, Ina Charuashvili, Meng Yan Pan and the London debut of Maria Nemtsova of Russia.

The church is one of the two main bases of the Orpheus Sinfonia, an orchestra of players recently graduated from music colleges.[10]


From its early days, the church was a fashionable place for weddings, which have included those of:

High society weddings at St. George's Hanover Square fell in numbers in the late 20th century, a social change discreetly mentioned in the obituary of the Reverend W. M. Atkins, Rector of St George's from 1955 to 2000.[21]


  1. Youngs, Frederic (1979). Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England. I: Southern England. London: Royal Historical Society. ISBN 0-901050-67-9.
  2. "A new church". St George's Hanover Square. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  3. Bradley, Simon; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2003). London 6: Westminster. The Buildings of England. Yale University Press. p. 480.
  4. Downes, Kerry (1987). Hawksmoor. World of Art. London: Thames and Hudson. p. 104.
  5. Hansard 11 February 1964
  6. Is This the Skull of Laurence Sterne? The Times 5, 7 & 16 June 1969
  7. "Weddings". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  8. "Richards, Fowkes & Co. - Opus 18". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  9. "London Handel Festival". Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  10. "Who's Who – Organisation", Orpheus Foundation, accessed 3 July 2013
  11. Albert Frederick Pollard, "Dashwood, Francis", in Dictionary of National Biography (London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1901) pp. 112–115
  12. STOPFORD, James, 2nd Earl of Courtown, History of Parliament online
  13. Dorothy Stroud, "Henry Holland His Life and Architecture", Country Life 1966, p. 36
  14. John Summerson, The Life and Work of John Nash Architect (George Allen & Unwin, 1980), p. 30
  15. "Tufton, Sackville" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  16. George Edward Cokayne, ed. The Complete Baronetage, vol 2. (Exeter: William Pollard, 1900), p. 317
  17. Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 66
  18. "Anglo-Colonial Notes", in the Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand), dated 24 November 1899, p. 5
  19. Henry James Morgan, Types of Canadian Women and of Women who are or have been Connected with Canada (Williams Briggs, 1903), p. 42
  20. Henry Hall, Here's to the Next Time (London: Odhams Press, 1955), pp. 56–57; "Hall, Henry R, & Harker Margery" in Register of Marriages for St. George's Hanover Square Registration District, vol. 1a (1924), p. 648
  21. Prebendary Bill Atkins (obituary) at
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