St George the Martyr Church - A Brief History
With the building of the Royal Harbour and the interest in seabathing made popular by royalty the population of Ramsgate, as distinct from St Lawrence, had grown by the early 1820's to about 6,500. On 23 October 1823, a meeting of Ramsgate townsfolk was held to 'take into consideration the great want of Church Room for the inhabitants of this town and the necessity of supplying the deficiency'.
Ramsgate's increasing numbers meant that there was no church room whatsoever for the poor beyond that in St Laurence which was only just large enough to accommodate its own parishioners. Accordingly, at that meeting, the decision was taken to build a church to seat 2,000 with free sittings for 1,200.
The Trustees appointed on 23 October wasted no time in proceeding with the project. The very next day they elected five of their members as Treasurers and applied to the Society for Promoting Enlargement Building of Churches for grant aid and to the Exchequer Bill Loan Commissioners for a loan. Of the amount of £21,471 - 5s - 2½d it cost to build the church £9,000 came from the Commissioners for Building Churches with £13,000 as a loan. Trinity House donated £1,000 towards the cost of the octagonal Lantern and the inhabitants of the town subscribed £2,000, over £1,100 of which was pledged at that first meeting.
The search for a suitable site began and eventually land was bought from the Townley family for the sum of £900. Then came the question of design. The Trustees had decided that a Gothic style would be appropriate and they also issued dimensions. Mr Jarman, a local builder, and Mr Watkins, one of the five Treasurers, travailed the country looking at various church buildings but it was only when a prize was offered to the architect submitting the most suitable design that the plans of Henry Hemsley were adopted in January 1824. Unfortunately Mr Hemsley died shortly afterwards and Henry Kendall succeeded him as architect, insisting on alterations which increased the cost. The foundation stone was laid on 30 August 1824, the same day that Ramsgate's streets were lit by gas for the first time. Building progress was slow: the Trustees had difficulty in persuading Parliament to release the necessary funding but in 1827 an Act of Parliament was passed 'to separate the Town or Vill of Ramsgate from the parish of St Lawrence and making the same a distinct parish and for completing the new church building therein'.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Manners Sutton, consecrated the church on 23 October 1827, four years to the day since the first meeting. The service began at 11.00 a.m. and for days before beds in the town were being sought. Most of the clergy of the county attended together with visiting Signatories. Admission was by ticket only and 'a very numerous body of constables were sworn in to preserve order, aided by the civil power from the Royal Harbour'.
The sermon was preached by the first vicar, the Rev'd Richard Harvey, whose father and grandfather had been incumbents at St Laurence. The music was provided by an orchestra and choir of fifty, augmented by gentlemen choristers from Canterbury Cathedral. Although Queen Victoria, as a princess holidaying in Ramsgate, used to worship in St George's she was not present at the consecration, having returned to Kensington Palace nine days previously.
- Minute Books of the Trustees 1823 - 1827
- Parish Magazines
- Kentish Gazette 1823, 1827, 1829, 1830,
- Dr Christopher Richardson, Fragments of History