In 1821 the parishioners of St Augustine and their Vicar, Dr Luke Hislop, were considering the construction of a chapel of ease. Hislop planned to exploit the million-pound fund set up by Parliament in 1818 to provide new churches for the poor — though what he in fact envisaged was a classical church designed for his wealthy parishioners living in the terraces on Brandon Hill. The architect was to be Robert Smirke who, in 1810, at the age of 27, had given London its first Greek Doric building, the new opera house at Covent Garden.
In this plan, Hislop was at odds from the start with his vestry men, whose principal interest was the burial ground of 3100 square yards for which they had paid £2400 of their own money in 1820. They insisted on a design competition between Smirke and their own favoured candidate, Henry Hake Seward who had already designed four churches in the gothic style they preferred. Predictably, the competition was decided in favour of Seward and an angry Smirke was paid off with fifty guineas. But the Parliamentary Commissioners who were to foot the bill also called the tune: they overturned the decision, Seward was dismissed and an angry Smirke was brought back to build what became St George’s Brandon Hill, and later St George’s Bristol.
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