If it were necessary to pinpoint a date in history which marks the beginnings of an Anglican place of worship in the heart of Lisbon, it would be July 10, 1654. This was when a treaty was signed at Westminster between Oliver Cromwell and the Count of Penaguião, representing His Majesty King John IV of Portugal. The importance of this treaty lies in Article 19 whereby it was agreed that English residents in Portugal should be free to “profess their own Religion in private houses, together with their families… and that finally a Place be allowed for them to bury their dead”. Thus the seeds were sown.Without wasting any time, the English residents presented a petition to build a church but such was the strength of opposition to this from the Catholic establishment, that King John was forced to refuse. Instead, in 1658, a Lisbon Factory was founded, which was an association of Lisbon merchants headed by the British Consul. The first recorded Chaplain for the English community was Zachary Craddock, who was only 23 when he took up his duties in Lisbon. Under the terms of the 1654 Treaty, divine services could only be held in private houses, in this case in the residence of the British Envoy, Philip Meadows. Craddock’s time as Chaplain was far from easy, with disagreements with the local British Consul, Thomas Maynard, over financial matters, and conflict with the Portuguese religious authorities, namely the Inquisition. In December 1659 Zachary Craddock left Lisbon, never to return.There then followed a succession of young Chaplains interspersed with interregnums sometimes lasting as long as 13 years (between Thomas Marsden and Michael Geddes, the second and third recorded Chaplains respectively). All the Chaplains experienced the same sort of difficulties as Craddock had done. In particular, Geddes became embroiled in conflict with the Inquisition over the interpretation of the Treaty in so far as whether the Consul’s residence, in addition to the Envoy’s, could also be used for divine services.
The first St George’s Church
A significant step towards establishing a permanent place of worship for British residents in Lisbon came in the early 19th century. By then the opposition from the Inquisition was much weaker and when the Envoy was served notice to evict the house he rented in Boa Morte, the colony were deprived of their place of worship. By August 1814, they had in fact already obtained permission from London for part of the Contribution Fund to be used to cover some of the cost. The hunt was now on to find a suitable site but after three months they realised there was no alternative but to use the Military Burial Ground, in existence since 1721, which we now refer to as the Cemetery (Estrela Site). There followed protracted financial negotiations, constant friction between the building committee and the Chaplain, until the Church was eventually completed and dedicated to St George the Martyr in 1822. Now, some 168 years after the Treaty had been signed at Westminster, the English residents in Portugal had their church!
The second St George’s Church
Unfortunately the story does not end happily… Various disputes and serious financial difficulties dogged the period 1822-1885, culminating in a disaster on April 8, 1886, at about two in the morning, when a fire broke out and the church was burned to the ground in less than 12 hours. The Chaplain at the time was Canon Thomas Godfrey Pembroke Pope, a man possessed of great drive and determination. He immediately called an informal meeting, during which £1,000 was raised towards rebuilding the church and other contributions followed. Plans for the new building were discussed, with the result that the re-building of the church was initiated. The architects were Messrs. Medland and Powell, with a Lisbon builder by the name of Baptista having actual charge of the work. It was not until 1889, three years after the disastrous fire, that the building was consecrated on St Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1889, by Bishop Sandford of Gibraltar. It still stands as the present St George’s Church, Lisbon.
The information for this section has been taken from:History of the Lisbon Chaplaincy by John D. Hampton. Published by order of the Church Council 1989A Short History of St George's Church and Chaplaincy Lisbon & The BritishCemetery compiled by C.E. Gedge 1959