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Coats of Arms and Galleries

The church has two Royal coats of arms, dating from the Stuart (1603-1714) and Hanoverian (specifically 1802-1816 determined by the design of the Royal Coat of Arms) periods. It is not clear when they first came to the church. They may be originals owned by the church or have come from another church. The coats of arms were restored by E.J and A.T Bradford in 1951 as a memorial to Mr. Davis, a lawyer from the Borough. They were then rehung in their current positions. The Hanoverian coat of arms hangs over the main entrance and the Stuart arms from the organ gallery.

The original galleries of the 1736 building were higher and narrower than they are today. In 1742, the galleries were lowered and a range of pews added to each. The vestry minutes for that year show that the vestry members visited other local churches to see what inspiration could be taken for St. George the Martyr. They decided that the gallery design and proportion at St. Olave’s would suit the church interior. Until restoration works in 1807, the galleries were painted white. They were decorated to look ‘wainscoted’ by the Vestry during the restoration. Also, in 1808, galleries were installed either side of the organ, forming a second level of galleries. Poor children of the parish and from the charity school children were seated in them during services.

By 1938, the galleries were unsafe as they were coming away from the wall and the iron supports holding them up were out of upright. There were plans to fix these issues during the 1938-39 restoration, but financial restraints meant that this couldn’t be done, therefore the galleries had to be closed to the public for safety reasons in 1939. Two 17th century paintings of Moses and Aaron, originally from St. Michael’s Wood Street, in carved oak frames were recorded as being located in the west gallery in 1939. After the post-second world war restoration, the galleries were once again opened to the public but by 1965, they were only used around three times a year. As of 2018, the galleries are not open to the public and are used primarily as storage space.

Above the galleries are the crests of the Skinner’s Company, the Draper’s Company, the Grocer’s Company, the Fishmonger’s Company, the City of London and the Parish Emblem in the form of the ‘Southwark Cross’. These were all benefactors of the church and were some of the same companies who had funded the rebuilding of the church across the centuries. The ‘Southwark Cross’ is an ancient design, originally used as the Bridge House mark; the Bridge House being the old maintenance headquarters for London Bridge.