St Peter's Church -- History-- Events-- Photos

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The first official record of the church at Peterstow (then known as Llanbedr) is a dedication of the church by Herwald, Bishop of Llandaff in 1066 but it is believed that a church had existed on this site since 995.  When a cellar was dug in Victorian times to accommodate the boiler for new “heating apparatus” a great quantity of bones was found which archaeologists believed suggested indiscriminate burial following one of the many minor battles to take place along the Welsh borders; the church having been subsequently built on the battle site.


In the 12th Century the original Saxon church was replaced by a larger, Norman Church.  Some of the very large foundation stones of the original Saxon church were retained and can be seen in the base of the exterior of the north wall below the smallest window.  This little window, high in the north wall is the sole remaining Norman window. (photo)


In 1330 the present Chancel (the area containing the altar and choir stalls) was built in what is known as the decorated style.  This included the present east window above the altar and three other windows.  A priest’s door on the south side of the altar has been blocked up and a piscine (niche to contain holy water) can be seen in the wall on the south side of the altar.  The Chancel arch, between the Chancel and the Nave (the main body of the church) was also rebuilt and widened.  The roof of the Nave was also rebuilt in the 14th Century.  The roof trusses are known as “scissor trusses”  (photo).


At some time in the 15th century a small bell turret was added, but this is not the present spire whose date of origin is unknown. St Peter’s small tower and spire now houses four bells, hung one above the other and rung as a chime.


In the period of the civil war 1644-1648 Sir Giles Brydges lived at Wilton Castle, which still stands as a partial ruin by the bridge to Ross-on-Wye.  He and his family are recorded as attending church at Aconbury and at St Peter’s.  Sir Giles seems to have been a generous patron of St Peter’s and he and his wife and son, Sir John Brydges, have burial slabs just within the altar rail (currently somewhat obscured by an ancient font).  The carved oak pulpit is Jacobean, dating from the 17th century.  The similarity of its decoration and carving to pulpits in other local churches suggests the carver was local. Unusually the pulpit is entered from the vestry, a feature of which visiting preachers need to be aware!  During the re-ordering of the church in 2009 the builders managed to remove the pulpit with great care and replace it in its original position. (photo shows Pulpit restored to its original position)

In the following two centuries, in common with many other churches, St Peter’s clearly fell into considerable disrepair.  By the 1840s the church is described as follows: “the church has sagging walls, small dark windows with missing panes and an uneven floor".  At some time a gallery had been built at the west end of the church, presumably to house musicians although it is not clear how this was accessed.  In the 1860s St Peter’s found a champion in the Revd Dr John Jebb, Rector of Peterstow.  Dr Jebb was the author of major and very sympathetic restoration of the church which re-opened in 1866 after major building work to a design by Sir George Gilbert Scott.  The vestry and porch were added at this time and a window on each side of the nave was greatly enlarged, particularly on the south side.  The walls were underpinned and strengthened with buttresses and proper drainage provided.  The Chancel ceiling panelling also dates from this restoration.


The church re-opened on 2nd July 1866 in great style with many visiting dignitaries both secular and ecclesiastical.  An “elegant luncheon” was provided for the dignitaries following full sung Morning Service and Communion and prior to Evensong.  The families of the parish were given tea including “huge piles of plum cake”.  It should be noted that although Dr Jebb spent 40 years in the small parish of Peterstow he was very influential in shaping the present day traditions of church choral music.  Not only did Dr Jebb finance a large proportion of the church restoration he also paid for the building of a school on the edge of the common.  Memorial windows to Dr Jebb and his wife can be found either side of the altar.


Present day. The present generation of worshipers appreciate the simplicity of the 1866 design as it greatly enabled the 21st century re-ordering of 2009 to provide community space.  After a five year period of consultation, fund raising and planning by the Peterstow Community Project and largely as a result of a generous Big Lottery grant, building work started in January 2009 to remove the Victorian pews in order to add a small kitchen, a toilet with disabled access and underfloor heating.  Whilst St Peter’s Church continues its tradition of worship, unbroken for over a millennium, it is now able to provide a community meeting place for more secular gatherings, a function which we are sure is not new to the church, as it would have fulfilled this need in earlier times.  (Photo of Community Lunch)


The Churchyard should not be forgotten; it has its fair share of history.  As the churchyard is almost circular it may be speculated that the church, as was often the case, may have been built on an earlier druidic site.  A short fragment of a 14th century churchyard preaching cross remains on the south side of the path.  If you examine the graves to the right of the path as you return to the car park, towards some newly renovated “curb-stone graves” you may find the grave of John Turner who is recorded as dying in “the 102nd year of his life” in 1832 – just think of the history he lived through – the Jacobite rebellion, the American Declaration of Independence, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, the Industrial Revolution and he died in the year of the Great Reform Act!   Quite apart from its history our churchyard is very beautiful, particularly in spring when first snowdrops and then small wild daffodils carpet the ground. (Photos – Changing seasons in the churchyard) .




























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