It was a pleasant surprise to find St Peter’s church open. Grid reference SE146167, website. They have obviously spent the last decade and a bit sorting out the building; postcards state very clearly that they are “Open, Warm and Welcoming”, and ask “Did you know we are your Church for Weddings, Baptisms and Funerals? We are open every day.” Looking at the list of services, I see that Simon the vicar was in the year above me at Lincoln Theological College – it is good to see someone else keeping the Lincoln tradition of serving all.
There was discrete CCTV, and I assume that the café in the basement means a physical presence. There was some sign of difficult visitors (look closely at the icon), but the number of candles lit suggests that this church is doing its job.
Interestingly though, according to the magazine, they are “not sure as to our place/position within the overall Diocesan plans” – I am not the only one who finds all the push for mission and growth, all the money being thrown at the “successful” churches, means that those of us who are not in that category feel insecure. I know I couldn’t minister in the middle of a town like Huddersfield. I have great respect for those who are there day by day, coping with whoever walks through the doors (and ensuring those doors remain open).
The first church on the site was built by Walter de Laci, the second son of Ilbert de Laci, a wealthy nobleman and Lord of the Manor. These banners tell the story of Walter de Laci. Apparently, as he was riding from Huddersfield to Halifax, he was thrown from his horse into a swampy marsh. Fearing for his life, he vowed that if he was spared, he would found a church. They were made by Catherine Ogle, a previous Vicar … you can tell.
The church isn’t mentioned in Domesday (1085) but can’t be much later. The first recorded Vicar was Michael de Wakefield (1216). One I’d heard of was Henry Venn – and his memorial is in the Nave. It turns out that this Henry Venn is the father – he was Vicar here until his death in 1771. His son John (1759-1813) and grandson Henry (1796-1873) were founders and pillars of the Church Missionary Society. (The church leaflet has it wrong).
The church was rebuilt between 1503 and 1506, but by 1830 its fabric was in a poor state, and it was far too small. Mr Pritchett, the York architect who designed the station, gave an estimate of £2,000 for a simple rebuilding. The project became more ambitious, and for £10,000 they got a raised floor and crypt, a nave extended 30 feet to the west, and a taller tower. The new church was consecrated on 27 October 1836. According to the leaflet, “Unfortunately, many of the stones were laid ‘the wrong way round’ and, as a result, have weathered very badly in years since.” There is more information about James Pigot Pritchett (1789-1868), architect at York, here.
In the nave are the Constable staves. Each parish was responsible for providing constables for the town, before the founding of a modern police force. (Nowadays each business is responsible for providing security guards as police numbers continue to be cut).
The organ dates to 1908, and was restored by Philip Wood in 1984. The church continues its choral tradition, but Evensong happens at 3 pm – the magazine comments that “Evening events are not popular, poor transport and safety concerns.”
The east window and baldachino were designed by Sir Ninian Comper in memory of the fallen of the First World War. Three of the figures in the east window, Mark, Paul and Aidan, all represent daughter churches – now closed.
The font dates to 1570, with the royal cipher ER and the arms of England and France quartered. Its cover is supposed to be that given by Joshua Brooke of New House in 1640. Some information boards as well.
The church had a nice feel, and we were glad we called in. When they update the Transport Walk leaflet, could they mention the fact that the church architect is the same as the station’s?