St Peter's, Peterchurch
History of the building
The church at Peterchurch has origins in Anglo-Saxon times, as evidenced by fragments of Saxon stonework in the sanctuary, including the ancient stone altar, a rare survival of the reformation. The present church is mainly Norman in style, shown by the rounded arches, the narrow slit windows, and the simple tub font with dogtooth carving around the rim. The larger windows are from the 14th century. The building was heavily restored in the Victorian period. The church is very high and long for such a rural location, with an unusual layout - having four chambers including a double chancel and a rounded 12th century apse.
The tower is 13th century with walls fully 7 feet thick to provide defence in medieval times against possible attacks by Welsh raiders. This old photo of the church taken in 1869-70, before the restoration, shows the stone spire dating from 1320, and also the shutters used to protect the windows when a game of fives was played against the wall.
The stone spire was found to be unsafe in the 20th century so the top two thirds were removed. Fundraising failed to raise enough to rebuild it in stone, so in 1972 an innovative fibreglass replica was installed (click to view pictures), one of only two in England. Sadly it is not as durable as the original and is now in need of further conservation.
Photograph published in the Transactions of the Woolhope Field & Naturalists club, 1916.
In an effort to see this large building put to greater use, an ambitious scheme in the first decade of the 21st century has seen the interior of the building transformed into a multi-purpose community centre (click for details including "before" and "after" photos of the church). Christian services continue to be held at the east end although the whole church can be brought into use for larger festivals. The nave is available for many different community activities, with kitchen and toilet facilities at the west end. The tower includes a village library as well as the bell-ringing chamber.