St Peter's Church, Petersham

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Petersham Parish Church
St Peter's, Petersham
St Peter's parish church, Petersham in 2008
Petersham Parish Church is located in London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
Petersham Parish Church
Petersham Parish Church
51°26′48.12″N 0°18′4.68″W / 51.4467000°N 0.3013000°W / 51.4467000; -0.3013000
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Founded Saxon times. Part of the chancel in the present building dates from 1266; the main body of the church was rebuilt in 1505
Parish St Peter's, Petersham
Deanery Richmond & Barnes
Archdeaconry Wandsworth
Diocese Southwark
Priest in charge The Revd Canon Tim Marwood[1]
Listed Building – Grade II*
Designated 10 January 1950
Reference no. 1065334

St Peter's Church is the parish church of the village of Petersham in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It is part of the Diocese of Southwark in the Church of England. The main body of the church building dates from the 16th century, although parts of the chancel are 13th century and evidence in Domesday Book suggests that there may have been a church on the site in Saxon times. Nikolaus Pevsner and Bridget Cherry describe it as a "church of uncommon charm... [whose] interior is well preserved in its pre-Victorian state".[2] The church, which is Grade II* listed,[3] includes Georgian box pews and a two-decker pulpit made in 1796.[2]

History and description[edit]

Early history[edit]

The earliest record of the village of Petersham is in 666 AD when certain lands were endowed to the Benedictine Abbey of St Peter’s at Chertsey.[4] The name Petersham is not derived from St Peter as, in Saxon times, it was called Piterichesham which means a home or enclosure of Patricius or Patrick, but the name Petersham was in common use by the 16th century.

It is probable that there has been a church on this site since Saxon times as the 1086 Domesday Survey entry for Petersham suggests by its phraseology that the church there then had been restored. In 1266 a Norman church was built, of which only part of the chancel is left. The oldest visible portion of the church today is the blocked 13th century lancet window in the chancel, which can be seen from outside the church. In 1505 the body of the church was rebuilt (except for the chancel) and possibly enlarged so that the building became rectangular in shape and measured 15 ft.6ins. by 43 ft. Small transepts and a north gallery were added in around 1600.

Later history[edit]

Early in the 17th century, north and south transepts were added, along with the tower at the west end which is of red brick. The gallery in the north transept was added shortly afterwards. In 1790 the west porch and vestry were added and the upper half of the tower rebuilt. The music gallery at the west end was probably erected about 1800.

More major alterations took place in 1840 when the south transept was enlarged to its present size and its galleries put in.[2] The enclosed staircase against the west wall was built and many other repairs and alterations carried out. These alterations included new pews and, with the rearrangement of the old ones, 362 sittings were provided. St. Peter’s had now reached its present shape; an irregular cruciform measuring internally 62 ft from north to south and about 38 ft from east to west.

In 1874, the chancel was completely refurbished under the direction of John Oldrid Scott (son of the ecclesiastical architect Sir Gilbert Scott) whose residence was the Manor House, Ham and who had, the previous year, proposed a plan for the structural improvement of the chancel (the parishioners turned this down). A chancel screen was erected in 1899, but removed in 1972 along with two box pews that obscured the altar.

The church sustained some damage in the Second World War and restoration work was carried out during 1949–51. The city of Vancouver, British Columbia, gave a substantial amount towards the cost of the repairs.

In 2009, work began on a project to replace the organ with a brand new, non-electric model. This involved removing a large section of one of the balconies at the south side of the church.

Detailed description[edit]

The font dates from 1740. The pulpit was made locally, by carpenter John Long, in 1796 and the reading desk is probably of the same date. The Royal Arms under the chancel arch are from the reign of George III from 1810. The adjacent shields, of local work, were placed there on 1898 and represent, from left to right, the keys of St. Peter, the arms of the diocese of Canterbury and those of the diocese of Rochester. The arms on the east wall of the north transept those of the Earls of Dysart who were the owners of nearby Ham House. The present organ was purchased in 1914. One of its predecessors, from 1838–53, had been a barrel organ which provided hymn tunes. The lower part of the present tower probably dates from 1505 and in the wooden belfry there is a bell which bears the inscription "Bryan Eldridge made mee" and the date "1620", when it was cast at Chertsey.

The unique feature of St. Peter’s is the Georgian box pews. Few now survive in churches and none so close to London. A fee used to be charged for each family pew, but there were not enough to seat all the members of the parish. One vicar in Georgian times noted that parishioners were "constantly complaining of the injustice of their being obliged to contribute to the Church rates, without the power of obtaining a sitting in the Church".

Marriages at St. Peter's[edit]

Prince Rupert of the Rhine, cousin of Charles II, is said to have married, at Petersham in 1664, Lady Francesca Bard, mother of his son Dudley Bard (born c. 1666).[5]

Lady Jane Hyde, the daughter of the Earl of Rochester, was married at the church in 1718. Sir Godfrey Kneller's portrait of her is one of the "Beauties" at Hampton Court Palace.[5]

Claude George Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck, who lived in a house on Ham Common, married at the church in 1881.[6][7] Their daughter, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, married the Duke of York in 1923 and became Queen Elizabeth in 1936 when the duke came to the throne as King George VI.

People buried or commemorated in the church/churchyard[edit]

The oldest headstone in the churchyard is that of Mary Karze (d. 1686).[5] It is Grade II listed.[8]

Mary Berry (1763–1852), author and editor, and her sister Agnes Berry (1764–1852), are buried in the churchyard. [5]

Mary Burdekin (d. 1772), believed to be the first baker of Maids of Honour pastries, is buried in the churchyard.[5]

Sir George Cole (d. 1624)[9]and his family are commemorated in the monument in the chancel erected in 1624. He was called to the bar in 1597 and was a member of the Middle Temple.[9] He married his wife Frances at St. Peter’s in 1585. The family vault is under the chancel.[5]

Theodora Jane Cowper (d. 1824), the cousin of the poet William Cowper, is buried in the churchyard.[5]

Richard Edgcumbe, 2nd Earl of Mount Edgcumbe (1764–1839), is buried in a Grade II-listed tomb in the churchyard.[10]

Sir John Whittaker Ellis (1829–1912) is buried in the churchyard and has a plaque in the north chancel. He was Lord Mayor of London from 1881 to 1882 and the first mayor of the Municipal Borough of Richmond (Surrey) from 1890 to 1891.[5]

Sir Thomas Jenner (1637–1707) is buried in the churchyard. There is also a plaque to him on the chancel wall.[5]

Elizabeth Maitland, Duchess of Lauderdale (d. 1698), who became Countess of Dysart on the death of her father, William Murray, the owner of Ham House, married the Duke of Lauderdale at Petersham in 1672. She is buried with other Dysart family members in a vault under the chancel.[5]

Albert Henry Scott (1844–65), photographer, and third son of the architect George Gilbert Scott. His tomb is Grade II listed.[11]

The explorer Captain George Vancouver (1757–1798) wrote his Voyage of Discovery when staying in Petersham.[5] He has a memorial tablet in the church and is buried in the churchyard; his grave is Grade II listed.[12]


Further reading[edit]

  • Cloake, John (1991). Richmond Past: a visual history of Richmond, Kew, Petersham and Ham. Phillimore & Company. ISBN 9780948667145. 
  • Dunbar, Janet (1 January 1979). A Prospect of Richmond (2 ed.). Michael Joseph. ASIN B001KRT18E. 
  • Mills, R. S. (1949). Petersham People and Stories: three talks reprinted from the Richmond Herald. 
  • Warren, Charles D. (October 1938). History of St. Peter’s Church, Petersham, Surrey. London: Sidgwick & Jackson. OCLC 8742653. 

More information on St Peter's Church and other places in Petersham is available from the Local Studies Collection, Richmond Library.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°26′48″N 0°18′05″W / 51.4467°N 0.3013°W / 51.4467; -0.3013