ST PETER’S HERITAGE
Standing proudly at the head of the Market Hill, the heart of Sudbury, St Peter’s has never been a true parish church. In mediaeval documents it is called “The Chappel of St. Peter”, in effect a chapel of ease to the church of St. Gregory.
St. Peter’s is one of three Perpendicular style churches in Sudbury. It is built mainly of flint, but incorporates bricks, tiles and brown pebbles in its masonry. A previous church on the site was mentioned in a deed dated 1180, but the building that we see today grew slowly during the 14th and 15th centuries, funded by the local guilds and townsfolk.
Perhaps the finest glory of the building externally is the superb tower. In a will dated 1376 reference is made to hanging the great bell in St. Peter’s chapel.
The first clock was made in 1701 by Henry Pleasant, the local bell founder. The present four-faced clock uses the mechanism installed by Messrs. Gillett and Bland of Croydon in 1874. It is the third clock to be installed in the tower and is now driven electrically.
In the eighteenth century a spire or fleche was erected to cap the tower. In 1750 this fleche appears in Gainsborough’s famous portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Andrewes. It was later replaced by a similar copper and timber spire in 1810. This was removed in 1968, returning the tower to its mediaeval appearance.
There was, at one time, a gallery under the tower. Some of the gallery supports are still visible. The construction of the gallery is mentioned in the minutes of a vestry meeting of September 1777.
The Nave roof is unusual in being of arch-braced cambered tie beam construction, the sides being filled with groined wood coving. It was restored in 1685 and again in the 1850s, when it was painted.
The stained glass in the church is not ancient but dates from the nineteenth century and is mostly the work of Messrs. Hardman of Birmingham.
The Lady Chapel was refurbished in 1903. The present altar and reredos were given anonymously in 1907, a fine tribute to the woodcarver’s art.
The present organ was originally built by Lewis & Co. of Brixton in 1911 and dedicated on St. Peter’s Day, June 29th that year. In 1999 the organ enjoyed a major rebuild at a cost of over £100,000 with the aid of a most generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund
In March 1971 St. Peter’s was declared redundant as a church. So came into being the Friends of St. Peter, a registered charity, with the two aims of preserving the building and providing facilities in the interest of social welfare for the recreation and leisure time occupation of the inhabitants of Sudbury and district.
The first president was Sir John Betjeman.
On 29th May, 1976 the building was vested to the body now known as the Churches Conservation Trust with the Friends acting as local agents. The Churches Conservation Trust, with support from The Friends, has spent many thousands of pounds in maintaining the fabric of the church which has enabled this beautiful and historic building to remain standing at the heart of the town.
Click here to read a more detailed history of St Peter’s ST PETER’S HISTORY