The church became redundant in 1974, and four years later a charitable trust was established to care for the maintenance of the building, and to develop its use for the benefit of the local community.
There are pamphlets outlining the history of the building and the stories behind some of the wall memorials. Other information is displayed around the church.
The former baptistry is where the font was placed until moved to its present location in 1924. The windows therefore reflect this use and depict biblical scenes relating to children and baptism.
shows Christ blessing the children across all three lights (sections of the stained glass window). Lower lights show the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, "Alpha" and "Omega", referring to the phrase in Revelation: "'I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end', saith the Lord."
contains a lot of detail. If you want to you can test the visitor's biblical knowledge, as does the information in the Baptistry with the answers on the back of the notice. The bottom four lights relate to the Old Testament; the top four to the New Testament. Working left to right the first three OT stories have a water theme; the last three NT stories are all to do with baptism. There is a link between the last OT story and the first NT story.
working left to right from the bottom row to the top row:
1. Noah sacrificing a ram after the ark had saved them from the flood (the ark and the rainbow can be seen top right).
2. Moses being found in the bulrushes by Pharaoh's daughter.
3. The Israelites crossing the Red Sea (the pillar of cloud that guided them can be seen in the background).
4. Samuel being presented to Eli in the temple by his parents Hannah and Elkanah.
5. The presentation of Christ in the temple by Mary and Joseph and the meeting with Simeon.
6. Christ is baptised by John the Baptist.
7. Philip baptising the Ethiopian.
8. Peter baptising Cornelius, a Roman centurion.
The illustrations are of Biblical scenes from the New Testament:-
Left light*: upper: the Angel appears to the shepherds
lower: St Peter miraculously released from prison
Centre light: upper: the choir of Angels at the birth of Jesus
lower: the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
Right light: upper: the massacre of the Innocents
lower: St Michael fights against Satan
* the makers' names and date of installation are at the foot of the left light concealed in the architectural detail.
The illustrations are of scenes from the lives of the saints:-
Left light: upper: St Matthias (chosen to replace Judas Iscariot)
lower: St Peter restores Tabitha to life
Centre light: upper: Saints Paul and Silas baptise the gaoler
lower: St Paul preaches to the Athenians
Right light*: upper: St Peter cures the man at the Beautiful Gate
lower: St Paul rebukes St Peter at Antioch
* the makers' names and date of installation are at the foot of the right light concealed in the architectural detail.
The illustrations are of Biblical scenes from Christ's life:-
Left light: upper: the Beatitudes ("Blessed are the ...");
lower: the risen Christ appears to Mary Magdalene.
Centre light*: upper: healing the centurion's servant;
lower: the raising of Lazarus.
Right light: upper: feeding the five thousand;
lower: the meal at Emmaus.
* the makers' names and date of installation are at the foot of the centre light concealed in the architectural detail.
These windows were installed in 1873 following the 1863 restoration of the church by the Diocesan architect, T.H. Wyatt, at the direction of the Rector, the Revd. T.W. Dowding (1859-1875).
This chapel is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and in 1924 it became also the chapel where those from the parish who died in the 1914-1918 war are remembered, along with those from the Second World War added later.
shows in the centre the resurrected Christ rising from the tomb. The left panel depicts St George slaying the dragon, and the right panel shows St Martin (a former Roman soldier) dividing his cloak with a beggar - this self-sacrifice, along with Martin's military background, finds this saint often associated with war memorialisation.
(the Martyr's Window) shows St Peter with the keys of heaven and hell, and St Paul with the sword with which he was executed in Rome. In the centre is St Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr, carrying the stones with which he was killed.
depicts three significant biblical women: on the left, Sara, the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac; in the centre, the Virgin Mary; on the right, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.
On either side the chancel, boards can be found with photographs outlining more of the history of the church, the story of the Victorian restoration, and the early work of the Trust.
This is probably the finest piece of stained glass in the church in terms of its artistic quality. It was made by Lavers and Barraud as part of the Victorian restoration in 1863. The upper lights show: Christ in Glory; Agnus Dei - the Lamb of God; Alpha and Omega - the First and the Last; the Pelican in her Piety.
In medieval times a Rood screen stood across the aisles and the chancel arch carrying a crucifix with figures of St Mary and St John. The Victorian Tractarian Rector, Dowding, placed this devotional scene in the centre light of the principal window, flanked by the Adoration of the Shepherds, and the Resurrection message. The emphasis on the role of the Virgin Mary and sacrifice was very Tractarian.
The overall decorative scheme for the chancel was almost certainly commissioned by Rector Dowding (1859-1875) as part of the 1863 restoration.
The aumbry at the eastern end of the south wall in the sanctuary was the place where the sacred vessels used in the Mass were kept, and features an "Agnus Dei" (Lamb of God), sheaves of corn (bread), and grapes on the vine (wine).
Elsewhere in the Sanctuary and in the Presbytery are featured Consecration Crosses and other Liturgical Symbols.
The crosses mark the places where a bishop would have consecrated the building, dipping his fingers in holy oil. This hallowing supposedly drove out evil spirits.
The symbols include: a cross of nails and the crown of thorns; and a chasuble (representing Christ's robe) and dice, thrown by the soldiers to claim his clothes at his crucifixion.
This bronze bust of Wolsey is a copy of a full length figure in Ipswich, the town of the Cardinal's birth. It also features Wolsey's cat in recognition of the fact that he always kept a number of cats, and often took a couple with him on his many journeys. It is said that when sitting in Star Chamber Wolsey would turn to his cat seated beside him as though in consultation.
Known early in his life as "the boy batchelour" from the fact that he graduated from Oxford at the age of 15, Wolsey became a Fellow of Magdalen College Oxford in 1497, and it was in the following year that he was ordained priest in our church. Not long afterwards he was employed by the King's Deputy in Calais, was then recommended to Henry VII because of his abilities, and became one of the King's Chaplains at Court in 1505. He came to prominence in Henry VIII's reign for his success in the French campaign of 1513, and thereafter rose rapidly through the ranks of both Church and State, becoming Lord Chancellor, Cardinal and Papal Legate. He was also a great patron of the arts, built many fine palaces, and was a keen promoter of education.
It was inevitable that such a rise to power from such lowly beginnings should incite jealousy and hostility at Court, where factions soon found cause to undermine his closeness to the King with Wolsey's failure to obtain for Henry a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Charges were levelled against him, but he died before the full force of Tudor law could be brought to bear on November 29th 1530.
In the "kitchen" is a simple window dedicated to St Cecilia (you can pick out the letters SC along with Alpha and Omega in the window decoration), the patron saint of music and musicians. Prior to the 1863 restoration the organ was positioned in a large organ loft across the west end of the church. After 1863 it was moved in to this part of the church, hence the relevance of this window here.
Just outside the "kitchen" on the north side is a window commemorating the 7th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment in the First World War and its commanding officer, Colonel Walter Leslie Rocke. It features a depiction of St George slaying the dragon in its centre light.
It shows a number of alabaster carvings set in stone around the font. Four of these show symbols associated with the four Apostles:
an angel (St Matthew);
an eagle (St John);
an ox (St Luke);
and a lion (St Mark).
This font is an expensive piece of work and was probably installed as part of the 1860s refurbishment. It was moved to its present location from the Baptistry in 1924.
This Lavers and Barraud window was installed as part of the 1863 restoration. It features St Peter in the centre with the keys of heaven and hell.
He is flanked on either side by the four Evangelists: Matthew and John on the left; Luke and Mark on the right. Above each of the five are symbols associated with that person: above St Peter is a cock, referencing his denial at Christ's trial; Matthew has an angel, John an eagle, Luke a bull, and Mark a lion.
Beneath each saint can be seen scenes associated with that saint's life. Mark is depicted preaching with pyramids in the background, referencing the time he spent preaching the gospel in Alexandria. Matthew, the despised tax collector is shown with Jesus sitting down to eat with his family. John is shown preaching, possibly in Ephesus where he was towards the end of his life. Luke is shown tied to a tree trunk deep in prayer. Peter is shown with the other disciples struggling to bring the great catch of fish on board, and Jesus standing on the shoreline.
The first church on the present site was completed by 1100, most probably to serve the needs of those who worked in the Norman castle which had been built nearby, but who lived outside its walls. The castle contained two chapels for the occupants of the castle, but there will have been many from the former Saxon settlement around the Common and the Green half a mile to the east who will have migrated further west to provide the service that the castle community required. The first known Rector was “Thomas the Chaplain” who is recorded as being in office in 1201, and a complete list of Rectors exists from 1297 onwards.
The castle grew to prominence in the thirteenth century and doubtless St Peter’s also, but after the death of Henry III the castle ceased to be occupied so frequently, and by the end of the fourteenth century it was already beginning to fall into ruin. There is evidence that some of the castle’s stone was plundered for St Peter’s church. One hundred years later the church however had outgrown its congregation, and there was need for a new building.
No precise dating exists for the construction of the church we know today, but it would seem to have been begun around 1460. The basic structure was as it is now, though the south porch with the priest’s room above it and the door on the south of the chancel were all added in about 1500, The stone vaulting of the chancel is unusual in a small parish church, and it was here that Thomas Wolsey, later Cardinal, Archbishop of York and Chancellor of the Kingdom, was ordained priest in 1498. At that time there were three chantries or side-altars – for the Jesus Fraternity, the Blessed Trinity, and St Katherine. There was also a chapel to “Our Lady of Pity”.
A medieval rood loft across the aisles and chancel was reached through a doorway in the wall of the north aisle, the base of which can still be seen at the back of the Coffee Shop servery. This rood will undoubtedly have been demolished during the Reformation of the sixteenth century. In 1627 a gallery was constructed at the west end of the church, and an organ was installed there in 1776.
By 1859 the church was falling into disrepair, and the Rector, the Reverend Dowling, employed the diocesan architect, Thomas Wyatt, to produce plans for the restoration of St Peter’s. As a result the nave roof was replaced and the aisle roofs slightly lowered, arches with external buttresses were introduced across both aisles to strengthen the chancel arch, and the organ gallery was removed. A new west window featuring St Peter flanked by the four Evangelists was installed and a smaller east window replaced the previous one in order to strengthen the walls supporting the stone vaulting of the chancel roof.
Much Victorian decoration was added, including painted walls in the sanctuary and the chancel, and bosses showing the instruments of the Passion and consecration crosses were inserted into a multi-coloured frieze. The chancel and sanctuary floors were paved with Minton tiles; the east wall was also decorated with tiles. Much of this decoration was painted over in the middle of the twentieth century.
In 1924 St Peter’s had been joined with St Mary’s in one benefice, but by the early 1970s it was clear that the parish could not support two congregations in the town, and given the fact that St Peter’s was in a worse state of repair than St Mary’s, which was at any rate the bigger of the two churches, it was decided to make St Peter’s redundant. The Mayor of Marlborough, Alderman Jake Seamer, led the way in finding alternative use for the building, and four years later a charitable Trust was formed to preserve the building and to ensure its continued use for the benefit of the local community.
Considerable voluntary effort, fund-raising and repair work followed over the next 30 years to ensure that the building was properly restored with the help of English Heritage and Lottery funding, so that the church can now operate as intended, providing the community with a centre available for hire for concerts, lectures, and meetings, while at the same time being able to show off this historic building in all its restored glory to visitors from near and far.