Cirencester - St Peter

St Peter’s Road, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7

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A stone-built late Victorian church by A. J. C. Scoles in his favoured (and by then somewhat old-fashioned) early Gothic style. The church is relatively little altered, and furnishings of note include a fine high altar and reredos by Boulton of Cheltenham. With its attached contemporary presbytery, the church makes a positive contribution to the local conservation area. 

The Cirencester Mission was founded in 1855 by Fr Anselm Glassbrook OSB, who came from Fairford and built and fitted up a small chapel in London Road, seating 100 and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception (the dogma had been defined by Pope Pius IX in the previous year). It opened on 23 January 1855. This building, described variously as ‘a neat little Gothic edifice’ and ‘very miserable, hardly to be called anything but a pigsty’ (quoted in Harding) survives today in commercial use. 
 
By 1891 the mission had a resident priest (the Rev. J. A. Martin) and moves to build the present church began. The present site, large enough for a church, presbytery and school (the last never built) was acquired in April 1892 for £500, provided by Canon John Mitchell of Taunton and the Chilean Garcia brothers (former students at the local Royal Agricultural College). The architect chosen was Canon A. J. C. Scoles of Yeovil and the builders Messrs Collins & Godfrey of Tewkesbury and Cheltenham. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Brownlow on 20 June 1895, at which time construction was well advanced, and the opening took place on 13 February 1896. The high altar was given by Fr Martin, and made by Boultons of Cheltenham. The cost of the church and linked presbytery, also designed by Scoles, was £2,197. 
 
Donations by parishioners in the 1930s included the stained glass in the east window (probably by Hardman), and small side altars with statues of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady. Some of the benches in the church came from the chapel of the former convent in Chesterton (1936-73); the rest were introduced in about 1940. In 1953 the adjacent parish hall was built under architects Eric Cole & Partners. The church was reordered by the same architects in 1970, when a forward altar was introduced. 
 
Plans for the enlargement of the church were advanced from 1989. Architects Peter Dinkel Associates of London prepared a scheme for the addition of a north aisle, traditional in design and form, while the Falconer Partnership of Stroud came up with a more radical scheme involving in essence a new church at ninety degrees to the present one, which would be retained as the sanctuary, side chapel and sacristy. However, even the cheapest of these schemes would have cost £250,000, well beyond the resources of the parish, and nothing came of them. 

The church was built in 1895-6 from designs by Canon A. J. C. Scoles. It is in Early English Gothic style, and is of semi-coursed rock-faced local limestone with Bath stone dressings and a double Roman pantile roof. It consists of an aisleless nave and sanctuary under a continuous roofline. There is a small porch at the west end. Each of the bays to the nave has a two-light Geometrical window, separated by quite substantial buttresses. The east and west ends each have three graded lancet windows. There is no clerestory or tower.

 

The interior has not been inspected, and the following description draws on published accounts and photographs. At the west end of the nave is a gallery, with an oak front of 1996 carved by Richard Beck, with the arms of Bishop Brownlow, Bishop Alexander, the keys of St Peter and the arms of Cirencester. The nave is covered by a five-sided panelled ceiling with stencil decoration of 1996, and its side walls have a continuous stringcourse which arches over the windows. The most significant furnishing is the original Caen stone, marble and alabaster high altar and reredos by Boulton & Sons of Cheltenham (figure 2), the reredos with six pinnacled niches with statues (Saints Patrick, Cecilia, Martin, James the Apostle, Teresa and Dominic) and throne containing the tabernacle in the centre. The forward altar is of Bath stone and dates from 1996. Also in the sanctuary is an oak lectern of 1996 by Richard Beck. The east window is of c.1934 and depicts the founding of the church; it is probably by Hardman. The west window is by Francis Tucker, c.1955. On the south wall of the nave a window depicting St Maximilian Kolbe is by Graham Dowding of Nailsworth, 1997.

 

The church was consecrated by Bishop Alexander in October 1996, at the time of its centenary, when a new stone forward altar (enclosing relics of St Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists) and oak lectern were installed in the sanctuary, a new gallery front installed and the interior redecorated. 

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Canon A. J .C. Scoles

Original Date: 1896

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed