Winchester - St Peter

Jewry Street, Winchester, Hampshire

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A large and impressive building by Frederick Arthur Walters (1849-1931), designed towards the end of his career. This prolific Catholic architect was articled to his father, F.P. Walters, and went on to work for Messrs Goldie & Child for nine years before commencing independent practice in 1878.

Walters did much work in the Romanesque revival style but, here, as in his early output, he built in archaeologically correct Gothic. St Peter’s is a large, assured work demonstrating Walters’ mature talent and is particularly notable for its spacious interior.

The complex of buildings on the site includes the Milner Hall, which originally was the church built by Dr (later Bishop) John Milner and consecrated in 1792 (see supplementary report).

Catholic observance was never wholly eclipsed in Winchester. In 1575 Dr (later Cardinal) Allen noted that Winchester was the only Catholic ‘District’ in the south of England. It is presumed this centred on the house of ‘My Lady West’ in Fleshmonger Street (later the Royal Hotel in St Peter’s Street). Mass was certainly being said there in 1579 and in 1583 it was raided and much evidence discovered to show it was a major Mass centre.

The Great Plague of London of 1665 caused Charles II to move his court to Winchester. His queen, Catherine of Braganza, brought her retinue of Catholic chaplains and a number of the courtiers were also Catholics.

Catholic life after the Restoration also owed much to Roger Corham who possessed ‘My Lady West’s House’. He gave Winchester its first resident priest instead of a private chaplain. He built himself a new residence on the other side of the road and named it ‘St Peter’s House’; a priest was also housed here. At some unknown date he gave the house to the Catholics of Winchester. Mass was said in secret in a chapel room on the first floor until the appearance, about 1740, of a chapel converted from a shed in the garden of the resident priest, John Shaw.

Dr John Milner (1752-1826) came to Winchester in 1779 and extended the existing chapel in 1784. Then, in collaboration with his friend the architect, writer and antiquary John Carter (1748-1817), he rebuilt the chapel. This was of importance as the first church in England to be consecrated since the Reformation and also as an example of the burgeoning Gothic style.

Milner’s church still survives, much altered internally, as a parish hall. It was replaced by the present church in 1924-6, to the designs of F.A. Walters. It cost £23,000 and was built by Hussellwhite of Basingstoke. It opened on 15 July 1926 and was consecrated on 22 September 1938.

A presbytery was built on the south side of the church in 1968. This was turned into a parish centre when a new presbytery was built a little further south in the 1986.

Built of light brown ironstone with Bath stone dressings, this church is an aisled structure with prominent northeast tower. It is designed in a fourteenth-century Gothic style. The roof is covered with Westmorland slates. There is no clerestory. The falling site gives rise to a towering east end.

The west end comprises the nave with five-light Decorated window, aisles set back from the end of the nave and under flat embattled parapets concealing lean-to roofs, and a Lady Chapel set back from the west end of the north aisle. Beyond lies the tower, a large structure with pairs of two-light belfry windows and having angle buttresses which rise to near the top without offsets or any ornamentation apart from the gabled tops. The south aisle has large three-light Decorated windows. The east end has a four-light Decorated window and below this is a large panel of flint and limestone chequerwork.The north wall incorporates a late Romanesque doorway taken from the Hospital of St Mary Magdalene.

The nave is wide and has tall, six-bay arcades to the aisles. The piers are quatrefoil and have fillets in the hollows and on the round parts: the arches have two orders of wave mouldings. The chancel arch is as wide as the nave. The roofs are arch-braced in the nave and chancel, and lean-tos in the aisles. The nave floor consists of wood blocks laid herringbone-wise.

At the east end of the chancel is a carved stone reredos with elaborate tall, thin niches bearing the statues of saints and bishops: in the centre is canopy over the tabernacle. On either side there are openings to stairs giving access to light candles on the reredos. The stone altar has been brought forward and stands on eight buff marble shafts. The pulpit has been lowered in height and is sited on the north side of the chancel arch: it has representations of the Four Doctors of the Church. The Lady Chapel has an altar formed out of a seventeenth-century carved chest with figures of St Peter, St Paul and Mary Magdalene: on the wall behind is a further carved panel of seventeenth-century date.

Stained glass: the east windows of the chancel and south chapel may be the work of Burlison & Grylls: the latter is a memorial to Canon Luke Gunning (+1924). The three windows in the Lady Chapel were designed by A.E. Buss and made by Goddard & Gibbs (n.d.). 

Diocese: Portsmouth

Architect: Frederick A. Walters

Original Date: 1924

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II