Building » Peterborough – St Peter and All Souls

Peterborough – St Peter and All Souls

Geneva Street, Peterborough, PE1 2RS

A town church with attached presbytery of the late 1890s, designed by Leonard Stokes in a free decorated Gothic style showing the influence of G.F. Bodley. The interior has Stokes’s characteristic passage aisles and a number of historic furnishings and features of interest. The sanctuary was reordered in 2006. Together the church, presbytery and presbytery garden make a strong positive contribution to the City Centre Conservation Area. 

After the Reformation a scattered remnant of Peterborough Catholics continued to meet in private houses, where Mass was said by itinerant priests. One such was Bl. Henry Heath, who was baptised in the Church of England at St John’s, Peterborough, but became a Catholic, was ordained at Douay, and after returning to England as a priest, was executed at Tyburn. The last private house to be used as a Mass centre was a cottage in Cumbergate, belonging to the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral. On being turned out of this, local Catholics used a loft in Cumbergate as a chapel.

The first resident Catholic priest in the nineteenth century was the Revd Thomas Seed, who was appointed and established the Holy Family mission in January 1848. In 1854 he acquired a site in Queen Street, intended for a church, house and school, to be built from designs by William Wardell. However there were insufficient funds to build the church, and instead the school doubled up as a chapel, seating 170 and opening on 5 October 1856.

Fr Seed was followed in 1874 by the Revd (Canon) Moser, who actively raised funds for a new church, and in 1883 purchased a plot of land off Park Road from the Peterborough Land Company. The Queen Street site was sold and the proceeds put towards the building of a new church, to the designs of Leonard Stokes. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Riddell of Northampton on 26 November 1895 and the church was opened on 15 October 1896. A presbytery was also built to Stokes’s designs. Mr Hammond of Peterborough was the builder. There were not sufficient funds to complete the church, so about 25 feet at the eastern end of the nave and aisles was left unfinished. This part of the building was eventually finished in 1904, but even then the northeast porch was left for completion at a later date.

In 1996, at the time of the building’s centenary, funds were raised for the construction of a parish hall linking the rear of the presbytery and the east end of the church. The architects were Thomas Wilson of Oakham.

An early twentieth century postcard of the interior shows the former high altar, reredos and inlaid marble pulpit. These have been removed in the course of various liturgical reorderings, the most recent being that of 2006, from designs by Antonio Gianatiempo of Peterborough.


The building is not orientated; the liturgical east end faces west. All directions in the following description are liturgical.

The church is in a free and simplified Decorated Gothic style which owes much to Stokes’s brief time in the office of George Frederick Bodley in the 1880s. In many ways the building is a reduced version of Stokes’s church of St Clare, Sefton Park in Liverpool, completed in 1890. The walls of the Peterborough church are of Stamford stone, the roofs covered in tiles. On plan it comprises a nave with north and south porches, tall narrow north and south passage aisles, north and south transepts and a short sanctuary. The roof is continuous over the nave and sanctuary and is carried down over the aisles behind a plain parapet. At the west end a gabled centre has a seven-light pointed window with elaborate tracery. The south side has a simple porch in the west bay, five further bays with tall two-light windows and a low transept with a three-light window in the end wall. The north side is similar but the porch is slightly more elaborate. The sanctuary has a two-light window to each side and the east wall is topped by a stone bellcote.

Internally, the nave has an open timber roof, plain plastered walls, a timber boarded floor and a timber gallery across the western bay. The windows throughout are clear glazed. Eastward of the gallery the north and south arcades of six bays have chamfered pointed arches on tall stone piers. The arch vaults are carried across the passage aisles to frame the windows in each bay. The easternmost bay of the arcades corresponds to the transepts, which both contain small chapels. A tall moulded pointed arch opens into the sanctuary, which is raised three steps above the nave and has a blind east wall with a central recess. The sanctuary has been reordered several times, most recently in 2006, with a polished marble floor and a suite of altar, ambo, seating and tabernacle in stone by Antonio Gianatiempo. The curved altar canopy and reredos are copies of the originals which were removed in 1971, but incorporate carvings of 1913 of the Crucifixion, St Peter and Judas Maccabeus. The southeast Lady Chapel has a marble altarpiece by Leonard Stokes, with a fourteenth century icon of the Virgin by Ugolino. The chapel altar rails are probably also by Stokes and the stained glass in the three-light window of the chapel is by Hardman. The north chapel has a carved timber reredos with a relief of the Last Supper and Crucifixion by Stufflesser. The large timber Stations of the Cross are by Feurstein. A small modern timber octagonal font stands at the west end of the nave.

List descriptions



1896. Leonard stokes, architect. The church is in the Gothic style, and is built of stone with a stone tile roof. Nave and chancel, North and South aisles, North transept, North West porch and a bellcote on the East gable. Perpendicular tracery to the windows. Church of All Saints and Priest’s House form a group. Listing NGR: TL1918399084



1896. Leonard Stokes, architect. The Priest’s house is attached to the Church of All Souls to the North. It is built of the same materials as the church and is of two storeys. It has sash windows with glazing bars and on the ground floor is a canted bay window. To the North is a gable and an off-centre Gothic porch. Church of All Saints and Priest’s House form a group. Listing NGR: TL1916099080

Heritage Details

Architect: Leonard Stokes

Original Date: 1896

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II