Church of England Diocese of Southwark Walworth, St. Peter

The History of the Church

The Parish Church of St Peter, Walworth

Saint Peter's Church was the first of Walworth's so-called "New Churches". The foundation stone was laid on 2nd June 1823 by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The architect was Sir John Soane, who was famous as the designer of the Bank of England. When it was built many people did not like the light interior. They thought churches should be dark and gloomy. And as for the idea of placing a weather-cock on top of the steeple instead of a cross... Well, really!

The building was completed in just under two years, and was consecrated on 28th February 1825. People had to pay for seats - anything from 5 Shillings (25p) to 22 shillings (£1.10) a year for a pew for the whole family. This was quite a lot of money then. They cost more the closer you sat to the heaters.

Working people, and the servants, were given seats upstairs, out of the way of the "˜gentry'. Two small galleries either side of the organ pipes were specially for "˜Charity Children', whose families were very poor indeed.

By the end of the nineteenth century most people who lived in the area were poor people, living in slums. The parish priest here then, Father Horsley (they didn't use Christian names of priests in thosedays, but surnames), was very concerned for the poor. The first thing he did was clear all the gravestones from the churchyard, and make it into a small park. It still is one. It caused a great fuss at the time. Then he tried to do something about the hungry children who lived locally. Having cleared all the lead lined coffins from the crypt, which were then re-interred in Woking Cemetery, he provided free lunches for children from the school, and they were served in the crypt. So they had a school meals service, started in 1895 or thereabouts.

The church was re-dedicated, after the redecoration was completed. Her Majesty the Queen Mother was in attendance for the re-dedication service.
The church is currently being completely re-wired, new lighting and a sound/loop system is being installed. When this is finished, work will begin on redecorating the interior
Very little of the organ is original, having been rebuilt on several occasions, the case is Soane's design.. Although it still needs some restoration work , it is used at every Parish mass, and for the occasional concert or recital. Replacing of the copper roofing, repairs to the original gates, and replacement of the east windows after damage by vandalism, took place with considerable assistance from English Heritage, Heritage of London, and Marshall's Charity. The PCC and congregation also raised a considerable sum towards these costs.
When the church was built, this area of London was something of an affluent area. Times have changed, and we have now been declared an Urban Priority area.