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Church of St Peter, Portsmouth

Description: Church of St Peter

Grade: II
Date Listed: 23 June 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1400154

OS Grid Reference: SZ6464599744
OS Grid Coordinates: 464644, 99735
Latitude/Longitude: 50.7936, -1.0842

Locality: Portsmouth
County: Portsmouth
Country: England
Postcode: PO5 1QJ

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Listing Text


Anglican church, 1882-3 by Alfred Arthur Hudson

Reason for Listing

St Peter's Church, built in 1882-3 by AA Hudson, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architecture: a typical instance of a late-C19 'town church' with an impressive interior
* Fittings: a rich suite of carved, gilded and painted sanctuary fittings showing high standards of craftsmanship
* Stained glass: a particularly lavish scheme for such an austerely-built church, the aisle windows forming a thematically coherent sequence by a major firm of glassworkers


The predecessor to St Peter's Church was a temporary iron mission chapel built in 1871 by St Jude's, Southsea to serve the expanding suburb of Somerstown, a largely working-class district to the east of Portsmouth city centre. This was replaced in 1882-3 with a permanent church of 750 seats by the local architect Alfred Arthur Hudson (1852-1930), whose initial, much more ambitious design for a 1000-seat church was pared down at the insistence of the Church Commissioners. The cost of the new church was largely met by public subscription and a few large individual donations. Furnishings were gradually added over the succeeding decades, including a major re-fitting of the sanctuary area, supposedly by Italian craftsmen, in 1905. The original gas lanterns gave way to electric lighting during the 1920s. The old mission chapel continued to serve as a church hall until it was replaced in 1923-4 by the St Peter's Institute (not included in the listing).


St Peter's is a tall brick church in a severe early Gothic style. It comprises a five-bay aisled nave with a western baptistery, and a polygonal-apsed chancel of two bays flanked by a Lady chapel to the north and a pair of vestries to the south. The exterior is of red brick, with Bath stone dressings sparingly used, and steep-pitched roofs of Welsh slate. The windows are tall narrow lancets. On the west front these are arranged in two tiers above the gabled baptistery, which sits between a pair of massive stepped buttresses. At the western end of each aisle is a gabled porch topped with a cross finial. The clerestorey windows are linked by a continuous stone band, with brick eaves corbelling above. The chapel and vestry project as low transepts, the latter having a single belfry in the gable. The windows in the apse are cusped lancets, placed one over the other so that the head of the lower light forms the cill of the one above.

The interior is a single aisled space, with no division between nave and chancel. The inside walls are faced with a soft purplish brick, with red brick used for dressings and stone for the plain octagonal arcade piers. A triple arch divides the west end of the nave from the baptistery. The upper nave walls are corbelled out slightly just below clerestorey level, and - as on the exterior - a continuous stone moulding runs between the clerestorey windows. The nave roof is arch-braced with king struts and tie beams supported on plain stone corbels. The chancel is raised up three steps and has a black and white tiled floor. To the north, three unequal arches open into the Lady chapel, while to the south is an ambulatory passage leading to the vestries. The apsidal sanctuary is raised up a further step, with three more leading up to the high altar; the floor here is of white mosaic with roundels containing Eucharistic symbols and ecclesiastical heraldry.

The fittings are mostly of the late C19 or early C20. In the baptistery is a round stone font resting on a squat crocketed column. The nave seating comprises plain open-backed timber benches, now moveable. The octagonal oak pulpit combines late-Gothic tracery with linenfold panelling. An oak screen of similar style divides the north aisle from the Lady chapel. Over the chancel steps is a carved rood beam with a Crucifixion group. The present chancel stalls, of oak with linenfold panelling, replaced the original pine furnishings in 1954. On the south side of the chancel is the organ, housed in a simple Gothic case; the instrument traces its origins to an organ built by Thomas Thamar for Winchester Cathedral in 1665, although it has since been relocated, rebuilt and expanded several times. The high altar, reredos and apse panelling, installed in 1905, form a lavish set, with rich blind-tracery carving in oak and painted figures on gold backgrounds in the panels: Christ in Glory in the centre, with the Agnus Dei on the altar frontal, the Adoration of the Magi in the left-hand panels and the Three Maries at the Sepulchre to the right. Fabric from the old high altar was reused in the war memorial tablet in the south ambulatory.

The windows in the aisles, chancel and Lady chapel contain late-Victorian stained glass, mostly by Walter Tower of Kempe & Co. The aisle windows form two distinct schemes: English saints in the north aisle, and figures connected with the Nativity to the south. Brass tablets beneath record the names of individual donors. The Lady chapel windows depict SS Peter and Paul and the Blessed Virgin Mary; those in the apse show the Nativity, Baptism, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. The baptistery windows are by Francis Skeat and symbolise Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination; they were installed in 1975 as a memorial to a former parish priest, the Revd Gordon King.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.