Lost Greenwich – St Peters Church
“I am trying to establish the location of St Peter’s C of E Church in Greenwich. I am researching the life of Rev William Money, who was vicar of the church in 1912 and lived in the vicarage, Gloucester Place (now Circus, it would seem). Money was later an Army Padre on the Somme & a very senior Freemason.”
The Phantom replies:
This one had me for a moment. There certainly isn’t a St Peter’s church now anywhere near Gloucester Circus, other than the Old Royal Naval College chapel, dedicated to St Peter and St Paul. The most obvious candidate was the (now demolished) St Mary’s Church, which used to stand in King William Lane, near the park, and the only other CofE church in that area I could think of is St Alfege’s.
Since St Alfege is the mother church of the parish, I thought I’d google that. Of course – how could I have forgotten the full name of St Alfege School – “St Alfege with St Peters…”
I created this rubbish pink-oval-marks-the-spot image from one of the maps on the excellent Ideal Homes site to give you a vague idea of where St Peters was, Mike.
And, yes, I do mean ‘was.’ The school website tells me that it was, like so many parts of Greenwich, bombed to buggery in WWII, which is why the school is now affiliated with St Alfege.
It didn’t have that long a life (in church years, anyway.) Apparently the church was ‘of a parish split from St Alfege’ in the über-religious 19th C, first mentioned in 1866. It doesn’t give a reason for the breakaway but given the period it’s like St Alfeges just couldn’t take the numbers of faithful who turned up every Sunday any more. St Peters was built on land given by the Rev. George Blissett (ah, now there’s a familiar street name…) who also coughed up the cash.
The school website says it was the site of the old Greenwich Fair (which, as any fule no, was abolished a decade earlier for being a den of iniquity – what better way to make sure it didn’t happen again than to build a church on it..) This surprised me as I had always thought the fair took place in the park. If it did indeed also have an outlet on Bridge St (now Creek Road) I can begin to see why the townspeople might have felt a bit besieged every Easter August and May Day…
The architect was Samuel Teulon (who I’ll save for another day, he’s worth a post on his own.) I have no idea what it looked like, but since Teulon was a neo-gothic man, think dark and forbidding with turrets and such…
The records of the church can be tracked down here but if you want to get a clear idea of what the place was like, the best man for the job is, as always, Charles Booth. Just get this description, folks, from 1899-1900:
“St Peter’s Church is peculiarly isolated and entirely poor: it’s unique character. No church or chapel other than the parish church (St Peters – TGP); but a City missionary at work, and an undenominational Sunday school. No area in London more crowded and poor. but not so degraded as parts of Deptford, and some improvement in thirty years owing to the expulsion of the poorest by forbidding and overcrowding and closing of cellar dwellings; the work suffers through deterioration of the wealthy neighbouring districts: schools full but church empty: people ‘completely friendly but utterly apathetic’: successful temperance work both among children and adults, The Ragged School and Boys’ Institute: 348 in the School and 70 in the Lads’ Institute: the work not very successful and conceived on too narrow lines. The City missionary’s work. The evidence of the master and mistress of neighbouring Board School; ‘self respect’ the most important lesson learnt: characteristics of the children. Extracts from our notes as to this district. Drink is the curse of the people but all agree that the conditions are improving and there is a diminished roughness, but the improvement is largely due to the removal of the undesirable : though beyond this is the influence of education; religion in any highly developed form takes no present place and fails here to an unusual degree to penetrate the lives of the people.
So – Rev Money had his work cut out then. Interestingly, Booth also notes that St Alfege’s next door had ‘very different methods from St Peters…’ which, knowing the Victorians, might lead to a wild guess as to the cause of the split – Booth attributes St Alfege’s more well-heeled citizenss as being the main reason for it being better attended – perhaps the good burghers of West Greenwich split off St Peters so they didn’t have to look at the hoi-poloy in their pews.
Whatever the reason, after St Peters was flattened in the the war, the two parishes were reunited, the name surviving only in the local primary school.
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