Monument record MCC408 - St Peter's Church, North Hill, Colchester


Anglo-Saxon and later church, remodelled in 1758 and with partial C19 restorations.


Grid reference Centred TL 99433 25238 (42m by 23m)
Map sheet TL92NE
1848 Parish ST PETER
County ESSEX


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

St Peter's Church is the only Colchester church recorded in Domesday (the richest church recorded in the county at that time), situated at the west end of the High Street and at its junction with North Hill; there were, however, possibly as many as nine parish churches and two chapels by the time of the Norman Conquest. The parish was the most prosperous in Colchester at the time of Doomsday, and the richest church in the county.<1><2><3> Rodwell & Rodwell (1977, p.28) suggest it was an Anglo-Saxon minster, based on its prominent location and Domesday reference.<8> The present plan, however, shows no evidence of Anglo-Saxon origin; the ornamental metalwork on the south door dates from the 13th century.

The present church is a large 15th century aisled building. Extensively restored in the 18th century and restored in the 19th century. Where ancient the walls are of mixed rubble with septaria, brick and ragstone; dressings are Reigate and other limestone. Roofs are covered with lead and tiles. Earliest parts are formed by the 4 western bays of the nave with the S aisle which are early 15th century. Later in the 15th century the corresponding bays of the N arcade with the N aisle were built. At this time there was a central tower between the 3rd and part of the 2nd bays of the existing arcades. Early in the 16th century the vestry with bone-hole below were added. Chancel has no ancient features. Features and fittings include: C15, early C16 windows; early C16 doorway to bone-hole; tracing of C15 doorway in nave N wall; C15 doorway in S wall; early C16 doorway to W wall vestry (with C14 door, latch and key plate probably C16 or C17); indents in N aisles; door c.1310 in S aisle, S doorway, ironwork ascribed to Thomas of Leighton Buzzard (has late C14 scutcheon plate added); early C15 piscina in S aisle S wall; C15 and C16 worked stone fragments in churchyard. Parapet of N wall of vestry has richly cusped panelling with carved rosettes.<4><5>

The church was damaged in the earthquake of 1692 and probably soon after the windows of the aisles were remodelled. In 1758 the central tower was removed, the N and S arcades extended, partly with old materials, over its site, and the west tower added. Soon after the chancel was reduced to half its width by extending the nave arcades eastwards and at the same time the S aisle was extended to the same point. The church was restored in the C19 when the clerestory was added and the chancel arch built. Features and fittings include: C18 W galleries in nave, and both aisles; C18 windows in aisles; late C16 brasses; late C17 chair in chancel; communion rails, c.1710 in tower; late C16, C17 and early C18 monuments and floor slabs; plate includes stand-paten of 1698; Royal arms of William III in nave, on N wall; early mid C17th century table in vestry.<4><5>

The medieval church had a central tower and transepts- declared dangerous and removed in 1758. The inadequate RCHME plan including foundations of tower but does not state its source. The tower was crowned by an octagonal lantern or spire (shown on Morant's map and contemporary engravings) probably C16 or C17, but the base of the tower was probably much earlier. The tower was damaged in the 1692 earthquake. The graveyard (MCC409) probably originally abutted on the High Street and the frontage buildings (Red Row) are probably medieval encroachments.<6>

Bettley & Pevsner (2007) record, 'Square red brick W tower of 1758. The upper part has white brick quoins and white brick battlements. To the street on a coarse bracket a clock in a stone case by C.F. Hayward, 1866. White brick battlements on th eaisles, which have arched windows also of 1758, when the medieval central tower, damaged by the earthquake in 1692, was taken down and the nave extended into the chancel. Walls of mixed rubble with septaria, brick and ragstone. Inside, only a few reminders of the medieval church. C15 arcades with piers with demi-columns to the aisle arches but a slim demi-polygonal shaft to the nave, and a single C15 at the E. end of the N. aisle. Behind the arcades, galleries on Tuscan columns, the N. (and probably also W. organ gallery) 1791, the S. 1815. Below the N. vestry a BONE-HOLE of c.1520 with a brick vault with single-chamfered arches and ribs.' The clerestory is of 1895-6, added by King & Lister during further restoration, with a new roof and chancel arch replaced. -PULPIT. Fine late C17 with richly moulded frames. Five brass plates with kneeling figures and inscriptions, 1509-1610.<7>

Six digital photographs of Church of St Peter, Colchester, taken in August 2016.<9>

Sources/Archives (9)

  • <1> Monograph: Cooper, Janet (Ed). 1994. Vol. IX, The Borough of Colchester, A History of the County of Essex. Volume IX.
  • <2> Serial: The Essex Society for Archaeology and History. 1921. Vol. 15 (New Series) Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society. 15 (New Series). pp.94-95.
  • <3> Monograph: Unknown. 1086. The Doomsday Book.
  • <4> Monograph: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1922. Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England): Essex, (North-East). Volume III. No 8.
  • <5> LIST: Department of the Environment. 1971. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest: Borough of Colchester (Essex). TL 9925 SW 4/164.
  • <6> Monograph: Rodwell, Warwick J with Rodwell, KA. 1977. Historic Churches: a wasting asset. pp.28-29.
  • <7> Monograph: Bettley, James and Pevsner, Nikolaus. 2007. The buildings of England: Essex. pp.268-269.
  • <8> Monograph: Gascoyne, Adrian and Radford, David. 2013. Colchester. Fortress of the War God. An Archaeological Assessment. p.196.
  • <9> Photograph: Tipper, J.. 2016. Photographs of Church of St Peter, Colchester. Digital.

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Record last edited

Sep 16 2016 3:11PM

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