History of St Peter’s Church
The land on which St Peter’s church and hall stand was originally part of The Sacred Heart parish, and it was purchased with money bequeathed by Fr Donnelly, a former rector of that parish.
The hall was built first in 1902 and Mass was celebrated there from 1904 while funds were raised to build the church.
The architect, Claude Kelly, submitted plans for the church in the ‘Romanesque Revival’ style in 1913. The foundation stone was laid in March 1914 and the church opened in August 1915, having cost £9,000 to build. Mgr Canon Arthur Cocks was appointed as the priest in charge, although St Peter’s did not become a separate parish until 1920. The church was eventually consecrated in June 1927.
In 1929 a fund was started to raise money for 36 new oak benches and a matching pulpit, and the following year the Willis organ was donated by Mr John Courage.
During the Second World War the hall was extended and the church was painted inside for the first time. Gas heating was installed and the statue of St Peter placed above the front door.
At that time a Sunday Mass was celebrated in the Grenadier Hotel for Catholics in the north of the parish. During the 1950s a plot of land was purchased for the construction of a new church in the West Blatchington area. A large multi-purpose hall was built first, followed by the construction of St George’s church in 1968.
There were now three (and sometimes more) priests living in the presbytery so the adjoining house in Shelley Road was purchased. More recently the house was home to two Sisters of Mercy who worked in this parish.
In 1988 St Peter’s became a Grade II listed building, described by English Heritage as ‘startling’ for its similarity to an Italian-style basilica.
In 1991 the sanctuary was reordered so that Mass could be said with the priest facing the congregation. The high altar was removed and the tabernacle re-sited in the original Lady Chapel, now the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The baptismal font was moved from the baptistery at the back of the church to its present position to the left of the sanctuary. The imposing pulpit in the body of the church was removed altogether.
In 2004 a long-standing plan to link the church and hall was activated. This entailed removing the original porch at the entrance to the church and inserting a glass screen between the nave and the lobby. A new doorway at the side of the lobby was introduced and the open air passage between church and hall covered over to provide a safe, dry link between church and hall. A new kitchen was built in the hall to create the well-used gathering place that you see today.
In 2015 we shall be marking the centenary of the building of St Peter’s by refurbishing the sanctuary and side chapels, and repainting the inside of the church.
Rectors of St Peter’s
Mgr Canon Arthur Cocks 1915 – 1920
Mgr Ernest Moodie 1920 – 1938
Canon Richard O’Regan 1938 – 1943
Canon Peter Paul King 1943 – 1952
Rev Timothy O’Donoghue 1952 – 1954
Rev Denis Tuohy 1954 – 1968
Rev Philip Dickerson 1968 – 1982
Canon Michael Reynell 1982 – 2000
Rev Jerry O’Brien 2000 – 2018
Rev Alexander Lucie-Smith 2018 –
Rev Thomas Murphy 1938 – 1940
Rev Laurence Roskilly 1939 – 1944
Rev Edward Dilger 1940 – 1941
Rev James MacDonald 1941 – 1943
Rev Andrew Desmond 1943 – 1945
Rev John Bluett 1945 – 1955
Rev Francis McGuinn 1945 – 1951
Rev Henry Reynolds 1951 – 1956
Rev John Hagreen 1955 – 1960
Rev Denis Paul 1956 – 1957
Rev Denis Barry 1958 – 1960
Rev Kevin St Aubyn 1960 – 1962
Rev Brian Storey 1960 – 1971
Rev Anthony Burnham 1962 – 1967
Rev Timothy Kelly 1968 – 1969
Rev Albert van der Most 1969 – 1981
Rev Michael Winter 1969 – 1970
Rev Christopher Benyon 1971 – 1978
Rev Mark Elvins 1978 – 1980
Rev John O’Sullivan 1980 – 1983
Rev Jerry O’Brien 1983 – 1986 in residence – Chaplain at Cardinal Newman School
Rev Paul Wilkins 1984 – 2000