History of St. Peter’s
St. Peter’s is located in the heart of the village. Although it is not known when the first church was built in Pitton, by tradition the church is older than Salisbury Cathedral. Certainly, there has been a church on the site since Norman times although there are only fragments of the original building remaining. The oldest part of the present church is the south doorway, the lower part of the tower and the west window. A small brass now in the East wall of the chancel records the death of Edward Zouche, second son of Sir John Zouche, in 1580.
By 1797, there was a gallery over the North Transept and in that year, a gallery was added at the west end of the church reached by an outside staircase.
The Methodist Chapel was originally sited in the same area before a new Chapel was constructed on White Hill in 1888.
St.Peter’s in about 1853.
There was a major restoration of St. Peter, Pitton (as it was then known) in 1878-1880 at which time the North Arcade and vestry were added and the bell tower heightened. The West and North galleries were removed. At some stage before 1904, a third stone cross was added to the roof.
St. Peter’s in about 1904
The font is thought to be Norman. and its quite splendid font cover ‘disappeared’ during the Victorian rebuilding. The good stained glass window by Charles Eamer Kempe is from circa 1886 in memory of Evelyn Methuen, daughter of Sir Frederick Bathurst o Clarendon who supported the 1880 rebuilding appeal.
The layout of St. Peter’s before 1879
A local resident has kindly provided the photographs and text of the following articles which appeared in the Salisbury Journal and are included with its permission.
May 17th, 1879
Pitton: Restoration of the Church
‘We understand the sum of about £1500 is about to be expended in repairing and restoring the old and dilapidated church in this place, In addition to the cost of the restoration of the chancel, which latter will be borne by the ecclesiastical commissioners, the church, which has stood for many centuries is damp, and in a state of general decay, and the interior is disfigured by two unsightly galleries. It is intended to remove these and all the present fittings to take down the north wall of the nave and transept, and to build a new north aisle to the nave, with a vestry-room attached and also to thoroughly repair and restore, and where necessary, rebuild the remainder of the stonework of the building. It is also intended to re-roof the church and to heighten the tower, as well as to refit and reseat the interior, make warm and drain it. About £1100 of the estimated cost has been raised by voluntary donations and subscriptions and the remainder will have to be obtained in the same manner. At present, for a population of 350 persons, there is room for 210, including 82 sittings in the galleries. In the restored church ample room will be provided for the number of parishioners and all seats are intended to be free’.
August 2nd, 1879
Pitton: The Chapel of St. Peter
‘The restoration of this ancient parochial Chapel of St. Peter’ Pitton was commenced on Wednesday last, from the plans and under the direction of Mr. Ewan Christian, the architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The work contemplated will include the rebuilding of most of the walls, the erection of a new north aisle and vestry, and the reforming and heightening of the tower which seems never to have been finished.
At present however the building committee has been unable to give a contract for this last portion of the work, which is estimated to cost £115, but they have accepted tenders and signed a contract with Mr. William Crook of Tower Hill, West Dean, to execute the rest of the work for £1126. He has at the same time agreed with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to undertake the restoration of the Chancel for £300, tenders of the amount were also sent in by Mr. William Grace, Messrs. Phillips and Pill, and Messrs. Hale’.
October 10th 1891
Pitton: Harvest Festival
‘The annual harvest thanksgiving took place on Thursday, October 1st. St. Peter’s Church was decorated with flowers, fruit, vegetables, corn etc., which were liberally contributed by the parishioners. Apples, pears and grapes were also kindly sent from Clarendon Park. The services were as follows:-Holy Communion at 7.45 a.m., Matins at 10.00 a.m. and Evensong and sermon at 7.00 p.m. The weather, which had been wet, cleared up in time to allow a good congregation to attend the evening service, which was very hearty and the singing good. A most appropriate sermon was preached by the Rev. R. E. Girand, of St. Matthew’s, Westminster. The Rev T. J. Henderson, the vicar, was present and gave the blessing. The offertories at the services, as well as those on Sunday, were for the Salisbury Infirmary and altogether amounted to the sum of £2 8s. 9d. The fruit, vegetables, etc. were also sent to the Infirmary, being kindly taken there by Mr. T. Collins’.
Interior of the church, c. 1865, by Kemm.
November 14th, 1891
Pitton: S.P. G. Mission Meeting
‘The annual meeting in support of the Society for the Propogation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was held in the schoolroom on Tuesday evening. The room was well filled, in spite of the wet weather which set in. The proceedings commenced with the singing of a hymn and prayer, after which the Curate, the Rev. J.H.T. Blunt, introduced the Rev. E.C. Spicer, rector of Throwleigh, Devon late of Melbourne, Australia who gave a very interesting and instructive lecture, illustrated by a magic lantern, of missionary work in Australia. The lantern views derived special interest from the fact that they were all produced from photographs taken by the Rev. E.C.Spicer himself of the country and people amongst who he had laboured. The holders of collecting boxes for the society were Hester Collins, Evelyn Baugh, Mr. Talbot, Sarah and Bessie Gowers, Ethelinda Parsons, L. Archie Eyres, and Winifred Dowdell; and there was also a Sunday School box. After the lecture hymns were sung while a collection was made in the room, which together with the contents of the boxes amounted to £3 4s. 9d. The meeting terminated with a vote of thanks and the Blessing’.
April 21st 1900
Pitton: Easter Eggs
‘The annual service for the offering of Easter eggs was held on Tuesday in the parish church. The sermon was preached by Rev. J.D. Morrice (St. Edmund’s, Salisbury) and 537 eggs were presented. These were afterwards divided between Salisbury Infirmary and Kings College Hospital, London’.
From Book No. 30 The Church Plate of the County of Wilts. by James E. Nightingale.
Chapter No. 1, page no. 56
PITTON. – The Commissioners of Edward VI., in 1553 left for parish use at “Pytton” once Chalice, weighing 10 ½ oz., and retained plate for the king’s us 1 ½ oz. At the present time there is a modern-shaped Chalice and a Paten bearing the hall makes of 1852, and engraved with the sacred monogram.
A photograph of St.Peter’s c. 1935.
From The Buildings of England Wiltshire by Nikolaus Pevsner (Penguin 1963, p 331)
Pitton St. Peter. The single-chamfered round-arched S doorway must be C12. Also Norman a single capital with steep tendril-like volutes, now in the N aisle E corner. The doorway is inside a S porch tower whose lower story is of the C13- see the remarkable entrance with the steeply pointed trefoiled arch. One continuous hollow chamfer. In the chancel some remains of C13 lancets. The nave W window of c. 1300: three lights, cusped intersected tracery. The rest mostly C19 (by Ewan Christian; PF). Rainwater heads with the date 1880. – FONT. Norman, circular with plaited band. – STAINED GLASS. E window by Kempe, 1886. The nobbly-leaf background is characteristic.
St Peter’s Church is now part of the Clarendon Group of churches, nine Church of England Churches in the historic area of Clarendon just East of Salisbury in Wiltshire. For more information, please go here.