St. Peter's Church, Sheringham - Church of England

St. Peter's Church, Sheringham - Church of EnglandServices


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The Sheringham we see today is a relatively recent creation, the result of the arrival of the railway line in 1887, at just the time that sea bathing was becoming popular. It meant that North Norfolk was no longer as remote from major population centres as before, with large numbers of people able to come here for their holidays (London was only just over 3 hours away by train – as now!). What had formerly been a small fishing outpost of Upper Sheringham developed into a holiday resort for the middle-classes, just as the crab industry was collapsing due to over-fishing, and farming was entering a recession. A building boom got underway, with hotels and boarding houses constructed, and a golf links laid out.

The once quiet High Street became a bustling centre, as new shops and businesses were set up to cater for the needs of the changing population. The local landowners, the Upchers of Upper Sheringham, owned most of the land, and following the slump in agriculture, decided that a better financial return would be derived from selling plots off for development. This new expansion was to include a new church to cater for the spiritual needs of the much increased (and still growing) population.

St. Peter's Church, Sheringham - Church of EnglandBy Norfolk standards St Peter’s is a very recent creation. In a region graced by so many medieval churches, it is rare to find one from the Victorian era, but just as with many of those churches, St Peter’s came about through the generosity of a local family, the Upchers.  They took their responsibilities for the local community seriously, and provided a school, helped the local fishermen and labourers and their families, provided and supported a lifeboat and encouraged the development of (Lower) Sheringham.

It was as a result of their efforts that in 1842 a Chapel of Ease was built, which a few years later was enlarged to allow the seating of about 500 people. Services finished in 1897 with the opening of St Peter’s, the former chapel continuing to be used as a church hall until the Parish Hall in Waterbank Road was opened in 1956. The old chapel was eventually demolished in March 1969 making way for a modern block of flats, Temple Court.

St. Peter's Church, Sheringham - Church of EnglandThe Upchers donated the land on which the church is built, and also contributed generously to the cost of the building itself, which was designed by St Aubyn and Wadling of London and built by Bardell Bros. of Kings Lynn. It was on St Peter’s Day 1895 that the foundation stone was laid by Mrs Upcher, and the building was consecrated exactly two years later, on St Peter’s Day, 29th June 1897. Whilst it was being built, new houses were also going up on nearby plots, sold by the Upchers in response to the new demand for land.The church is of red brick, faced with knapped flints, and roofed with slates. There are crosses on east and west gables, and a figure of St Peter in the niche over the outer doorway of the south porch worked by a local stonemason.

The building cost 8000 and could supposedly seat more than 700. Additions and improvements were made over the years: in 1910, the choir and clergy vestries on the north side were built; in 1928, the reredos (the decorated wooden screen behind the altar) was added; in 1930, the north and south sides of the chancel were panelled in oak; in 1931-2, the low screens at the top of the chancel steps were added; and in 1933, the Chapel of the Holy Spirit was dedicated.

St Peter’s was built as the daughter church of All Saints, Upper Sheringham, and it wasn’t until 1953 that it became the Parish Church of Sheringham following a boundary change when All Saints became linked with Weybourne.

The overall impression on entering St Peter’s is one of enormous spaciousness and light, with the wide nave extending into the side aisles. It has never had pews (many of the chairs still in use today were made in the local workhouse from trees, which grew on the Upcher estate) and this adds to the sense of space.

The interior is bold in design, an impression generated by the ridge of the roof, which is carried in one continuo line throughout from east to west, with the roof of the chancel being the same height as that of the nave. There is a plain stone font, and the pulpit and lectern are made from oak, a theme continued in the chancel with its richly carved woodwork. The floor of the nave is of oak blocks and the chancel and porches have splendid mosaic floors.

Above the altar the story of the Ascension is depicted in stained glass, whilst in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit are windows showing the Transfiguration, the Baptism of Christ, and the Garden of Gethsemane. Along the south aisle are windows of St Peter, St George, St Andrew, St David and St Patrick, together with a very fine carving of St Peter. On the north side are windows of the four Evangelists, and at the west end are stained glass windows representing Baptism, Communion, Confirmation and Marriage.

In the Baptistery, on either side of the font, the wooden cupboards contain the electronic bells and the kitchen facilities, all cleverly blended into the fabric of the building. The organ was built by Bishop and son of Ipswich and installed in 1899. Over the years various improvements were made, culminating in a complete rebuilding in 1986. It is a very fine instrument, and together with the excellent acoustics, means that St Peter’s is one of the most sought after concert venues in North Norfolk. In addition to the many baptisms, weddings and funerals that take place, the church is much in demand for recitals, and is very much a community building.

The two pictures of the church are taken from the original architectural drawings.