History

The history of St. Peter’s Church, Devizes
and St. Peter’s School

In 1865 the foundation stone for St. Peter’s Church was laid by the Rev. Charles Dowding, Vicar of St. James, Southbroom. Due to his concern for those who lived and worked on the western edge of Devizes on the Kennet and Avon canal, in the Caen Hill brick works, the foundry, the Bacon Factory, the Wiltshire Militia, and Devizes Prison, he purchased land beside the canal in order to build a church and school.

Consecration Day 17th July 1866. St. Peter’s Church was built of Bath and Ham stone and Westbury tile surmounted at the west end by a bell turret. Initially within the parish of Rowde, St Peter’s Church was soon granted independent parish status. By 1884 sufficient funds had been raised to enlarge the church with a south aisle, to re-build the chancel arch adding two corbels of Chilmark stone. A new vestry was added and gas lighting was installed.

The interior design of the church is simple. Memorial gifts including the stained glass windows, the tiled Baptistry, the chancel screen and rood, the redesigned High Altar and the introduction of incense in 1919, have all enhanced the worship offered in an Anglo-Catholic tradition.

St. Peter’s Church School, similar to the church in design was opened in 1870 with a headmaster and 36 boys. Girls were admitted four years later. It was founded ‘in perpetuity for the education of children and adults of the labouring, manufacturing and other poorer classes in the ecclesiastical district of St. Peter’s, Devizes and for no other purpose’. The close links between church and school continued after the Salisbury Diocesan Board of Education took over the administration of the school in the 1960’s. During the 1960’s new local authority housing within the parish caused an increase in population and a larger school roll. The ‘Juniors’ moved into the former Grammar School building next door enabling the children and parishioners to enjoy the larger grounds for social and fund raising activities.

In 2012,the Diocesan Board of Education opened a new school in a new housing development on the northern edge of Devizes and closed the old school at St. Peter’s. It was a sad day for the church and parish.