A HISTORY OF THECHURCH BUILDINGS
St Peter’s stands at the centre of the village of Wrecclesham and is a feature of the skyline from many parts of the village. It is the only church building in a parish of over 6,000 inhabitants and is well-regarded and well-used by the wider community for baptisms, weddings and funerals.
The church is surrounded by residential properties built in the mid- to late 20th Century. A larger adjacent house, Wrecclesham Grange, is now a nursing home (Ashton Manor). Across the main road (School Hill) is a redbrick building dating from 1881. Previously this was the Wrecclesham Institute (a working men’s club with a flat above) which has been converted into nine flats. If you would like to know more about the history of the village, take a look at the Wrecclesham History Project.
A brief history of the church
Follow this link for more detail about the church and those associated with features of the building: Know Your Church
In 1840, an Act of Parliament was passed which led to the creation of many new parishes and churches, including one in the centre of the village of Wrecclesham which then boasted about 800 inhabitants. A gift of land for the church and burial ground, including stone for the church building, came from William Paine, a wealthy local land owner. Mrs Knight, of the family the Knights of Runwick laid the foundation stone. On the 15 July 1840, St Swithun’s day, Bishop Sumner of Winchester consecrated the Church of St Peter. The first incumbent was the Revd Robert D Buttemer who lived in the first Vicarage, now known as Yatesbury House, on Wrecclesham Road.
In 1861, just 21 years after its consecration, an almost total rebuild of the church commenced. On the 1 August 1861, a Memorandum of Agreement was made between the Revd Henry Julius and John Goodall contractor, for building and alterations to the church. In 1876 the work was completed by Frank C. Birch, builder of Longbridge Building yard, Farnham.
The church is built of a chalk stone known as clunch. The arches and window surrounds are limestone and the roof is slate. The heating system consists of a gas boiler (converted from coal-fired) dating from at least the 1970s and located in a cellar outside the west end. The boiler heats large radiators (probably installed in 1920s) around the walls of the aisles, and pipes which run under gratings in the nave. The church is lit by high level 300/500w tungsten floodlights. There is a sound system dating from mid-1990s with a hearing loop.
Except for the Vestry, St. Peter’s Church has entirely stained glass windows.
Chapel of St Michael and All Angels (Side Chapel)
The chapel was built in 1917 and was the gift of the Reverend Charles Henry and Mrs Keable.
In 2005 the chapel was re-ordered and the pews removed. This allowed greater flexibility in its use and created more space around the font. The chapel has become the focal point for mid-week services.
Originally very small, the Vestry was enlarged in 1906 at a cost of £300. The funds were raised from public subscription and on 28 Septem6er 1907 the vestry was dedicated by the Bishop of Dorking.
To the right of the west window is the door to the bell tower. Four bells are installed and on the wall is a plaque with the following inscription:
THE THREE LARGER BELLS IN THIS BELFRY WERE PRESENTED BY RELATIVES AND FELLOW PARISHIONERS AND WERE DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF ELEANOR SMITH DIED 1946, FRANCIS C MARTLEY DIED 1941 AND HIS DAUGHTER MARY L MARTLEY DIED 1949.
The fourth bell was given by Captain Barlow RN. Only one bell is currently in working order.
By the 1970s the original organ in the chancel, of which only the facade now remains, was in need of a major overhaul. The PCC were advised by the DAC that it was not worth rebuilding or refurbishing. The DAC suggested acquiring the instrument then in St James’s church in East Street Farnham (now converted into flats) and the new organ was installed in the former Baptistery in 1977. At the same time the choir stalls were moved from the chancel to the west end of the nave.
In 1998 an appeal was launched to pay for the organ to be rebuilt, a project which was completed at the end of 2000. The organ provides exceptional musical resources for a small parish church.
The font in the nave dates from 25 February 1894. It has occupied two other positions, as shown in the centre and right photographs below. The left-hand photo shows its current position. It is thought the centre picture depicts the church soon after 1876. The right-hand picture shows the font in the Baptistery where the organ is now installed.
The font bears the dedication: To the Blessed Trinity and in Loving Memory of her dear nephew Edward Francis Reginald Pole Only child of Major Reginald Pole of Westfields Wrecclesham died Oct 22nd 1909, Erected by his Aunt Mrs Kincaid of Shortheath House, Wrecclesham.
In 2010 the South Aisle was re-ordered and the pews were removed to enable easier access into church via a route that does not involve steps and to facilitate movement between the church and the adjacent Leverton Hall. The area also provides a more flexible space for informal worship and for meetings of Bible study/seasonal groups.
The churchyard surrounding the church is small and bounded by stone walls where it meets public roads to the north and east. To the south it backs onto a small housing estate and to the west there is an access track to three private dwellings. When this original churchyard was full a new cemetery was established across the road (School Hill) and the first burial took place there in the 1890s. This cemetery is still in use. The cemetery around the church has not been closed.
A War Memorial stands in the cemetery across School Hill. This memorial is used by the village in the annual Service of Remembrance. A Union Flag hangs in the north aisle of the church, given by the ex-Servicemen of the parish on 11 November 1923 in memory of their comrades who fell in World War I. Two plaques list those who fell in World Wars I and II.
Badgers and pipistrelle bats forage in the churchyard behind the church buildings and there is an active badger set in the bank beyond its southern boundary. The churchyard is well maintained and thus does not offer an attractive habitat to other protected species found in the area.
The Leverton Hall
A parish hall was originally built in Wrecclesham in the 1920s on land ‘having a frontage on the north to Farnham Road’, just down the hill from St Peter’s church. This hall was replaced by the current building next to the church in the early 1970s and named after the incumbent at the time.
The Leverton Hall is a single storey rectangular building of timber frame construction and was not designed to match the style of the main church building. It stands adjacent to the church and is reached via a narrow covered entranceway. It consists of a main room with a small kitchen and two lavatories. These facilities are shared by the church, but cannot be easily accessed when the hall is in use by private hirers.
The hall is popular with local groups including a parent and toddler group, exercise classes, the over 60s, the Brownies and choirs. Management at the neighbouring nursing home use the hall for staff training. At the weekends it is frequently used for children’s birthday parties.
THE WRECCLESHAM HISTORY PROJECT
The Project meets in the Leverton Hall from 10.30 to 12 noon on the second Saturday of each Month (except January and August). The Programme of Meetings and other information about the Project can be found on its Web Site: www.wreccleshamhistory.wordpress.com