Walk Round Tour
Welcome to Peterborough Parish Church. It is named after John the Baptist, the herald who prepared the way for Jesus. We continue that ministry of announcing the faith of Jesus Christ to the city today.
This church has been a house of prayer serving the people of Peterborough on this site for 600 years. The first church was located to the east of the cathedral and was moved to the market square in 1407.
These pages are intended to be used as a walk around guide drawing attention to interesting features. They can be used on mobile devices within the church. A more general history is available here.
The South Porch
The day-to-day entrance for the church is through the stone porch on the south side.
Welcoming from on top of the gable above the porch is the heraldic antelope. One theory is that this is the emblem of the Lancastrian King Henry IV (1399-1413). He was on the throne when the church was built in 1407. Another possibility is it was placed here in honur of the Earl of Derby, who often resided in Peterborough.
The porch has a fine vaulted ceiling. The three carved bosses represent The Trinity, the Annunciation and the Crucifixion.
The North Porch
On the other sidie of the church, opposite the entrance to Queensgate shopping centre, is a crenulated porch. Two gargoyles sit on the corners of the buttresses. Inside the porch is a memorial to the men from Queen Street Ironworks who were killed during the First World War.
Entering by the South Porch
On the left as you enter are two framed pieces of embroidery, probably from medieval vestments. Each piece of needlework is in the form of a cross and seem to represent the Holy Trinity. The design may have been copied from the central boss in the south porch ceiling.
Above these is the Parliament Clock by John Wilson of Peterborough, still in working order.
The interior of the church was heavily restored in the 1880s under the notable architect J L Pearson. Galleries in the aisles were removed as part of these rennovations.
South Aisle Windows
Most of the windows in the church are late nineteenth century.
Next to the door, the window depicts Bishops of Peterborough and Lincoln. Until 1541 Peterborough was in the Diocese of Lincoln. The lower panels show Bishop Chambers preaching, St Hugh celebrating Mass, Bishop Grosseteste consecrating Peterborough Abbey and the Seven Non-Jurors.
The next window depicts four sacraments in the lower panels: baptism, confirmation, Holy Communion and marraige. Above are depicted St Guthlac (associated with Crowland), St Etheldreda (founder of Ely Abbey), William of Wykeham and Archbishop Chichele.
The third window shows saints with a strong English association: George, Alban, Pega and Bede. Beneath St George is shown slaying the dragon, St Alban as the first Christian martyr in Britain, Pega landing nearby at Peakirk and the Bible being explained to children.
The window before the screen depicts the early spreading of the gospel. The main windows show St Aidan, St Saxulph, St Augustine and St Boniface. Below Aidan is shown blessing a beggar, King Paeda granting Saxulph the charter for the Saxon abbey in Peterborough and Boniface being martyred.
Memorials in the South Aisle
Among the memorials in the south aisle is one to Samuel Brocksopp who in 1841 provided five shillings each to be given to poor residents of the parish twice a year. He is an example of philanthropy which provided care when there was little state provision. Food Banks are just one of the ways this tradition continues today and the church is a collection point for donations of food.
Screens and Rood
The screens are relatively recent additions to the church, all being installed between 1915 and 1917. The Rood above (carved crucifix with Mary and John on either side) was added in 1938.
At the entrance to the Lady Chapel (chapel on the right at the east end of the church), in front of the screen, is a votive candlestand. Lighting a candle is a sign of prayer and reminds us of the light of hope we have in Christ, that prayers are heard and God is present even in the darkest moments. Lighting a candle can express a prayer we can't find words for - be it one of thanksgiving, remembrance or intercession.
The Lady Chapel
The Lady Chapel was restored in 1923 and re-ordered in 1989. It provides a quiet space for private prayer and reflection, and for smaller midweek services. The new altar frontal was commissioned from the contemporary designer Juliet Hemingray. It incorporates designs from the chapel, the daisies reflecting those in the main window.
As you enter the chapel, on the right against the inside of the screen, is a Book of Remembrance.
The light above the aumbry (in the wall on the left of the altar) indicates the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament for taking to people in their homes and in hospital. The oils for use at baptism, confirmation and for anointing the sick are also kept here.
On the right of the chapel, half way down, is a large imposing monument to Matthew Wyldbore who died in 1781. He was elected MP for Peterborough twice and left a legacy to the bellringers, reputed in gratitude for the bells helping him find his way to safety when lost in the fog on Peterborough Common. He also left money for a sermon to be preached and for the relief of the poor. The bellringers fund still bears his name and the bells are rung on the anniversary of his death on 15th March each year.
The statue of Mary holding the infant Jesus was given in memory of a former vicar, Canon John Howitt, who died in 1997.
The windows on the south are among the finest glass in the church and depict events from the life of Christ, together with the Annunciation and Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. The east window is by the renouned firm Heaton Butler and Bayne and depicts the resurrection.
The altar, reredos, pannelling, altar rails and sedilia are relatively modern. They were given in memory of Col W Collingwood in 1918. The main figures on the reredos (from left to right) are St John the Baptist (the Patron saint of the church), St Peter (Patron of the Diocese), Christ in Majesty, St Hugh of Lincoln (until 1541 the church was in Lincoln Diocese) and Abbot Genge (who consecrated the church in 1407).
The great east window, installed as part of Pearson's renovations, depicts the Ascension.
The sedilia on the right also incorporate some fine carving of sea creatures.
The organ is by Harrison and Harrison. it is a three manual pipe organ and was installed in this position in 1917.
The Eagle Lectern (on right in front of chancel screen)
The lectern is a fine example of brass eagle lecterns. The reason for the use of the eagle is uncertain, but may refer to the eagle being the symbol of John's Gospel which says 'The Word became flesh and dwelt among us'. As the place for the Bible this is fitting. There is also a passage which refers to being carried as on eagle's wings; a strong bird who supports its young on its wings. It was given in memory of Charles Edward and Henry Amies by their mother in 1918.
On the opposite side of the chancel screen is the finely carved pulpit surmounting a stone base. The four figures are the gospel writers. It was given by local builder John Thompson. The pulpit provides a raised platform from which the preacher can be seen and help with voice projection.
In the north aisle is the fifteenth century font, moved to this position in the 1980s. This was originally sited in the baptistry in the south west corner of the church, now the creche room.
The font is a large stone bowl on a stand to hold the water for baptism.
Baptism marks our entry into the family of the church as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Here we are washed with water as a sign and symbol of this 'new birth'. It is always a moment of celebration and commitment.
Next to it stands the Paschal Candle (except during Eastertide when it provides a focus at the front of the church). This is the symbol of Jesus Christ's resurrection and the hope this gives to us. Easter is the most important day in the Christian year.
Between the pulpit and the font is a finely carved cupboad. The doors include 16th century carving.
North Aisle Windows
Two of the windows are hidden from general view. The vestry window of Pentecost is also by Heaton Butler and Bayne. The window in the organ area shows Jesus greeting the disciples after the resurrection on the sea shore with a fire ready to cook some of the fish they have just caught.
By the font the main panels show the four gospel writers. Above them are St Andrew, St Bernard, Dorcas and Thomas Becket. The lower panels show the woman touching the hem of Jesus' clothes to be healed, children gathered around Jesus, the Good Samaritan and Jesus with the woman at the well.
The newest window in the church is half way down the north aisle. Designed by Brian Thomas it was dedicated in 1968. It includes across the top figures connected with Peterborough: Jeremy Taylor, Symon Gunton (vicar during the plague between 1665-7), Nurse Edith Cavell, Captain Thomas Mellows (died in 1944 fighting with the French Resistance), William Law and Nicholas Ferrar. The main panels show four bishops.
The back of the church was reordered in 2007 to provide a multi-use space to provide for hospitality, meetings and other events. It also provides an office, kitchen and two other rooms at the west end.
The oak screen to the base of the tower was erected in 1907. The window of Christ in Glory by Charles Nicholson was installed at the same time.
On the right of the screen is a memorial to those who died during the First World War.
Incumbents (Vicars of Peterborough) back to 1229 are listed on the board on the north wall of the tower base. The current Vicar, Canon Ian Black, was installed in September 2012 and is also a Residentiary Canon of Peterborough Cathedral.
The former baptistry is through the new glass doors in the south west corner of the church - now the Sunday School/creche room. The window depicts St Paul, John the Baptist, Philip the Deacon and St Peter. The lower panels show Noah, the Baptism of Jesus, the encouragement to welcome children and Moses leading the people through the Red Sea.
The ring of eight bells, housed in the tower, were recast in 1675, again in 1808 and rededicated in 1947 after a further overhaul. There is also a 19th century carillon, restored in 1991.
Thank you for visiting and we hope you have enjoyed this tour of the church.