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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Kent

by Peter Kessler, 24 January 2010

 

 

Thanet Part 10: Churches of St Peter's

St Peter-in-Thanet

St Peter-in-Thanet is in the inland village of St Peter's, which was founded as a Jutish settlement in the earliest days of the Anglo-Saxon invasion (beginning in AD 449). The settlement was well established by the seventh century. From those beginnings, the modern town of Broadstairs and St Peter's evolved. Broadstairs itself was the fishing hamlet associated with St Peter's. The parish church was built in about 1080 and the village grew up around it.

St Peter-in-Thanet

The name Broadstairs evolved from the fishing hamlet's old name of Bradstowe. This was derived from the 'broad stairs' that were carved in the chalk cliff, which led from the sands to the twelfth century shrine of St Mary that was situated above the cliffs. The combined town and village of Broadstairs and St Peter's spreads from Poorhole Lane in the west, which was named for the mass graves that were dug there to handle the victims of the Black Death in 1348-1350.

St Peter-in-Thanet

St Peter's church was recorded again in 1128, by which time it would have existed in a state that would be recognisable today, albeit without some key features. By then, the Early English chancel existed, and the sanctuary possessed a double Aumbrey. The pointed arched roof dates from the thirteenth century. The battlemented tower and south porch are in the Perpendicular architectural style from the fifteenth century.

St Peter-in-Thanet

The tower is a prominent feature and the large crack on the west side is reputed to have been caused by an earthquake. It was used as a Royal Navy signalling station during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) and still claims the right to fly the White Ensign. St Peter's became the first of two churches in the parish of St Peter-in-Thanet between 1907-1911, when the church of St Andrew's Reading Street to the north was constructed.

St Peter-in-Thanet

Extensive restoration work was carried out on the church between 1860 and 1900. More recently the organ was restored and the bells were re-hung in a strengthened frame. The first hall for the church was built in 1972 and was opened by Prime Minster Ted Heath, who was himself born in St Peter's and sang in the choir as a youngster. A second church hall was gained in the 1990s, when the Portland Centre was opened.

St Peter's Baptist Church

St Peter's Baptist Church borders the parish church on its southern side, sitting on the western side of Vicarage Street. A Baptist church was started at the Shallows, between Margate and St Peter's, in 1762, but before that the Baptists in the area had to be a little more secretive, despite having a congregation in St Peter's since before 1700. One meeting was held in secret in a chalk pit. By 2009, the church had a membership of about forty people.

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