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.
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'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.
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.
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 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.