St Peter's Church

St Peter’s parish was formed out of part of St Saviour’s parish and the church, consecrated in 1839, was built upon land donated jointly by Messrs Pott from the grounds of his vinegar factory and by the Diocese of Winchester. The church stood on the north side of a new street that was formed, Sumner Street (just behind the Tate Modern) which was named after the Bishop of Winchester who performed the consecration. The money to build the church was provided from ‘Miss Catherine Elizabeth Hyndman’s Bounty to the Church of England’ (The Hyndman Trust). It was said that Miss Hyndman’s dying wish that churches be built in populous districts whose incumbents were always to be Anglican low churchmen.

The ceremony of laying the first stone was performed by Rev. Mr Dodsworth, one of the Trustees of the Hyndman's Charity, and "the usual prayers on these occasions were pronounced and a hymn was sung by the charity children of the adjacent parishes. The children were afterwards regaled with bunns and other good things in the grounds of Messrs. Pott. Those gentlemen also entertained a very numerous party of ladies and gentlemen with an elegant repast, spread beneath a marquee. The sight was a very pleasing one, and everything was conducted with perfect order and decorum."

A serious accident had occurred during the building of the church and described in The Times on 30 October 1838:

"Yesterday afternoon between 1 and 2 o'clock, as a stone-mason, named William Beatie, who was employed at the new church in Park Street Southwark, was aligning a block of stone to raise it on the scaffolding, a similar piece, upwards of 1cwt (which had already been raised), fell from some unknown cause, and crushed his head. An alarm was instantly given, and the sufferer was conveyed to St Thomas's Hospital, where he now lies in a very precarious state."

The church which could accommodate a congregation of 1,200 has been described as a neat building in imitation of the pointed style, constructed of fine light brick with stone dressings. At the western end was an embattled tower with square turrets at angles and the eastern gable was surmounted by a cross and turrets. Over time, the church lapsed into a state of decay but was restored and repaired in 1886.

Revd. W A Corbett, the vicar of St Peter’s, was interviewed for the compilation of the Booth’s Poverty maps in 1899. On the whole, he describes a parish that had improved. Business premises were taking the place of homes, for example the City Electric Lighting Co had cleared away some of the courts previously classified as ‘criminal’. People in the parish in the main were unskilled – riverside workers, warehousemen, packers, porters, brewery men (the Barclay Perkins Brewery was within the parish), police along with many widows and charwomen that were employed in the City. The vicar described the people in his parish as “respectable” but most were indifferent to religion and those that attended church were “mainly of a better class”. There were Mothers’ Meetings, a Provident Club, Self Help Club and a Girls’ Friendly Society. Door to door visiting took place and the vicar believed that constant visiting had had a good effect: “The standard of cleanliness in the district is said to be going up; the sense of decency is stronger.”


The church was destroyed during bombing in World War II, the bombs perhaps meant for the power station close by.


E W Brayley, A Topographical History of Surrey, Vol 5, 1841-8
E S Talbot, The Diocese of Southwark: being a short account of the history, character and needs of South London 1906
E Walford, Old and New London Vol 6, 1872
Interview with Revd. W A Corbett, St Peter's Charles Booth Notebooks District 31 Book No. C2 1899
The Times, 30 October 1838