St Peter’s was originally part of the old Parish of St. Andrew. In 1872, Saint Peter’s Parish was founded (Originally called New Peel District). In 1894 its boundaries were extended to include the Etherly Lane portion of St. Andrew’s Parish. At first a mission church for 100 people was used in Peel Street, while funds were raised for a larger and more permanent building.
In the same year, building of the present structure started; at first it was intended to have a spire, however, after a money crisis when funds ran out, with only half the money raised, the then Bishop of Durham, Bishop Baring, contributed some £3000 of the £7000 it cost to build the church. He opened the church in April 1875.
On 21st October 1891, Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy fame, was baptised in St. Peter’s. Laurel lived around the corner on Princes Street and attended King James I School, formerly a grammar school.
The church’s early Harrison & Harrison organ was installed in 1889 and the church was the location of the first ever recital of Edward Elgar’s ‘The Music Makers’. Elgar was a close friend of St Peter’s organist Nicholas Kilburn, whose memorial is on the organ in the church to this day.*
The large stained glass windows over the main altar connect with a running theme throughout the church as a First World War memorial. The Burlison and Grylls windows depict soldiers and nurses around Jesus on the cross, whilst a memorial opposite names the parishioners of St Peter’s who died in the fighting.
- Saint Peter’s: A timeline
- 1872 – St Peter’s Parish is formed
- 1874 – Money for the current church ran out
- 1875 – Saint Peter’s is opened by Bishop Charles Baring
- 1876 – Hall opened for Sunday School
- 1880 – The Peel Street building was erected to serve as a mission room
- 1889 – Pulpit moved to current position, 200 seats were removed to make way for choir stands.
- 1912 – Choir vestry built
- 1922 – Memorial tablet and windows inserted
- 1926 – Patronage transferred to the Crown
- 1930 – Half of the parish’s population is unemployed
- 1945 – No longer possible for the parish to have a curate. Peel and Stranton Street Sunday Schools close
- 1964 – Parish Communion introduced
- 1973 – Stewardship introduced to the parish
- 1978 – Side chapels added
- 1984 – Nave altar added
- 1987 – Church becomes grade II listed
- 1988 – Church re-roofing completed
- 1990 – Durham-Lesotho Link begins
- 1994 – Link formed with Moscow
- 1995 – Celebration of 120 years of Saint Peter’s
- 2009 – Rev Peter Lee retires
- 2010 – The church elects the UK’s youngest churchwarden
- 2013 – Last communion service held on Sunday 22nd December.
- St. Peter’s Church – 1875-2013
*The organ was removed and transferred elsewhere. Good that it has a new home, sad it had to be moved. 2018.