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 further down 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
2018 – The Harrison & Harrison organ was removed from the church 2020 – October, the church was sold at auction