The History of St Peter’s Church
John Griffin has written a booklet showing the importance of the St Peter’s to the life of Darwen in the 19th century, and describing the social conditions at the time that the Church was established.
John Griffin – Author
The Church In The 19th Century
You can buy a printed booklet for £2.50 in the parish centre at the church.
The History of St Peter’s Church
The Main Church
The Statue of St Peter is found at the back of church on the north side. It originally came from St Peter’s Church in Mill Hill Blackburn. Peter is seen with a cockerel at his feet reminding us of how he betrayed Jesus three times before the cock crowed.
Peter is also holding the keys of heaven, given to him by Jesus after he has been forgiven and restored as the leader of the disciples once again after Jesus resurrection.
This church was re-dedicated to St Peter in 1974. Previously the church had been called Holy Trinity, and many in the town still refer to it as such. We still have links to Holy Trinity Primary school as well as St Peter’s Primary school.
The name was changed after the closure of St John’s church and St George’s Church, neighbouring parishes which became part of Holy Trinity parish. It was felt a name change would be good for the new parish formed. There are various items from the two churches which can be found in the church as well as the churches being honoured in the stained glass window in the Lady Chapel – details of which can be found in the Lady Chapel and Stained Glass window sections of this history.
The wooden lectern found in the north aisle is not used in church but is preserved as part of the heritage of St George’s church. It was moved here after its closure and has an inscription on it which can be seen in the second picture, dating the lectern from 1913. Many items in church have been given in memory of others as this was a very common thing to do in the 19th and early 20th century.
The wooden pulpit is original to St Peter’s and dates from the late 1800’s. The church originally looked very different to how it does today with no centre aisle and what is known as a triple decker pulpit at the front of church. This would have had three levels for preaching and reading the lessons from it. The church underwent various re-orderings in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and the pulpit as we see it today was probably put in then. The pulpit has an ornate brass rail taking you up six steps to the top. From here you get a very good view of church and can be seen for preaching the word to the congregation.
Here we see the main altar in church. Across the top at the front are carved grave vines and fruits reminding us that Jesus is the vine and also the wine of the Eucharist which represents his blood. In the centre is carved a cross and this is flanked by carved panels either side.
On the altar we have two large candlesticks which were given in by G. H. Tomlinson who was head teacher at Holy Trinity School from 1958 until 1965. There is a wooden stand for the service book to go on which has the inscription on it ‘John R Plummer Y.M. I. OP June 28th 1906’ and the Book of the Gospels.
The altar is covered with a plain white cloth to keep it protected. The WW1 reredos can be seen in the background showing the altars central position in the sanctuary.
The Golden Eagle lectern is found at the front of church and is used for reading the bible readings in the service. The eagle is a common symbol on lecterns as it was believed that the eagle could fly the highest and furthest and so take the word of God across the whole world. The eagles are often seen on a sphere which represents the world they are flying over.
This lectern was dedicated by the widow of Rev Philip Graham who was curate at St Peter’s and then went on to be vicar at St George’s Church in his memory in 1887. At the base the stem is held up on three feet with lions cast in bronze.
This font was given by the Shorrock family in 1884 in memory of their parents, John and Harriet of Sudell House who were tragically killed in a train accident on 16th July 1884. The original font went to St Francis church in Feniscliffe, Blackburn. The font is octagonal marble with a wood and brass cover. It has carving in each panel round the outside, the panel here shows a dove, a symbol from Jesus baptism when the dove came down from heaven and rested on him. One has the letters IHS carved which are the letters for Jesus. One has a Star of David and one has a cross carved in the centre. The other four panels are all carved flowers. The font is unusual as it is found at the front of church. Usually fonts are near the door of the church to symbolise as you enter church physically through the door, so you enter church spiritually through baptism.
The Lady Chapel
A lot of churches have a side chapel dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. These are usually quieter spaces for people to come and pray. At St Peter’s we have an altar, three Mother’s Union Banners and a window depicting the history of the three churches and the Mother’s Union.
People can also have opportunity to light a candle or to leave a prayer on the prayer tree.
This brass and blue enamel processional cross came from St John’s church and matches the cross found on the altar. At each of the four points of the cross are found the depictions of the four gospel writers – St Matthew as a divine man; St Mark as a winged lion; St Luke as a winged ox and St John as an eagle. In the centre is the picture of a lamb and flag which is the symbol of the Agnus Dei – Christ as the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for all people.
One of our parishioners Jim Norse remembers carrying this cross in procession as a teenager – it must have been quite difficult to carry as the cross is very heavy.
It is mounted on a wooden pole and is clipped to the wall on the left side of the chapel.
This picture shows three items found in the Lady Chapel. The first is an icon of Our Lady and Jesus which was given to the church in memory of ??????
The second is a brass alms dish. This dish originally belonged to St George’s church and was discovered in a junk shop by a member of Darwen Days. They bought it, cleaned it up and gave it to St Peter’s to use (although it is mainly on display rather than used in services.)
The third item is the altar cross which matches the procession cross above. This cross also belonged to St Johns and depicts the imagery of the four gospel writers on the points of the cross. In the centre of this cross are the initials IHS which are the first three letters of Jesus in Greek and are found on a lot of Christian items. The initials are surrounded by a sunray.
On the left is one of a pair of altar candlesticks which are found on the Lady Chapel altar. They are made of brass and measure about 8 inches in height. On the right is the book stand which continues the theme of the four gospel writers in its design. It is also made of brass and has pierced work round the edge.
The picture on the right shows the Aumbry. This is a small cupboard set into the wall in which the reserved sacrament is kept. This is consecrated bread and wine which is taken out to the sick and housebound of the parish. It was given by the Mother’s Union to celebrate their 100 years at St Peter’s. The candle above it is always lit when the sacrament is reserved and is held in place by a lovely wheatsheaf design candle sconce.
This is the altar in the Lady Chapel which is heavily carved at the front and came from St John’s church as did the panelling behind (can be seen in more detail in a later photograph.) On the left panel are the initials IHS carved into the centre, on the right are the letters Chi Pho which in Greek stand for Christ. In the centre is a cross reminding us of the cross being at the centre of our faith. There are vines and grapes carved into the design both recalling the wine of the Eucharist and Jesus saying I am the vine, you are the branches.
This beautiful window is one of two examples of modern stained glass windows in the church and was designed by Pendle Stained Glass in 2011. The money for the window was raised by kind and generous congregation and community members. On the left hand side there are depictions from the top of St George – the red cross on a white background and St John – an eagle in flight. Underneath are the cross keys which is a symbol of St Peter and at the bottom a Celtic symbol of the Holy Trinity. This brings together St George’s and St John’s churches, whose parishes after closure became part of Holy Trinity parish, renamed St Peter’s in 1974.
On the right hand side we can see the lilies, a picture of Mary and Jesus and at the bottom the symbol of the Mother’s Union today.
Holy Trinity Church Darwen (Now St Peter’s)
This war memorial was placed in church in 1921 alongside the reredos behind the altar (see below) This memorial contains the names of 140 men who lost their lives in WW1. Their names are watched over by an angel and the memorial is carved in marble.
The reredos behind the altar is a mixture of marble and alabaster carving and depicts the Last Supper in the centre panel. Two saints stand either side and it is highly carved across the top. This was also placed in church in 1921 and the original design can be seen in the archive material held at church.
As you can see from the Roll of Honour from the Second World War, there are only 9 names of men lost from Holy Trinity in that conflict. The memorial is much smaller, a stone with a brass plaque on the front which is kept near the Lady Chapel and by the Book of Remembrance. The wooden memorial can be found on the wall to the right of the organ. As a further memorial there was an installation of the chiming appliance which can be used with the bells hung in the tower.
St George’s Church Darwen
This wooden war memorial is from the First World War. It records the names of 77 people who lost their lives. Unusually it contains the names of two women: Martha E Jenkins and Mary B Walsh.
St John’s Church Darwen
This is only one part of the original War Memorial from the First World War from St John’s Church. It was placed in St Peter’s church and unveiled by Jake Berry MP and two members of St Peter’s School at the Remembrance Day service in November 2016. It was thought lost for many years, but had in fact been in St Peter’s School since St John’s Church closed.
St Peter’s School was originally called St John’s and after the church closed, some money was given to the school from the War Memorial fund for building work and the memorial was hung in there. Over time and reconfiguring of the building this had been forgotten, however we are pleased that it is now on display again.
It contains the names of 79 men who lost their lives in WW1
It is interesting to note that of the three WW1 memorials how often the same names came up. It is probable that no family in the town was left untouched by the devastating loss in this conflict.
There is a large outdoor war memorial in Darwen Eastern Cemetery which commemorates all 1302 people who were killed in World War 1 and is worth a visit to learn more at the history of our town.