Peterborough, Soke of Peterborough

Church of St. John the Baptist, Peterborough, Soke of Peterborough

St John’s Church is the Parish Church of Peterborough, built in the 11th Century when the Cathedral was still an Abbey. The monks of the Abbey built the first church around 1229. The site was one which frequently flooded and after the Market was moved to its current site the people petitioned the Abbey to move the church to the Market Square which it was – stone by stone.

This old building was subsequently rebuilt and extended around 1407 and the Church which stands today is largely of this date. During the Tudor period both Katherine of Aragon and Mary, Queen of Scots were buried in Peterborough Cathedral and the bells of St. John’s were sounded at both funerals.

In 1651 during the Commonwealth there was a petition to destroy the church to use the materials for repairs to the Cathedral, but for some unknown reason the proposal quietly disappeared and the Church survived to the Restoration, although both church and Cathedral lost a lot of their interiors and stained glass to Cromwell’s troops.

Between 1665 and 1667 Peterborough was devastated by plague, the vicar of St. John’s, Simon Gunton, buried 462 people during this period and also wrote one of the first histories of the Cathedral in 1686.

The main piece of the Church which is not medieval is the tower, a spire was removed in the 1820s when it was considered unsafe and most of the rest of the original tower blew down in 1881 taking the aisle roof with it. Immediately after this the Church was restored and aside from some interior changes it remains largely true to this rebuild.

The Church stands across the Market Square from the Cathedral gate in one of England’s least known Cathedral Cities.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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