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Church Post Code PE1 1PA

Open for coffee morning between 10 and noon on Saturdays.


It was the last Saturday in October 2023 and the Christmas decorations were being hoisted up on Cathedral Square in Peterborough as I arrived for the usual Saturday coffee morning at the church of St John the Baptist. I had visited the church here on several occasions over the years; taking in a few midweek communion services during the winter months when I wasn’t working. The coffee mornings are always good and well attended; not for the first time church photography and food going hand in hand. The weather was fine and the opportunity was taken to reshoot this fine church.

It was a busy Saturday in the city centre. The church itself was holding a Christmas card sale as well as the coffee morning. A council JCB was outside the south porch lifting up the decorations whilst a Hindu Diwali festival was taking place around the neighbouring Guildhall. The distant sound of bagpipes drifted over from Bridge Street. A single girl with microphone against the south wall of the nave of the church was singing ‘I Lift Your Name up High’. I joined in, with my enthusiasm outweighing ability by quite a large amount.

The church of St John the Baptist is the traditional parish church for Peterborough, with other churches in the city built in Victorian times to cater for the population increase as the city expanded.


The church here was rebuilt in its present position in the very early 15th century. Previously it stood off to the east of the Abbey, where now stands the present day cathedral. This was subject to flooding and permission was sought and given to rebuild on the market square close to the west gates of the Abbey. Permission was given in 1402 and the church of St John the Baptist was consecrated in 1407.

The church was rebuilt using some 12th century material from the previous church and using some material from the former chapel of St Thomas A Becket which was located nearby. The church that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and chapels, clerestories, north and south porches and chancel.

As already mentioned, the church dates from basically the same period but there was a shallow north porch added in 1473. There was a suggestion that the whole church be demolished during the time of the English Civil War but nothing ever came of that. There was originally a spire on the tower but that was removed during the early 19th century and the church was thoroughly restored from 1881-83; with further work undertaken in the early to mid 20th century.


There is normally a good view of the church and Guildhall from the cathedral gates off to the west. There was much going on though this day, with the view of the church obscured so I have enclosed a couple of photographs from a previous visit. Those who are native Peterborians will see this photograph at the top of the page as a collector’s item as the fountains in Cathedral Square were working!

The perpendicular west tower is heavily buttressed, with crocketed pinnacles, and is in alignment with the western end of the north and south aisles.

Nave runs seamlessly in to chancel, with clerestory and chancel battlemented. Two empty images niches can be seen either side of the fine five light east window. The shallow north porch has gargoyles looking out towards neighbouring McDonalds. The two storey south porch has arches to east and west allowing access through and a hound over the door looks upwards towards heaven; with a close inspection showing restoration on its legs.


When Thomas North compiled his study of the church bells in Northamptonshire, published in 1878, there were eight bells hanging here, all of which were cast by William Dobson from Downham Market in 1808. The sixth of the ring was inscribed with the names William Elliott and French Lawrence, MP’s for Peterborough and the eighth has the name of the vicar of the day Stephen Shepheard. North also noted a Sanctus bell dated 1675 which was cast by Tobias Norris III at the Stamford bellfoundry.

These days, there are still eight in the ring but the first and second were recast by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon in 1910 and the seventh was recast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1930.


Moving inside, the lemon drizzle on offer was probably the best since Great Yarmouth Minster several years before. Pleasant memories recalled of the cheese scone at Belton House and the lemon drizzle at Buckden way back in 2007! Sausage roll and cake eaten and tea drunk, it was time to explore the interior.

The arcades to north and south are very tall, with moulded pointed arches. The piers are quatrefoil with complex moulded capitals. Screens from the 20th century separate the nave from chancel and the north and south chapels. A coloured depiction of the crucifixion stands at the top of the screen, underneath the chancel arch; with Mary the mother of Jesus and John at their traditional places alongside the cross. There used to be galleries here, but these were taken down during restoration of the 1880’s.


Moving in to the chancel, the reredos dates from 1938. This is elaborately carved and gilded throughout. At the centre is Christ in majesty, hand raised in blessing and carrying a globe; with flame radiating out from him. The risen Christ is flanked by figures in gilded ogee arched canopies, with St Peter immediately on Jesus’ right hand side, holding the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.

The chancel is pretty much entirely the work of the 19th and 20th century restorers. It is panelled on three sides, with triple sedilia, the seating for the priests during the mass, against the south wall. The relatively modern sedilia, with plush red cushions, look far more comfortable that you would normally find.

The east window is of five lights and shows the ascension. The risen Christ is central flanked with angels and with hand raised in blessing. Wounds are visible on hand and feet; below are the 11 remaining disciples, along with Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Peter holds the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and a youthful John is easily recognised closely behind him.


The east window of the south chapel is of four lights and shows two scenes. The two panels to the left show the resurrection. Jesus emerges triumphant from the tomb, in front of sleeping Roman guards. An angel of the Lord with golden hair and wings lifts up the lid of the tomb. To the right as we look at it is the scene on Easter morning. The three Mary’s arrive at the empty tomb; an angel points upwards ‘He is not here He has risen just as he said’.

The east window of the north chapel is an illustration from John chapter 21. The risen Jesus, who they had not recognised, had advised that after a fruitless nights fishing, thee fishermen cast their net off to the right. That net is now full to bursting and the fishermen are concerned with getting the catch in, with the exception of John and Peter, who stare at Jesus, finally realising who it is. The risen Christ stands on the shore cooking fish’ inviting them to come and eat. This would turn out to be particularly important for Peter; with Jesus reinstating him at that time after he denied knowing Jesus three times during his arrest.


There is some fine quality glass here throughout the nave, and I am by no means covering all of the stained glass here. One four light window shows eight scenes from Holy Week. At the top from left to right, Jesus carries his own cross, then we have the crucifixion, the deposition where Jesus is taken from the cross and Jesus’ body prepared for burial. At the bottom we have four scenes from earlier that week. Starting with the triumphal entry and the Last Supper we then see Jesus at prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, with his disciples asleep in the foreground. The final panel shows Pilate with Jesus before the mob baying for Jesus to be crucified.

Close by we have a four light window which depicts two scenes from the life of Mary the mother of Jesus. On the left hand side two panels we have the annunciation and to the right we have Mary meeting Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Below this we have four quite eclectic smaller panels. We have a golden angel of the Lord informing the shepherds of the birth of Jesus, followed by the wise men giving their gifts. Next we see the flight to Egypt and finally Jesus teaching in the temple as a 12 year old.


A four light window illustrates four women from the Bible, with a small panel below telling of a scene from their lives. To the left we have Hannah, who was the mother of the prophet Samuel. She prayed for a son, promising to dedicate him to God. Below we see her presenting Samuel in the temple. Next up we have Mary the mother of Jesus with a depiction of the annunciation below. Next to this we have Elizabeth with Mary and Elizabeth meeting together, both with child.

 Finally we have the Shunamnite woman. This one had me scurrying to Bible Gateway! This comes from 2 Kings and is a very interesting story which ends in Elisha raising this woman’s son from the dead. She had a kind heart and a heart with no bitterness; being included as an example of how to live.


Two four light windows show various saints, again with small panel below detailing a scenes from their lives. Included in these are St Alban, who is depicted being beheaded, the first British Christian martyr. St George is shown defeating the dragon, whilst St Pega is shown boarding a boat, travelling to Peakirk where she was to set up a hermitage. The venerable Bede is also depicted, who chronicled the early Christian church in this country.

A four light window in the north aisle depicts the four gospel writers. Each carry a quill but three of the four also have others identifying symbols. Matthew was a tax collector and is shown with a money box. Luke was a physician and carries a skull whilst John holds a chalice, out of which emerges a serpent. The legend here is that John was given wine laced with poison whilst in Ephesus. He prayed over the win and the poison came out in the form of a serpent. Only Mark is without any other identifying symbols.


One four light window I found beautiful but infuriating in equal measure. This has four Kings and prophets, all of whom prophesied about Jesus. King David is easy to identify, with harp alongside. He prophesied the crucifixion in Psalm 22.

The third panel shows the prophet Micah; identified as I could pick out the words ‘Bethlehem Ephrata’ is an otherwise pretty unreadable Latin scrolling banner, which apparently was included to help identify what was illustrated to those looking on! In chapter 5 of Micah, he tells of the coming of a man who will ‘stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord’. He also tells that this leader will come from Bethlehem.

I asked for help on my facebook page with regards the other two and both Daniel and Isaiah were suggested as was Anna; with the gender of the far right figure being questioned. With regards the theme of prophets then Isaiah in particular would fit and it would be quite strange if he wasn’t included.


There are no gravestones here but there used to be a burial ground in Cowgate which was disused at the time of Revd Sweetings’s study of Peterborough churches which was published in 1868. The first burial here was in 1805, with reports of body snatching in the 1820’s, and the three acre site was closed for burials in 1859, with the last traces of being covered up when Queensgate shopping centre was built in 1982. A delightful water colour by artist Wilfrid Wood, painted in 1945, shows this old graveyard, with several box tombs, now all long since gone; victims of the expansion of the city.

It was good to be back here again. This is an impressive church and it was good to see a decent amount of people looking around the church itself rather than simply enjoying the refreshments; even though they were very fine refreshments.

It was time to move on, a short distance off to the north to St Mark on Lincoln Road. The church of St John the Baptist is normally closed throughout the week but the coffee morning is held on a Saturday between 10 and noon. Well worth taking a look at, and for those who don’t know the area, Peterborough cathedral is a very short distance off to the east.

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