St. Peter's Church, Marlborough
The St Peter's Trust (Charity No. 275557) formed in 1978 when the church was threatened with at least partial demolition, now it manages the building as a community centre in the interests of both those who live in Marlborough and the many visitors to the Town.
The present building was erected in 1460, possibly on the site of a Saxon church, while a Norman church with a tower at the west end of the south aisle, was built within the width of the High Street to serve the nearby Norman Castle. Little remains of this earlier church except some rubble walling in the north west corner of the present nave, but it is known to have been dedicated to St. Peter by 1223.
The rebuild in c.1460 was in limestone ashlar with a chancel, north vestry and north and south chapels, an aisled and crenellated nave, a south porch with a priest's chamber over it, and a south west tower, and in March 1498 the future Cardinal Wolsey was ordained here.
From the later 16th century the dedication to St. Peter and St. Paul was used, and by good fortune it escaped the great fire of 1653. There are many wall monuments within the church from the 17th to 19th centuries and until 1843 there was a dove cote under the gabled roof above the stone vault of the chancel; a very rare feature in a church.
The church was restored, including the replacement of the nave and aisle roofs, and the chancel refitted, by T.H. Wyatt in 1862-3.
In 1924 the benifice was united with that of St. Mary to become the rectory of Marlborough and in 1952 the parishes were united, with St. Mary's as the parish church. On 1st November 1974 the church of St. Peter and St. Paul was made redundant, closing as a parish church and remained empty, unheated and locked until 1978. The parish registers from 1611 are now held in the County Record Office.
Then in 1978 it was made over for the use of the town, following public outcry to a Wiltshire Council proposed new roundabout for the town, which would have required the demolition of the church. St Peter's Church Trust, formed on 14th December 1977 and registered as a charity on 14th Decenber 1978, maintains the building. Thanks to their efforts the historic church still stands and is now used as a coffee shop, an outlet for selling locally made craft items, and as a venue for exhibitions and concerts. Also, every Saturday, the tower is open to tourists – for those happy to climb the 138 steps to reach the top, from which there are spectacular views.
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