The history of St Peter's Centre and The Hub
In 2006, Peterchurch's Parochial Church Council was approached by EYES (Early Years and Extended Services) who recognised that St. Peter's was the largest available space in the Golden Valley. As such, it was eminently suitable for development into a community centre capable of delivering key services such as Sure Start.
Following a comprehensive and well supported community consultation process in 2007, work began in earnest to secure the funds needed to transform St Peter's the Church into St Peter's Centre, a multifunctional space for the people of the Golden Valley.
It took several years and many funding applications but in 2010 St Peter’s Centre finally opened, following a phenomenal redesign process undertaken by Communion Design. The careful, sympathetic design created by Communion has won two architectural awards: Art and Christianity Enquiry, and the Royal British Institute for Architecture (RIBA) award for Architecture in a Religious Setting.
The redesign created a building that responds to the needs of the community by providing a beautiful yet practical community space, whilst still acting as an important place of worship for the parishioners of Peterchurch.
St Peter's Centre became The Hub in January 2017 with the opening of The Hub Café. The creation of The Hub saw the building transition from a community space to a community place where people can meet and connect with others. The café is at The Hub's centre, providing an informal meeting point for people and creating a connection to all the other branches of this community project.
The history of St Peter's Church
St Peter’s of Peterchurch
St Peter’s Church has stood on the banks of the River Dore in Herefordshire’s Golden Valley since before Norman times. It is probable that there was a Celtic Christian community here from as early as the 6th century, but what is certain is that there was a Saxon church at Peterchurch: the undercroft and walls have traces of Saxon stonework from the 9th century or thereabouts. When the Normans came they built the three stunning arches and left a unique Norman font. Showing typical Norman skills, the building has an interesting perspective: appearing longer from inside than outside. There are four partitions in this church: nave, two chancels and sanctuary. No-one knows why the first chancel was built, though it is possible that there was once a large wooden tower above, accessed by the spiral staircase which emerges high up on the left at the front of the nave.
The 13th century Stone Tower
The Tower with its ring of six bells has an unusual ringing chamber as it has a door providing access to the church and another in the outer wall. In fact before the re-ordering, the only access to the first stage of the tower was by ladder – initially outside, then inside. Presumably this, and the great thickness of the tower walls, was for defensive reasons. For centuries this area had been subject to raids by the Welsh/Celts on one side and the Saxons/Normans on the other. Once in the ringing chamber, there is a spiral staircase which leads up through the remainder of the tower.
The Sanctuary Apse (altar area)
The rounded apse has a painted ‘firmament’ ceiling which is much admired by worshippers here. Receiving Communion is like going on a journey from the plain West end of the nave to the ‘heavenly’ sanctuary.
The Saxon Stone Altar (with five incised crosses)
It is rare for an ancient stone altar to have survived the Reformation. Following the upheaval, the large oak table in the choir area was probably used as the Communion table. Nowadays both are used.
The original stone spire was built in 1320. Unfortunately, in the 1940s the spire was found to be unsafe and the top two thirds were removed. Funds were painstakingly collected over the next 20 years, however as the money trickled in, the projected costs spiralled until it was obvious that a stone re-build was not viable. In addition, the ‘stump’ had decayed as a consequence of the delay in the spire's rebuild. A different approach was needed, so in 1972 a fibreglass copy of the original, complete with its re-gilded original weathercock, was put in place by a 240ft crane. At the time, this was the largest crane in Europe!
In the Graveyard, you will find directions to the grave of Robert Jones VC: 2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot; Battle of Rorkes Drift, Zulu War, South Africa, 1879. Following his childhood in South Wales and his traumatic time in the service of his Queen, Robert settled with his wife and children in Peterchurch to work as a gardener at Crossways House for Major De la Hay. Robert died as a result of gunshot wounds sustained when he slipped on a path during his work. An inquest held at the Boughton Arms Hotel concluded that he had intentionally taken his own life. Robert was buried here in the peace and quiet of the churchyard, adjoining the path leading from the church and the ancient yew tree to the village. His descendants still live locally and his grave is cared for by them and by his old regiment.
The Yew Tree
The yew tree in St Peter’s churchyard has long been known for its great age. Historically it was understood to be 750 years old but a recent re-dating has put it, incredibly, at over 2,000 years old! It is believed that there are around 300 yew trees in the UK that are 1000 years old, but yew trees that are 2,000 years old (or more) are very rare, with only around 12 recorded. Such specimens are consequently of particular importance: scientifically, ecologically, historically and culturally.
Yew trees have always been surrounded by mythology. To the ancient Celts they were called the Tree Of Life and they have been viewed as sacred and magical in many cultures. In Celtic paganism they were considered a portal to ancestors and a means of communicating with the dead; as a consequence, they were planted on sacred sights. A common, more recent explanation of the presence of yew trees in churchyards is that they were planted for their wood, which made excellent long bows. However this theory has now been abandoned, since the volume of yew needed for war archery during the Middle Ages would have been far greater than the amount which could have been grown in churchyards. It is now known that the trees were in situ long before the churches and are the result of the early Christians adopting certain aspects of pre-existing Pagan beliefs into their own. Hence, churches developed naturally on pre-Christian sites where yews had long been revered.
The ancient yew tree in the churchyard tells us that people were gathering and worshipping on the site where St Peter's Church was built thousands of years before the church's existence. It is from the yew tree that the inspiration for the design of The Hub logo came.