On the left is the old national school building. The school had 50 pupils in 1846, 190 in 1889, and closed its doors in 1903. The building was used as a church hall until an alternative was built nearby in Bisterne Avenue in the 1950s.
After the 1887 extension, the campanile tower was situated in the middle of St Peter's, giving the building a greater sense of symmetry.
The church was a gateway to Epping Forest. The Bullrush and Hollow ponds nearby gave people lots of opportunity for outdoors leisure.
'A Unique Forest Church'
St Peter-in-the-Forest was awarded a Grade-II listing by Historic England in 2009, in recognition of the church's architectural beauty and historical significance. The listing also praises the fact that major changes to the building have all been sympathetic to the original structure of the church. Having suffered bomb damage in the Second World War, major fires in 1975 and 1993, and suffering subsidence, St Peter-in-the-Forest was placed on Historic England's most serious 'at risk' register in 2014.
Major changes to the building were needed to preserve our 'Unique Forest Church' for another 180 years. To save our marvelous church building, The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded a large grant to St Peter-in-the-Forest to help us renovate and rebuild. This work has also allowed us to create new community facilities that serve the needs of people who live and work in our parish now and in the future. Building work began in December 2019, and are nearing completion at the end of 2020.
Our wider social history project will record the stories of people who have made their mark on life at St Peter's and our local area from 1840 to the present day. Visit our Film Project page to see how young people have already been celebrating our heritage through collecting local memories, and sign up on our Volunteer page to get involved!
This early photograph shows the more elaborate apse paintings than we have today, and the 'fallen women's gallery' next to the organ, from which unmarried mothers joined worship.
Celebrating Harvest Festival, especially after the war, was a way to give thanks for good food. Many local people would've grown produce and kept rabbits and chickens to eat.
The east window awaiting replacement as part of the works at the beginning of the 1950s, which now shows Christ the King. The paintings on the ceiling of the apse are no longer present, having been damaged in the 1975 fire.
Our History & Heritage
St Peter-in-the-Forest was consecrated in 1840 as a chapel of ease to the parish church of St Mary's Walthamstow. More space for worship and burials was needed to serve the growing local population. The church building was designed by John Shaw Jr (1803-1870) and paid for by public subscription to the tune of £3000. Inside were 30 pews for the 'larger rate-payers', and 360 free seats for poor families. St Peter-in-the-Forest became a separate parish in 1844, and the churchyard was consecrated by the Bishop of London the following year.
Wood Street Station opened on the Great Eastern Railway in 1873, bringing even more people to live and work in our parish. In 1887, St Peter's was extended to almost double the size, with a galleries added at the west end of the nave running along the north and south sides, and a vestry added at the east end. This extension was commemorated by Lady Leucha Warner, wife of Sir Courtenay Warner, part of illustrious Warner family that responsible for much of the housing development across Walthamstow in the late 19th Century. Our original vicarage was paid for by Courtenay's father, Edward Warner, who established the family as key patrons of our church. The cost of the vicarage was £1,000, a princely sum in 1859!
The church interior underwent great changes in the 1930s, overseen by Martin Travers, an architect especially well-known for his stained glass windows. The galleries were removed running along the north and south walls, creating a lighter and more spacious 'open plan' nave. Sadly, a fire in the nave in 1975 destroyed some of Traver's additional craftwork, including an altar table. The complete removal and repair of the north wall from 1951-1952 brought even more light into the building, and helped resettle the roof after a near miss from a V2 rocket in the closing months of the Second World War. A porch was added to the west entrance that provided additional support to the bomb-damaged church. Another fire in 1993, this time in the porch itself, is likely to have contributed to the severe risk of collapse the building suffered before our current renovation.
A V2 rocket landed near the church on February 1st, 1945. This caused significant structural damage that saw the whole north wall rebuilt, and the west end extended with a porch.
The church reopened in 1952, and the new north wall provided much more light into the church, while remaining sympathetic to the Victorian building.
The tower and sky lantern are part of the church's special 'Lombard' style, two aspects that give St Peter's its wonderful character.