The Parish Church of Saint Peter-ad-Vincula 

The church of St. Peter-ad-Vincula stands at the top of Church Street on the site of at least one, and possibly two, earlier churches (Saxon and Norman).
It is one of the largest in Essex (only Saffron Walden and Thaxted are bigger) as well as being one of the finest examples of the Perpendicular style of architecture in the county.

It shares with the chapel in the Tower of London the rare dedication to St Peter-ad-Vincula (St Peter in Chains) and was built in the 15th Century, a prosperous time in Coggeshall's history, with the wealthy wool merchants pouring vast sums of money into the building of the church.
 

The Paycocke family was solely responsible for St. Katherine's chapel and some of their memorial brasses can be seen in the floor of that chapel. The brasses on the left are the ones of John Paycocke and his wife Joan, dating from 1533.

On the right is Thomas Paycocke who died in 1580 and left a charity "for the continuall relief of the poore of Coxall for ever" - the charity  is still in existence today. A lot of the brass is now missing, although the description and wording on original memorial can be found in G. F. Beaumont's 'History of Coggeshall', published in 1890.

Below: How the church looked prior to September1940

 

Note the turret at the corner of the tower, c1906

 

The church from the west, c1906

Looking down the nave with the ancient font in the foreground

 

 
 

Above: Close-up of the altar and angels

 

Left:The Rood Screen

Restoration work was undertaken in the mid-19th century and much of the beautiful carving dates from that time and was the work of local woodcarvers, who were famed throughout Essex and beyond for their craftsmanship. These pictures were taken early in the last century. There was a fine carved rood screen, the walls were heavily stencilled in the Victorian fashion. The font is ancient and came from the church at Pattiswick. It was in use as a garden trough at the time of its rescue. The east window is over 24 feet in height and nearly 15 feet wide - the stained glass is a fine example of the work of Clayton and Bell and was donated by the Hanbury family.

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WARTIME DAMAGE

On the night of September 16th 1940 a bomb was dropped in the churchyard which exploded near the tower. The north arcade collapsed and brought down the roof of the nave and later on part of the tower came down. The huge east window was untouched as was the rood screen surmounted by its cross. The two soldiers who had been on watch on the tower roof were knocked over by the blast but were otherwise unharmed. The bells were undamaged and the local policeman and his colleagues lowered them to the ground and they were later housed in a roofed shelter until they were re-hung in the 1950s.

For about 18 months the tiny chapel of St Nicholas, the former gatehouse chapel of Coggeshall's great Cistercian Abbey served the people of Coggeshall as a place of worship. The top of the tower had to be demolished and the chancel arch was bricked up to bring St Peters back into use, but for over a decade the nave was in ruins and it was not until 1956 that the repaired church was ready to be re-hallowed. 

Pictures showing the damage to the Parish Church and the bells in their temporary home.

 

 

 

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St Peter's Today - Follow this link to the church website

The church you see today has been rebuilt using as much of the original material as possible, and now, half a century on, it is difficult distinguish between the 15th and the 20th century work - a tribute to the skill and dedication of the craftsmen who restored St Peters to former glory.

The church has fine acoustics and is a venue for choral works and concerts. The recent addition of an extension which contains meeting rooms, a kitchen and all the usual facilities ensure that the building is used to its full potential. The new building is attached to the north side of the church and is in the style of the rest of the church. A Flower Festival is held on each August Bank holiday which attracts thousands of visitors.

The church looks wonderful when it is flood lit for special festivals.

One of a pair of carved angels that flank the altar rails

The font is of early English date and was rescued from use as a trough

The millennium saw the addition of two new bells to the peal of eight and they are now considered to be one of the best in the country. The new bell wheels were made by Andrew Beckwith and the one for the tenor bell, which weighed over 1.25 tons, was over 7feet in diameter. The task of taking down and re-hanging the bells was undertaken by the ringers themselves. On many weekends visiting teams of bell-ringers are in Coggeshall to ring St Peter's ten bells and a bell-ringing school is held at the church to teach and encourage new ringers. Anyone interested in learning the art of bell-ringing or in bell-ringing in general should contact the Tower Captain, Brian Meeds, who can be contacted through the church website 
 
www.st-peter-ad-vincula.org.uk

The new oak wheel for the tenor bell

Re-hanging the bells

The bell called 'Peter' dressed ready for blessing by the bishop

 

On the left is Coggeshall's Victorian funeral bier. Originally it was made to be pulled by a small horse or by coffin bearers. It has been used quite recently at an elderly lady's funeral, at her request. In the picture on the right it stands in the chancel draped with the 'Stars and Stripes' and surrounded by candles as the people of Coggeshall shared the grief of the American nation at the happenings of September 11, 2001.

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