The Restoration of St. Peter's Church in 1856

2 - Plans for Improvements

A Committee was formed to oversee the restoration of St. Peter’s. The Committee consisted of:

  • the Revd John Morton Colson, Rector
  • the churchwardens of St. Peter’s church
  • three Secretaries, one of whom was the Revd William Barnes
  • several other local gentlemen

William Barnes had been churchwarden of St Peter’s in the 1840s, before his ordination. He subsequently became famous as a Dorset dialect poet.

The Faculty for the refitting pleaded disrepair and insufficient accommodation:
“That the Parish Church of St Peter’s in Dorchester aforesaid together with the Chancel thereof being out of repair and the present form and arrangement of the Seats providing insufficient accommodation for the Inhabitants of the said Parish in their Attendance upon divine service”

Permission was granted :
“to take down and rebuild the West Gallery; to remove the Organ from such Gallery and place it in the North Aisle adjoining the Chancel; to take down and rebuild the East wall of the Chancel and otherwise repair and reroof the Chancel; to remove the Floor of the Church and the Earth underneath to the depth of One foot six inches; to take down and remove the present Pews Pulpit Font Reading Desk and other internal fittings and to entirely repave reseat and refit and generally repair and restore the said Church and Chancel”

The plan for the restored building:

  • increased the capacity of the church
  • provided for 461 sittings
  • included 203 free sittings

The planned changes for the east end of the building can be seen by comparing the architect’s pre-restoration drawing and restoration proposal.

ExistingProposed Change

There is a tradition that the refurbishment was relatively light-handed because of Barnes’ influence. The architect involved, John Hicks, was also known as a sympathetic rebuilder. The new layout of pews was, from the west side of the chancel arch, as it is today but with the two de-pewed areas filled with 6 ranks of pews each, as shown on Hicks’s plan.