The wooden Bell Tower was built about 1500 and is probably the finest wooden framed tower in this part of the country.
This was considered to be the best architectural feature of the church and the rebuilding was planned so that the tower should remain the best known landmark of Yateley. The brick infill between the timbers at the base of the tower dates from the 1878 restoration. The timber framing of the tower did not suffer much from the fire of 1979 because the charring of the surface prevented the fire taking a hold. The fire did reveal severe damage caused by death watch beetle, which has now been treated and is kept under surveillance. In addition, the tower had to be strengthened for a ring of eight bells, as it was originally built for only three. The repair of the timber frame was carried out using a combination of English oak and steel. The roof had to be taken down and was rebuilt on the ground by a team of three parishioners. In the 1878 restoration the west door (or tower door) was intended to be the main entrance, so the font was moved into the tower (the old custom is to have the font near the main entrance), and the bell ringers moved upstairs. A few years later they came down again and a screen was fitted into the arch, which has now been replaced by a new doorway. The only stained-glass window to survive is the one in the tower, given in memory of Mr. Sumner, who was Vicar at the time of the 1878 restoration. Along the north and south sides of the tower are the medieval brasses which were moved here from the chancel in 1878.
We had a ring of eight bells, the oldest being cast in 1577. They were cracked in the fire but have been recast with their original inscriptions by Taylor's of Loughborough, using metal from the old bells.
The clock was made in about 1600, the face came from Wokingham Town Hall in 1878. The mechanism was restored in the early 1980's, and an automatic winding system was installed in the late 1980's. Unfortunately, the clock has now failed, and there are no longer the skills to repair it economically.
Part of the Hall was formerly the western end of the nave and south aisle and part is an extension into the churchyard. The former Choir Vestry, built in 1900 has now been made into a kitchen and Meeting Room, which are on your right as you go through the swing doors. Straight ahead is the west entrance and on your left are the toilets and a corridor which rises two feet as it leads to the main part of the extension. The hall is regularly used for play groups, youth meetings and other activities.
In front of the Bell Tower at the north end of the Hall is an arch which leads into the Bell Tower. This is the only medieval arch remaining in the church. It was damaged in the fire and has been restored. The small window above the tower arch was put in when the nave was extended in length and a new west wall was built in the 12th century before the Tower was built. At one time there was a minstrels' gallery on this wall. The musical instruments once used to lead the singing were contained in a box and hung on a wall above the entrance into the former Choir Vestry. They were only saved from the fire because they were stolen by the arsonist and later recovered by the Police. This led to his capture. They are now exhibited in the Chapel.
The Main Worship Area
The North Wall
Only the north wall was left when the Normans extended the church in about 1100 AD, which was raised and extended it to its present length (as far as the tower arch). By 1220 AD the east end (which is now the Chapel) was completed and in the 14th century an aisle was added on the south side, again, as shown in the plan of the church.
To the North of the main worship area can be seen the portable wooden font, which is designed for use in front of the main table.
Hanging on the wall near the font is a roll of "Incumbents of Yateley" which includes Chaplains, Perpetual Curates and Vicars going back to 1226, which is as far as we can go. This replaces a board which was burnt in the fire. The oldest part of the church, the Saxon wall, runs from just behind the font as far as the organ. The door of the Saxon church was where the first window is now and the small window near the organ is also Saxon. It was obscured by a monument and blocked up on the outside for at least two centuries but was opened up during the rebuilding of the church after the fire. The large windows are replicas of the originals which were dated about 1350 and 1500. The organ and separate console were built to our specification by Mitchell's of Bideford during the latest rebuilding.
In 2002, a large patch of damp was noticed on the North Wall, and on the East Wall of the Chapel. This was cause by several things, including a modern concrete render that had been applied to the exterior. Consultation with architects from the Winchester Diocese showed that the wall is supposed to be slightly damp, as that is the way that the Saxon wall was originally designed to work (no damp proof course in those days!), but it must be able to "breathe". The modern render had stopped that happening, so it had become over-damp in some places on the inside. This also allowed the church a brief look at some of the underlying archaeology of the areas surrounding the walls during the investigations. This showed that the basic structure was in quite good condition for its age.
The arch behind the table was put in as part of the 1878 restoration and the wrought iron grille was made in 1973 by Apprentice Tradesmen of the Royal Engineers at Chatham to their own design. The new Reredos screen (also behind the table) was made to fold back so that the dais may be cleared if required for concerts, plays, etc. On the screen is a cross made by a former parishioner out of timbers from the old church. The dais furniture (except for the chairs), the wooden font and the pews that were installed after the fire were designed by our Architect, Mr. Derek Wren, who oversaw the rebuilding. In 2003, the pews were replaced by modern chairs, as these allow significantly more flexibility in worship layouts, and make arrangements for special services, such as weddings and funerals much easier At the same time that the new chairs were purchased, the dais was carpeted to match the colour of the chairs.
The altar and the lectern falls were designed by a former parishioner. The banner which hangs on the east wall is one of several designed and made by a group of parishioners. They are changed to follow the Church's Calendar. The rest are currently stored in the Bell Tower.
The heating of the main parts of the building is by an underfloor water system heated by gas boilers, with separate sections for Church, Chapel and Hall. In 1985 acoustic treatment was installed and a new sound system which includes an induction loop for those with hearing aids.
In 2006, a computer projection system and large projector screen were installed. The projector can be seen suspended from the roof between the loudspeakers. However, the projection screen, which is some 3 metres square, is hidden. It rolls up automatically into the roof space above the arch and is practically invisible when not in use!
This was the chancel of the old church. It is Early English in style with a high pitched roof and graceful lancet windows dating from about 1220 and originally had stained glass by Morris and Burne-Jones dating from 1878. It was fitted with choir stalls and separated from the nave by a wooden screen and a chancel step where the back wall is now. The whole floor of the church has been raised so that the chancel step has disappeared. When the church was rebuilt, the Chapel was designed to retain an atmosphere of antiquity and tradition. In the middle window may be seen the altar cross. This is of medieval origin, when it was used as a processional cross, but now stands on a Victorian base. It was destroyed by the fire and its wooden core burnt out, but parishioners picked nearly all the pieces out of the rubble and it was put together again by a parishioner and his team of boys at Windsor Technical College.
The pews (at the back of Chapel) and altar were given to us by the Army. They were formerly in Netley Hospital Chapel. All the chairs were given by parishioners in memory of their loved ones and the kneelers were made by parishioners. The altar kneeler was made by Yateley Industries for the Disabled to a design which incorporates the crossed keys and sword from the coat of arms of Winchester Diocese. The font may date from the 13th century, but the date is difficult to fix. Before 1878, it stood by the north door, but was then moved into the tower and finally moved into the Chapel during the rebuilding. Over it hangs a twelve candle chandelier which was reconstructed out of pieces salvaged from the six which used to hang in the old church, all of which were destroyed. The work was completed by the same team of helpers from Windsor Technical College who spent several hundreds of hours going through buckets of fragments. It was then plated to give it a better uniformity and to avoid the necessity of polishing it as it is very fragile. On the north wall hangs the Royal British Legion Memorial Board, which replaces a memorial which used to be there, but was destroyed in the fire.
In the far left corner is a door which leads into the Prayer Cell. This was built in 1967 as a Clergy Vestry on the foundations of a 14th century anchorite cell. You can see the "squint" through which the anchorite could take part in the Mass without emerging from his cell. This room escaped the fire, but its door was burnt half through, and the room was full of smoke.
The black and white floor tiles in the sanctuary, underneath the altar, survived the fire, as did the slate tomb slabs which were moved into their present positions from where they were over vaults in the chancel and nave. The slab on the left is that in memory of Richard Ryves Knight, who died in 1671, the one on the right is in memory of Thomas Wyndham who died in 1763. Wyndham is a well known local name and can be found associated with many local landmarks. The tomb slabs which we could not put back into the church are in the churchyard near the west entrance. The floor of the chapel is of polished limestone from France. On the wall to your left you will see the memorial to the Rev. C. D. Stooks, Vicar from 1885 to 1905, the only stone memorial (of which there were many) to survive. Our memorial brasses were reburnished and replaced, as far as possible, in the places they occupied before the fire, and all the stained glass was also destroyed except for the window in the tower. The organ used to stand in the arch on your right which leads into the Retro-Choir. The window just to the left of the door used to be the door which led into the Churchwardens' Vestry as it was then. In 1987 a door was put in the chapel arch together with a display case made for the five musical instruments which were once used to lead the singing.
This area was formerly the Churchwardens' Vestry and organ space. The Vestry was added in 1878 and until the Clergy Vestry was built in 1967, was shared by both the Vicar and Churchwardens. On the wall are photographs of former Incumbents reproduced from old photographs, as all the originals were burnt.
There are also photographs of the church before, during and after the fire and one of the Crystal Cup. This was made in about 1580 and presented to the church in 1675. It used to be exhibited in the church in a specially designed glass case. In 1977 it was sent for safe keeping to the Treasury at Winchester Cathedral and so escaped the fire. Details of the Crystal Cup may be found on the reverse side of the photograph. The east door is on your left as you enter from the Chapel and the other doors give access to the present Vestry and to the stairs leading to the Choir Vestry. There are many photographs of the choir along the stairs and in the Vestry. On the south side of the arch are scratched designs which are said to be where the village archers marked their scores when they practised in the churchyard on Sundays, as they were bound to do by law.
The Extension, or "Oasis"
This was built in 1986-87 to provide additional meeting rooms as shown on the plan. It extends some 40 feet into the churchyard.
The Porch and Lych Gate
The doorway in the porch is a good example of early Norman work, it is made of chalk. The heavy door was burnt on the inside but has been expertly restored by local craftsmen. Between the inner and outer doors is a panel displaying a map of the church before and after the fire. The porch is typical of those built around 1450. It was undamaged in the fire. The stone walls were inserted during the last century, probably in 1878. On either side of the Porch, just visible at ground level, are ancient "sarsen" stones, probably once an upright pagan circle, but flattened to form the foundations of the Christian church.
The Lych Gate
This dates from 1660 and originally had a swing gate with a weight. The gate itself was removed to improve access to the church and is stored in one of the outbuildings
No visit to St. Peter's would be complete without a walk around the peaceful and beautiful Churchyard. Over the years it has been well planted with trees, shrubs and flowers, many of which have been given by parishioners in memory of loved ones.
The Churchyard is now "closed" which means that it is now no longer available for burials. It is mainly maintained by the local council, but members of St. Peter's ensure that the front aspect is always looking beautiful.
In 2006, floodlighting was installed in the front of the Church to illuminate the walls and tower that can be seen from the Green. The lights are recessed into the ground so they don't spoil the view of the Church. The installation was a joint venture with Yateley Town Council to improve the Conservation Area of which the Church and the grounds are an integral part.