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Bedford St Peter, Bedfordshire

Historical Description

St Peter's is an ecclesiastical and civil parish in Bedford. St Peter's church is in the Norman and Early English styles, and has been several times repaired and enlarged. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Ely; gross yearly value, £549 with residence, in the gift of the Lord Chancellor. Population of the ecclesiastical parish, 4698; of the civil parish, 4698.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Church Records

The parish register dates from the year 1572.

The Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service (BLARS) hold the registers for Bedford St. Peter: Baptisms 1572-1981, Marriages 1572-1965, Burials 1572-1879, Banns 1753-1958. Transcripts in either book or microfiche form for registers prior to 1813 can be purchased from the BLARS (see website for details).


Churches

Church of England

St. Peter de Merton, St. Peter's Street (parish church)

The church of St. Peter, on the north side of St. Peter's green, is a building of stone, consisting of chancel with vestry, nave, aisles, west porch and a low central embattled tower containing a clock and 6 bells: the church was originally outside the walls of the town of Bedford, and was called "St. Peter's-in-the-Fields," and also St. Peter de Merton, in order to distinguish it from St. Peter's de Dunstable, which stood below the bridge, in what is now St. Mary's square: the Norman south doorway of this church is said to have belonged to the latter; the tower, of rubble and cement, is undoubtedly Saxon, and affords fine examples of long and short work; the circular arch, a Norman feature, was, however, added to the upper part of the tower some years ago, and belfry windows, copied from St. Mary's, were introduced on three sides of the tower: the effects of the fire when the church was partly burnt by the Danes in 1010 may be seen, especially on the east of the tower, many of the stones having become calcined, cracked and of the colour of brick: the foundation and much of the north wall of the chancel is also Saxon: it originally ended in an apse, but on its restoration during the Early English period the area was reduced and a triple lancet window inserted, for which the present Decorated east window was substituted when Dr. Hunt was rector: the church was enlarged in 1846 and again in 1853: the north aisle was lengthened westward in 1882, and the organ chamber and vestry and a bell turret built in 1883: the south aisle was lengthened in 1885: the stained east window is a memorial to Mrs. Chapple and her son, and was the gift of John Chapple esq. of St. Albans, clerk of the works at St. Albans Cathedral, Herts, during its restoration by the late. Sir G. Gilbert Scott R.A.: three other windows are also stained: a south porch was erected in 1902, and in 1903 a new organ was built at a cost of £840: two of the piers on the south side were renewed and the Royal Arms redecorated and placed over the south door: a brass chancel screen was erected to the memory of Dr. Prior in 1910: there are sittings for about 600 persons.

St. Andrew's, a chapel of ease to St. Peter's, is an iron structure situated in St. Andrew's road.


Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

St. Peter was in Bedford Registration District from 1837 to 1974


Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Bedfordshire is available to browse.


Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Bedfordshire papers online:


Poor Law

Bedford St Peter was in Bedford Poor Law Union. For further detailed history of the Bedford Union see Peter Higginbotham's excellent resource: Bedford Poor Law Union and Workhouse.


Population

We have transcribed the list of Private Residents in Bedford, from Kelly's Directory of Bedfordshire, 1890 and 1910.


Visitations Heraldic

A full transcript of the Visitations of Bedfordshire 1566, 1582, and 1634 is available online.