|North side and west window|
It's establishment was quite different to that of local Anglican churches, most of which were in some ways offshoots of the original parish of St Mary in Rotherhithe village, which had been in place for several hundred years. In the mid 1800s a Catholic parish church existed in Dockhead, but there was no Catholic church in the Rotherhithe area. The East End Missions has been established to extend Catholic reach into the eastern areas of London that had no churches present and in 1858 a chapel was created in the rooms of a large house in Rotherhithe Street, whilst the adjacent Church of Immaculate Conception was built, completed in 1861.
The first Parish Priest of St Peter's arrived in 1891. Father Joseph Haynes was temporarily housed at Dockhead whilst he conducted mass in a chapel established in Paradise Street at the school of St Joseph in 1892. The Diocese purchased land adjacent to the school (now destroyed) and Father Haynes oversaw the build of St Peter and the Guardian Angels, for which funding was immediately sought, as the following rather charming letters from Father Haynes to Catholic newspaper The Tablet on 17th May and 11th October 1902 demonstrate:
SIR—I shall be glad if you can spare me a few lines to call the attention of your readers to a very modest little appeal which has appeared in your paper for some weeks. A few sharp-sighted. individuals, especially keen for works of charity, have already found it out and sent me £3. Probably there are many more who would gladly contribute if they had only noticed that tiny inch of type. May I add that the size, or rather want of size, of the advertisement is a measure of our poverty rather than our needs ? Yours faithfully, 92, Paradise-street, Rotherhithe, S.E. JOSEPH HAYNES.
Side door, west
SIR,—May I call the attention of your readers to an appeal for funds to pay off the debt of 3,000 due on our new church of St. Peter and the Guardian Angels? I am a mere novice in the art of begging; no poet; not even a humorist. I can only tell them this large but poor congregation, composed mainly of casual labourers, is faced by this great task. Will the readers of The Tablet help them? A church in honour of the Prince of the Apostles will be a suitable and permanent memorial of one of his greatest successors and of the Jubilee of his Pontificate. Yours faithfully, JOSEPH HAYNES. The Presbytery, Paradise-street, Rotherhithe, S.E.
The church was built in memory of the exotically named Sir Peter le Page Renouf (1822-1897), a convert to the Catholic religion who finished his career as an Egyptologist (Curator of the Oriental Collection at the British Museum) but had previously been one of Her Majesty's Inspectors for Schools. In this latter role he had visited St Joseph's school frequently, and his wife, Ludovica de Brentano, Lady Renouf, helped to fund the church due to that connection, in the memory of her husband.
Inside it features buttresses, a choir gallery and a stone font that sits on five columns. A small Positive organ was added in 1922. Between 1925-1930 Father David Leahy was responsible for adding an eastern apse with a sanctuary that contains a baldacchino in Sicilian marble. The Lady Altar was also added by Father Leahy, with a stone reredos featuring the Madonna, St Joseph and King David
|Front door. north side|
|Sir Peter le Page Renouf, with a terrific beard|