An expanded guide to the history of St Peter's will be available soon. Please visit this site again for a more interactive experience of the church and its history.
St Peter’s was originally built at the beginning of the 13th century, possibly on the site of an even earlier church.
The foundation date of St Peter's is assumed to be around 1222, the year that Robert de Tuardo, the first known rector, was instituted by the Bishop of Lincoln, Hugh of Wells (the Parish of Berkhampstead St Peter was originally part of the huge Diocese of Lincoln until the 19th Century).
A brass plaque inside the church lists all the rectors from the 13th Century to the present day. Beginning with Robert de Tuardo, it includes some notable figures such as John de Waltham (1379-1381), a close friend of King Richard II who was later buried in the Chapel of Edward the Confessor at Westminster Abbey, and John Cowper (1722-1756), whose son, William Cowper, was born in Berkhamsted in 1731 and baptised in St Peter's and grew up to become a renowned poet and hymn-writer.
In the 19th Century, Rector John Wolstenholme Cobb documented much of Berkhamsted's past when he wrote his History and Antiquities of Berkhamsted during his time as curate of St Peter's (1853-55). He then went on to become rector of the parish from 1871 to 1883.
The church has had a long association with Berkhamsted Castle and this is borne out by the past members of this parish who are commemorated by memorials around the church. Next to the old chancel lies a 14th Century stone tomb decorated with two supine effigies of a medieval knight and his wife, their hands together in prayer; it is thought to be the tomb of Henry of Berkhamsted, Constable to Edward the Black Prince at Berkhamsted Castle, and his wife.
Two 16th Century brasses honour the memory of Robert and Katharine Incent. Robert was Secretary to the Duchess of York at Berkhamsted Castle. Their son, John Incent, went on to become Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in 1540, and in 1541 he founded the Berkhamsted School next to St Peter's . The Incent family house, which still stands on the High Street opposite the church, is today known as "Dean Incent's House".
In the 17th Century, a parishoner named John Sayer served King Charles II as his chief cook. Sayer was a wealthy man who lived in Berkhamsted Place and was a friend of Samuel Pepys. Upon his death in 1682, John Sayer left £1000 in his will for the construction of the row of almshouses for poor widows which stand on Berkhamsted High Street to this day. Sayer's elaborate marble tomb stands in the Lady Chapel of St Peter's.
The church building underwent two major restorations in the 19th Century, one by Jeffry Wyattville, architect of Ashridge House, in 1820, and a second, more sympathetic refurbishment in 1870-71 by the renowned church restorer William Butterfield.