St Peter’s church in Bexhill celebrates 1250 years of worship

St Peter’s church in Bexhill-on-Sea old town will celebrate its 1250th anniversary this summer. It is one of the oldest churches in Sussex and England.

St. Peter's church
St. Peter's church

The church was founded by Anglo-Saxon King Offa of Mercia in 772AD when he granted the land to Bexhill by Royal Charter.

There is a copy of the charter on the wall of the South Aisle, with an English translation of the original Latin charter.

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In the Tower Space there is carved stone dating from the Anglo-Saxon period which is considered to be the cover of the shrine which contained the bones of a local saint – possibly the first rector of the church.

Week of celebrations

The 1250th celebrations will start this Saturday (25 June) when eight members of the congregation will open their gardens to everybody from 10-4. Admission for all eight gardens is £5.

Then there is a festal evensong on Sunday (26 June) at 5pm, which will be followed by a parish party in St Peter’s community centre with entertainment by the children of the parish. All are welcome.

There will be a craft fair and exhibition in the church and community centre from Wednesday 29 June until Saturday 2 July from 10am-4pm. This will include displays of craftwork, flowers, vestments, the ancient church plate, and artwork with an Anglo-Saxon theme from four local schools (St Peter’s and St Paul’s, All Saints’ Sidley, Chantry and King Offa). Local historical and community groups will have stalls describing their projects and interests.

Also included will be a display of wedding dresses worn by some of the brides married in St Peter’s church during the last 50 years and the christening robes of some of the babies baptised in its font.

The choirs of St Peter’s and St Paul’s, All Saints’ and Chantry Schools are also giving lunchtime concerts from 12.30-1.15pm on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (29 June-1 July). And on Saturday 2 July there is a concert in church at 10.30am by Caroline and Gwen Elias accompanied by Nigel Howard. Coffee and cakes will be available from 10am.

Admission to the exhibition and concerts is free and refreshments are available. All are welcome.

Celebratory Eucharist

To finish the week there will be a celebratory Eucharist at 10am on Sunday 3 July, to which everybody is invited.

This will be attended by local dignitaries including the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of the County Sara Stonor, the Mayor Paul Plim and the Deputy Mayor Claire Baldry, as well as East Sussex, Rother District and Bexhill town councillors, community leaders and representatives of other faiths and denominations.

St Peter’s rector, the Reverend Stephen Need, said: “We have a very proud history at St Peter’s. It is amazing to think that when William the Conqueror landed on the Sussex shore in 1066, he would have passed our little Saxon church on the hilltop on his way to defeat King Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

“It is humbling to be part of the long stream of people who have for many centuries worshipped God in our much loved and growing parish church. We offer a wide variety of worship, and we warmly welcome you to join us for these celebrations.”

St Peter’s chorister and event organiser Roger Elias said: “It’s definitely a year of big anniversaries – and this is a very special one for St Peter’s church.

“We’ve arranged a variety of events and activities to celebrate our big birthday. There’s something for everyone here, whether it’s a visit to some of our congregation’s lovely gardens, a friendly lunchtime concert with some coffee and cake, or the chance to find out more about our unique history in the church, or in the exhibition at the community centre.

“St Peter’s may have been built on small foundations, but we continue to go from strength to strength. Why not come and see for yourselves and join in with our celebrations?”

The church’s website is https://www.stpetersbexhill.org.uk/

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