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St Peter Church

The church of St Peter was gutted following enemy action in 1940 when central Bristol was blitzed. According to tradition the building had narrowly escaped destruction during the Civil War.

In 1643 the Roundhead Governor of Bristol Castle, Col Nathaniel Fiennes is said to have ordered the demolition of both the nearby St Peter's and St Philip's churches to prevent the beseiging Cavaliers from taking up positions in them. It is claimed that only the arrival of Prince Rupert with a strong army of 20,000 Royalist soldiers stopped this action.

St Peter's was built not long after the castle itself, its founder being Robert Fitzhamon. The only parts of the original Norman structure to survive are the lower stages of the tower.

It was considerably modified and added to in the Early English and Perpendicular style. There were several small chapels dedicated to various saints and the interior of the building would have been brilliantly coloured and gilded.

In 1657 there is record of much repair and the upper portion of the tower and the pinnacles were either added or reconstructed. At this time the church account books record the clearing out of rubble, mending, flooring, making and repairing windows and lead-roofing of the tower. There used to be a large number of memorial brasses, which have been removed, though many had been already stolen according to a 19th century guide book. Some decorative surrounds to monumental tablets still remain in the shell.
Behind St Peter's church stood a timbered, gabled mansion called St Peter's Hospital, a total casualty of the blitz. A house had stood on the site since at least 1400, but it was acquired by Robert Aldworth, a wealthy merchant in 1607 and completely rebuilt. Thomas Elbridge owned it in 1634 and later, for a short time, part of the building was the Bristol Mint,. However its main claim to fame was as the paupers' workhouse after the Corporation purchased it for £800 in the 18th century.

The whole of this blitzed area was transformed into Castle Park. The picture below shows a view of the park from across the river at St Philip's Bridge. Besides St Peter, the tower of St Mary Le Port (at left, just inside the park), All Saints' cupola and the spire of Christ Church with St Ewen are visible.

In 2008 a memorial was erected on St Peter's, inscribed with the names of those civilians and auxiliary personnel killed in Bristol during the Blitz.
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