Until 1987, St Peter’s, Eaton Square, must have been a church of almost impenetrable High Anglican gloom. Although outwardly Classical, the porch, being sheltered by the kind of giant portico that would have enraged A. W. N. Pugin, and years of aristocratic Victorian giving ensured that the 1820s interior had become richly Gothic by the end of the century. It was reordered in 1875.
Now, only one chapel survives. In 1987, an arsonist set light to the church, thinking it was Roman Catholic. Happily, it could be rebuilt on new and, if anything, improved lines, the clergy being accommodated in a cloister above the nave (it meant the vicarage could be sold). The style is now light and clean, like a painting by Pieter Saenredam. Although the architecture has changed, the ritual (much incense) remains, as does the music (superb organ).
A recent innovation is that the church holds concerts. Last Thursday, we heard violinist Jennifer Pike, accompanied by Jeremy Pike on the piano, playing Franck, Chausson, Debussy and Ravel. There are concerts to come on April 16 and 23.
The wonderful primary school also uses the nave for events. Churches, as Sir Roy Strong has argued in these pages, need to make fuller use of their space, rather than keeping it for Sundays. It works at St Peter’s.