The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Wisbech was constructed in the C12 and was substantially rebuilt in the C14. It has C15, C16 and C19 alterations, and is built from stone with Barnack limestone dressings and a lead roof.
Reasons for Designation
The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Wisbech is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* A medieval church with substantial surviving C12, C14, C15 and C16 fabric;
* For its clear phasing, illustrated by the standing fabric of the church;
* For its surviving monuments, including a monumental brass of Thomas de Braunstone and the C16 monuments to Thomas and Etheldreda Parke and Matthias and Jane Taylor.
* For its role as the parish church of Wisbech, the largest town in the Cambridgeshire Fens;
* For the history of the development of the church, clearly evidenced in its fabric;
* For its association with William Bassett-Smith;
* For its inclusion of an unusual memorial to those killed in action and in captivity in the Far East, 1942-1945.
* The church has group value with The Castle (NHLE 1229170, Grade II*), The Museum (NHLE 1126669, Grade II*), Castle Lodge (NHLE 1279201, Grade II), the Duke’s Head (NHLE 1125912, Grade II), 11 and 12 Church Terrace (NHLE 1279441, Grade II), 13 Church Terrace (NHLE 1331994, Grade II) and the listed walls and monuments surrounding the church (NHLE 1126685, 1331679, 1126609, 1230047, 1126610, 1230075 and 1278760, all Grade II).
The earliest mention of Wisbech is in the early C11, when the vill was gifted to the Abbey of St Etheldreda in Ely by Oswy and Leoflede on the occasion of their son Aelfwine (the future Bishop of Elmham) taking holy vows. By 1086, the population of the manor was around 350, although this may have been spread across a fairly wide area. Wisbech Castle was constructed in 1086. It is not clear whether the castle was built next to an existing church or whether the church was moved shortly after the construction of the castle.
The current Church of St Peter and St Paul was built in C12, and comprised a nave, chancel, aisles and west tower. It was valued at £33 6s 8d in 1217, and an associated vicarage was instituted in 1252. The church was appropriated to the prior and convent at Ely in 1275 by Bishop Balsham.
The church was substantially rebuilt in the C14, when a second nave was added, the chancel and aisles were rebuilt and a south chapel was built adjacent to the chancel. The phasing is unclear, but the south nave and south chapel probably predate the widening of the chancel, as it was widened to the north only, rather than centrally along the north nave, leading to the requirement for a skewed arch at the east end of the north arcade. Windows and doorways were replaced as part of the C14 rebuild, and a porch added to the south aisle shortly after. The central arcade between the two naves was either installed or replaced in the C15, and the south aisle windows reconstructed in a Perpendicular style.
The west tower collapsed onto the nave in the early C16, requiring the reconstruction of the southern arcade of the nave and the reconstruction of the north clerestory. A single roof was installed over both naves and a ceiling inserted. The tower was not rebuilt in its western location, the lower levels instead incorporated into the west end of the north nave. The tower arch was removed and a large window inserted over the tower door. The stair turret was retained and a small bell cote constructed above.
A new tower was constructed to the north of the church, adjacent to the north door in 1520. A new vestry adjacent to the south chapel was constructed at the same time. Heraldic inscriptions on the vestry suggest the works were funded by a bequest of Thomas Burwell, an official of the Guild of the Holy Trinity between 1469 and 1518.
Aside from the installation of a set of royal arms and an altar table in the C17, a new altar rail in 1700 and the installation of a number of monuments, the church was free from major changes until the C19. The clerestory windows were replaced in 1846, the east window of the chancel and the chancel roof in 1856 and other windows in 1861. A new reredos designed by William Bassett-Smith was installed in 1885. The reredos incorporates a stained glass mosaic of the Last Supper by Salviati, designed by Clayton and Bell. A new pulpit was constructed in 1904.
A plaque to commemorate the men of the Wisbech area who were killed in action or died in captivity in the Far East in the Second World War was installed in the church. The plaque was commissioned by the Singapore Club, Wisbech, and was unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire on 20 October 1985, in a ceremony attended by the Bishop of Ely. The plaque was designed by Brian Krill and sculpted by Angela Hull.
The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Wisbech was constructed in the C12 and was substantially rebuilt in the C14. It has C15, C16 and C19 alterations. Built from stone with Barnack limestone dressings and a lead roof.
PLAN: The church comprises two naves under one roof, with an aisle to north and south. The chancel extends from the north nave, and is matched in the south nave by a south chapel and vestry. The church is entered through a porch on the south aisle. The tower was built as a separate structure and is now joined to the north aisle.
EXTERIOR: The south elevation comprises a south aisle lit by alternating three and four cinquefoil lights, with a south chapel and vestry to the east . Both chapel and vestry contain priest’s doors. The aisle has buttresses with offsets marking each bay and corner buttresses. The buttresses continue along the south chapel and vestry, with angle buttresses at the east end. A two storey C14 porch with angle buttresses surrounds the south door of the church. The porch doorway has a C14 moulded label with continuous outer order over a moulded two-centred arch springing from moulded capital with attached shafts. A late C17 sundial with a shaped pediment containing an ouroboros sits above the doorway. A seven bay clerestorey with windows of alternate two and three lights sits above the leaded roof of the south aisle.
The east elevation comprises the vestry, south chapel and the chancel. The vestry is lit by a five trefoil light window under a depressed hood mould and the crenelated gable is decorated with quatrefoils and shields. The east window of the chapel is visible over the vestry gable, and comprises a five trefoil light traceried window. The east window of the chancel is five lights under a hexapartite roundel, and is C19 in date.
The north elevation of the chancel includes two three cinquefoil light windows and two two cinquefoil light windows, all with quatrefoils above. The nave is lit by two three cinquefoil light windows and a four light window. A seven bay clerestory of three light windows sits over the leaded roof of the north aisle. The chancel bays are marked by buttresses with offsets and angle buttresses at the east end. The nave has angled buttresses at the west end and a corner buttress with a statue in a niche above the second offset at the east end. The bays are marked with buttresses, but one has been removed.
The north door is blocked by an external tower of three stages, built in ashlar. The plinth comprises a band of quatrefoils, and there are bands of shields at belfry floor and parapet levels. The windows are of two lights with embattled transoms under two centred arches, and the entrance is a two centred arch with the arms of St Peter and St Paul in the spandrels. Carved panels depicting the arms of Canterbury and Ely, the Wheel of St Catherine and the chalice and host sit above the belfry lights. The tower is supported by set back buttresses with six offsets and capped by gables. The offsets are marked on the tower by string courses. The parapet of the tower has pierced, stepped crenellations and corner pinnacles, and the tower itself is capped with a low lead covered spire.
The west elevation is centred around the polygonal stair turret for the former tower, now capped by a pepper pot bell cote. To the right is a large C14 five trefoil light window with flowing tracery above, while to the left is a deeply recessed C12 door with a C19 four trefoil light window with C14-styled tracery above.
INTERIOR: The north nave arcade dates to the C12 and is of five bays with round arches, the most easterly with a chevron ornament. The piers alternate between round piers and round piers with attached shafts in an interrupted rhythm. The capitals have a mixture of scalloped, waterleaf and stiff leaf decoration and several of the spandrels are decorated. An additional bay with a two centred arch is splayed to the north to accommodate the chancel, which is wider than the nave. The central, C15 arcade is of four bays with obtuse arches of two orders springing from slender piers with engaged shafts with moulded caps on their inner faces. The base of the former tower forms an addition bay to both arcades at the western end, with thicker walls and pointed arches. The southern nave arcade, also C15, is of five bays formed of quatrefoil piers and obtuse arches. The chancel arch is an obtuse arch offset from the centreline of the north nave, while the south chapel arch is an equilateral arch, the apex of the outer orders of which is covered by the ceiling.
The chancel contains a plain, square headed C14 piscina and three stalls with misericords. There is a C17 altar table behind an early C18 communion rail, and a reredos designed by William Bassett-Smith in 1885. The reredos incorporates a stained glass mosaic of the Last Supper by Salviati, designed by Clayton and Bell. The chancel is separated from the south chapel by a three bay arcade on quatrefoil piers.
The church contains a set of carved and painted C17 royal arms, hung between the south aisle and south nave. A C14 font standing on clustered shafts stands in the nave. The chancel contains a monumental brass of Thomas de Braunstone, Constable of Wisbech Castle dated 1401, and two C17 memorials comprising couples on either side of prayer stands, one to Thomas Parke and Etheldreda Parke (1628) and one to Matthias Taylor and Jane Taylor (1633).
A memorial plaque to those who were killed in action or died in captivity in the Far East in the Second World War is mounted on the east wall of the south aisle. The plaque is a slate tablet set into an ornately carved Sicilian marble frame. The frame is sculpted as the end of a bamboo hut, with a bamboo cane roof and coconut-leaf walls. Within the carved roof is a gilt cross. The tablet is inscribed 15TH FEBRUARY 1942 - 15TH AUGUST 1945 / TO THE MEMORY OF THE MEN OF THIS AREA / WHO WERE / KILLED IN ACTION OR DIED IN CAPTIVITY / IN THE FAR EAST / THIS TABLET IS DEDICATED BY THEIR COMRADES / OF / THE SINGAPORE CLUB / WISBECH / "TURN YOU TO THE STRONGHOLD, YE PRISONERS OF HOPE" / ZECHARIAH IX.12//.