Taken from the booklet St
Peter's Church and Yateley, Hampshire 1979 - 1981
by Sydney Loader
The church of St Peter, Yateley
Five thousand years ago the inhabitants of Yateley raised a sacred sarsen stone,
at the same time as their contemporaries were erecting the temple of Stonehenge
on Salisbury Plain.
A great jump in time later, in the seventh century, the Saxons came, and built a
stone church on this heathen spot, on the directions of Pope Gregory. This stone
building must have been a strange new sight to the villagers since construction
up until then had been in timber and thatch.
Old traditions and beliefs die hard, however, and the mystic sarsen stone was
still revered, perhaps in fear of its supposed magical powers. So the huge stone
was used for the corner stone of the new Saxon church, and the tip of it can
still be seen today outside on the left side of the porch.
The eighth century brought disaster to Yateley! The countryside was ravaged by
the Danes whose settlement was at Reading. The little Saxon church was sacked,
only the lower three feet of the walls surviving. When the Saxons regained
control, the walls were rebuilt to a height of twelve feet and the whole church
restored by, it is believed, Aelfrige, the Saxon Lord of Yateley ó a restoration
of 1000 years a go
The rare lychgate to the church
Late in the eleventh century a Norman Lord enlarged the church, building the
centre arches which unfortunately did not survive the fire of 1979. The Early
English chancel was added about 1220, the south aisle in 1350, at the same time
as the lovely old timber roof so greatly admired and remembered.
The tower, miraculously not as badly damaged in the fire as the rest of the
church and now beautifully restored, was regarded as one of the finest examples
of a wooden tower in the South of England. It was constructed in the time of the
Tudors, c.1450, as was the porch. The eight bells in the tower cracked in the
tremendous heat and have been melted down and recast in their original form.
The church was carefully restored by architect Mr. Blomfield in 1878, the peak
of the Victorian era. A good example of his work can still be seen in the arch
now incorporated in the new wall behind the new altar.
A row of wooden grave markers for the SIMMONDS
St. Peterís Church has been a testament in timber and stone to the continuous
Christian life of the Church in Yately for a thousand years, many a soul finding
a welcome calm and peace within its walls.
The tragic night of May 5th 1979 seemed at the time to mark the end for St.
Peterís, the desolation of smouldering beams and gaping roofs cutting us to the
heart. But now, a tribute to the faith and per severance of parishioners and
friends, it has risen from the ashes to continue, after the 21/2 - year
interruption, that for which it has stood for centuries ó a witness to the
Christian faith in Yately, and a place of assembly for the worship of the
DIARY OF THE FIRE
Click on History then Fire