HISTORY OF THE CHURCH BUILDING
Origins of our church building
It is believed that the site at St Peter's in Brackley has been used for worship since the seventh century. Although few records exist before the 15th century, ancient churchyards were typically circular, as was St Peter's.
The churchyard was extended during the time that Francis Thicknesse was vicar (1868-1879). He also built the mock Tudor Vicarage, which later became Egerton House School. This has now been demolished to make way for homes at the north-west end of the churchyard. Thicknesse had plans to knock down the church and build a new one in the town centre, but these never materialised.
The oldest parts of the present church are Norman and date from about 1100. The Norman church was in the shape of a cross with transepts to the north and the south of the nave. This was shorter than the present church, which now has a longer nave and chancel.
In the modern north aisle (at the east end) there is a capital of a pillar, and part of a column, which was the centre post of a stairway leading to a Rood Screen and the then chancel arch. The south door was thought to have originally opened into a porch leading to the old, narrower Norman church. Above this porch was a room used by the vicar, and possibly his wife, until the mid-thirteenth century. Above the door a blocked-up window leading to this room was visible until the extension was added, covering the window in the late 1990s.
Traces of an old ("scratch") sundial can be found in the wall to the west of the south door frame.
The west tower was added in the 13th century. Above the doorway the figures of St Peter and St Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, may be seen. There are also the faces of a man and a dog in the carved leaves. It is thought that these relate to the legend of a priest who quarrelled with the local lord – Lord Neville and was buried alive. The story claims that his faithful dog jumped into the grave with him just before it was filled in. The grave itself can be found in the old churchyard near the north west corner of the church. The stone is shaped in the figure of a man, a most unusually ornate stone for that period, suggesting a dramatic event.
During this period the south aisle was added. The stiff leaf decoration can be seen on the tower doorway and on the responds of the south arcade. Presumably the south transept was retained at this stage because the capital of the last pillar at the east end of the south arcade is octagonal, like those in the north aisle, whilst the others are round. It is suggested that this pillar was installed at the same time as the north aisle extension, in the 14th century. There are traces of medieval decoration on the underside of the arch leading to the old south transept at the east end of the south arcade.
Later in the 13th century, most of the Norman chancel was removed, the nave lengthened and a new chancel built. The mouldings of the chancel arch and the little arches are good examples of this Early English style.
In the 14th century the north aisle, the South Chapel and crypt were added in what is known as the Decorated style (although this is rather plain). There is an Ogee, or double-curved arches, over the window in the west wall of the north aisle and the door to the crypt in addition to the rather crude "ball-flower" decoration on the font. These are typical Decorated features. The transepts probably disappeared at this time and most of the window tracery is of this period.
Late 19th Century
The roof of the church was raised during the sixteenth century (the original corbels – roof supports – which held the wooden roof can be seen below the high level windows in the nave). Not much was done to the church then for over 200 years and in 1837 things had become very run down with a report that no repairs of any sort had been carried out for 20 years. One window was so rotten it required a new stone mullion (at a cost of £10!). Then came Francis Thicknesse, followed by Rev Brooke de Malpas Egerton (1879-1894). In 1885 the latter launched a scheme which involved the remodelling and extension of the chancel, the installation of new choir stalls and the building of the vestry in the north east corner. There is a foundation stone in the east wall of the chancel visible from outside, dated 1885. Two stained glass windows by O'Connor (1868-1869) can be seen at the east end of the north aisle.
In 1901 stained glass windows by Kempe and by a combination of Kempe and his assistant Tower were installed in the South Chapel. The Victorian organ was relocated to its present location in the late 1970s. The roof and battlements to the tower were replaced in the 1980s but the most dramatic developments at St Peter's since the fourteenth century were opened in 1998. The church extension, built on land to the south of the church and joining via a porch area to the old Norman south door, was added to provide a church hall, kitchen and modern toilet facilities for the growing parish.