St Peter’s Petersham

The bucolic setting of the Georgian Church, in meadows by the Thames, hasn’t changed significantly since it was shown in Turner’s view from Richmond Hill of 1820. However, the church lacked meeting spaces, WC and catering facilities. Hence our commission for an extension to provide these.

The only feasible site, preserving key views of the Church, was a space between the end of the south transept and a house on the churchyard boundary. We proposed a simple box, seen as an extension of the high brick wall surrounding the churchyard, with handmade bricks and pointing to match. A gap between the church and the new building, connected by a minimal glass link, forms a sliver of outdoor courtyard for the new parish room and retains visibility and breathing space to the transept windows.

The single new window facing the churchyard is screened with triangular honeycomb tiles to minimise the sense of overlooking. The entrance, into the glass link, is covered with a pierced metal screen bearing the words ‘All Are Welcome’. When in use it folds back to reveal the entry door. The new building provides a wheelchair accessible WC and, crucially, disabled access to the church down a gentle ramp.

The site’s sensitivity, including   burial vaults beneath, meant that permissions and construction were challenging. Following archaeological investigation it was decided that it would be less intrusive to simply fill some of the emptied vaults to form concrete footings instead of the initially planned mini-piling. Sitework had to accommodate weddings, funerals and services.

The building’s successful completion, a project of eight years, is down to the determination and optimism of the vicar and parishioners and an excellent builder. It was blessed by the Bishop of Kingston on November 25th, 2018.

 

Pictures by Lance McNulty

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