The history of a place is important not only to an individual who has lived in that location their whole lives but also people who come into the community. It’s also important for the place itself to retain its heritage. This is where the blessing of the internet comes into its own as well as the voices of long lived residents in the area.
While visiting St Peter’s Court to report on their 40th birthday celebrations I had the privilege of meeting up with Barbara who is a resident of St Peter’s Court and has lived in the area a long time. Barbara spent time with me talking about the history of St Peter’s Church which used to stand on the land where the supported living home is now sited.
I could see the joy in Barbara’s eyes as she fondly talked about her family. Life centred around the old Church and all religious aspects of life happened there from weddings and christenings to funerals. The Church was their home and Barbara became an important part of the workings of the church eventually taking up tasks in the background alongside her late husband who served as Church Warden for many years.
There also used to be a school sited on the land alongside the Church. Barbara recalls that her mother attended this school for a short period of time in approximately 1901. The extensive communal hall was shaped as a cross with a stage inside and separate spaces which housed many activities. Groups such as a football and cricket team for the local men were open for all men not just Church going folk.
During the Second World War the communal space was taken over and used as a base for the Home Guard. Barbara mentioned that at this time the groups such as Scouts, Guides and other clubs that met in the space were suspended to make way for the Home Guard.
Barbara also showed me the boundary walls that still surround the site. The dark stone is original from when St Peter’s Church stood there and there are still small filled gaps or ends of metal from where the metal railings were removed during the war. They were melted down to make munitions to help the war effort, the same as many churches and parks across the country.
St Peter’s Church was consecrated on 2 July 1868 and stood on the site of the supported living home until the mid 1970s. A new church was built on Hunslet Hall Road, which still stands today, although it is no longer owned by the Church of England.
Barbara recounted that they were there at the final service held in honour of the Church in 2012 as the Hunslet Hall Road site eventually closed. Looking through the service sheet Barbara had an important part to play in the service reading out prayers to the gathered congregation.
A war memorial stands in the gardens of St Peter’s Court which commemorates the men of Hunslet who didn’t return from the 1914-1918 war. This memorial fell into disrepair once the Church was demolished, but then in 2006 the memorial was rightly renovated and re-dedicated and still stands today.
In the short time I spent with Barbara I learnt she has had a rich history within St Peter’s Church and the local area. One photograph which features the Lord Mayor of the time and her husband and uncle, but not Barbara. Typically for the time, she wasn’t included in the picture although she had the important responsibility of preparing food for everyone that was gathered, possibly over 200 people.
She may not have been visible all of the time, but her work and also that of her late husband kept the Church working like a well-oiled machine, along with may others who are unnamed in this article .
Barbara rather poignantly commented that now living at St Peter’s Court feels right as things have come full circle, she has lived her life alongside St Peter’s Church and is now home on the site where the old Church stood.