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St Peter, Alton, Staffordshire

(52°58′40″N, 1°53′28″W)
SK 074 423
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Staffordshire
now Staffordshire
  • Ron Baxter

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Feature Sets

Alton stands on rising ground on the S slope of the Churnet valley, five miles to the N of Uttoxeter in the region of hilly woodland to the S of the Weaver Hills. The castle to the E of the church was built by Bertram de Verdun from 1176, and rebuilt as a house for the Earl of Shrewsbury to designs by Pugin from 1847-52. There was a school on the site, which was taken over by the Sisters of Mercy in 1855, and a presbytery, which became their convent. The castle itself remained a private dwelling until 1919 when the Sisters of Mercy bought it to extend their boarding school. When the school closed in 1989 the castle was left empty until 1995, when the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham bought it, reopening it as a residential youth centre in the following year. The church itself has an aisled nave without a clerestorey, a much taller chancel with a S chapel and a W tower, all in pinkish grey ashlar. In the nave, both aisles are of five bays with part of a sixth at the W end, curtailed by the later tower wall. The N aisle is 12thc. in origin with a round-headed arcade but heavily restored. It has been screened off from the nave with wooden panelling, glazed above, between the arcade piers. The W end of the aisle now accommodates a kitchen and lavatories, and the E end a chapel. The S arcade is much higher, with tall slender piers and stilted arches. Again it is heavily restored, but an odd respond at the E end may give some hint of an earlier arrangement. The nave has a S doorway without a porch. The chancel is much taller than the nave, and has a low chapel to the S, added by J. R. Naylor in 1884-85. It is unusual in having a four-centred chancel arch. The W tower has a grand early-13thc. W doorway but the upper parts are 15thc. The church was restored in 1830-31 by J. T. Holmes of Cheadle, when a gallery was added, and the church, in Pevsner's view, was all but rebuilt at that time. This is certainly true of the aisle walls and their arcades. The most interesting of the antiquarian views in William Salt Library SV I 63; an undated 19thc. drawing showing the S side of the nave and chancel. No chapel is shown, which dates the drawing before 1885, but the nave already has the Y-tracery windows it has today. The S doorway was then protected by a porch. There is probably no original 12thc. sculpture in the building, nevertheless both nave arcades are described below.


Alton was held by the king in 1086, Iwar having held it before the Conquest. The land was then described as waste. Bernard of Verdun was Lord of Alton by 1176 when he founded both Alton Castle and the Cistercian abbey of Croxden, S of Alton. The abbey was founded from Aunay-sur-Audun in Normandy, and the endowment included land at Alton and Alton church. The last of the Verduns died in 1316, and Alton passed to his eldest daughter Joan and her husband Thomas de Furnivalle. A series of bad harvests and outbreaks of plague in the last third of the 14thc. had a disastrous effect on the finances of Croxden, and by 1405 Croxden Abbey was so impoverished that Henry IV gave permission for monks from the abbey to be appointed vicars of Alton. At the dissolution of the abbey in 1538 the monks were given pensions as usual, but one of them, John Stanley, was Vicar of Alton from 1546 until his death in 1569.

Benefice of Alton with Bradley-le-Moors and Oakamoor with Cotton.


Interior Features



According to Pevsner, 'the (N) arcade is ruthlessly renewed; the S arcade looks all early C19.'

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 55.
Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Views Collection, SV I 56, 57, 58, 59, 60b, 63. Available online at http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/portal/page?_pageid=47,71124and_dad=portaland_schema=PORTAL
Victoria County History: Staffordshire. III (1970), 226-30.