St. Peter’s Church, Leguan GUYANA’S BUILT HERITAGE
Guyana Chronicle
February 16, 2003

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ST. PETER’S Church, “which, with its artistic designs and leaning tower is as inspiring as the famous leaning tower of Pisa.” It was originally constructed on December 9, 1827. The building was, however, replaced on St. Peter’s Day, June 29, 1855.

Prior to the erection of the first church, services were held under a clump of bamboo trees. On November 25, 1826, as recorded by the pencil minute of foolscap in the vestry book of the Parish, a meeting was held in the house of Captain Thierens of Plantation Vissilvalligheid. At this meeting, it was decided that a church and parsonage should be built. A site was chosen on the front lands of Plantation Enterprise, Leguan, where the church is still functioning today.

The first church was built at a cost of £400 over a period of six weeks and was located in the centre of the island. On December 9, 1827, this church was opened for service. The land for the parsonage and the church were acquired in a rather peculiar manner; through a warrant issued by the Governor, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, on June 12, 1827, “authorising and requiring in his Majesty’s name, John Thierens and Edward G. Boughton, members of the Vestry for the Parish of St. Peter’s, forthwith to enter upon and take possession of the said piece of land, and to give notice thereof to the proprietor of the said property and to offer him a fair compensation,” to be decided by two appraisers and by an umpire of the chosen lot.

In September of 1827, Mr. John Campbell, proprietor of John Campbell & Co. agreed to sell the six acres of land required for the church. There was one small problem, the removal of a house constructed by Mr. Alexander McRae “for the reception of persons with the most offensive disease, yaws.”

Nine years later, on August 8, 1836, the Transport for the land of St. Peter’s was at last passed. The sum of 300 guilders per acre was paid by the Governor, together with 4 000 guilders for repairs and 350 guilders for the sexton. The church saw bleak times in the 1840s as many residents of the island migrated to the urban areas. The cost of maintenance for the first church was enormous and there were calls for the erection of a permanent building.

It was under the guardianship of Reverend F. J. Wyatt (who would later be appointed as Rector of St. Paul in October 1853) that the desire for a permanent church gained support. Lieutenant Governor Walker laid the foundation stone for the present church on August 1, 1853. St. Peter’s was constructed at a cost of £2, 500, of which £1 000 was contributed by the Colonial Legislature, £100 by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge and the remaining sum of £1 400 by private individuals resident on the island.

The church was designed by The Colonial Civil Engineer, Mr. J. F. Bourne, with contributions by Rev. F. Wyatt and Dr. Boughton.

The church is built of brick and was originally covered by a roof of wallaba shingles. This was later replaced by metal roofing. At the left of the North Western entrance stands a detached bell tower, surmounted by an octagonal brick spire. The length of the church is 70 feet, exclusive of the apse. The windows are pointed and are filled with handsome stained glass. The scene in the apse depicts the life of St. Peter and those in the nave contain flowered quarrels and roses with rich borders. These were imported from England at a cost of £950.

On St. Peter’s Day, June 29, 1855, His Lordship Bishop William Piercy Austin consecrated the building in the presence of the Governor, Mr. P. E. Wodehouse, the Governor’s Secretary, Chief Justice Mr. William Walker, members of the Court of Policy and other prominent individuals.

The National Trust of Guyana undertakes to preserve buildings of national, architectural, historic and artistic interest for the benefit of future generations. St. Peter’s Church is a testimony of our nation’s patrimony, an important part of Guyana’s social and cultural development. We invite you, the members of the community, to participate in this process for future generations. (Lloyd Kandasammy for the National Trust of Guyana)

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