This is a local church with a tall clock tower that can be seen poking above the skyline for some distance in this Victorian estate of middle-class homes known as the Benyon Estate.

The Benyon family inherited the farmland in the area thanks to Richard de Beauvoir, who bought a farm in Hackney back in 1640. In 1821, William Rhodes secured a lease on the farmland from Peter de Beauvoir with the intent to develop it for housing.

However, before he got a spade in the ground, Peter de Beauvoir died, and his next of kin, Richard Benyon sued to reclaim the lease claiming that his father wasn’t of sound mind when he signed the lease, and after a long court case, won the argument.

Although he had to pay £20,000 to settle the issue in the end, which was a fortune at the time.

Richard adopted the name Benyon de Beauvoir, and that’s also why the area is owned by the Benyon Estate, but the church and the local garden square are named after de Beauvoir.

Richard then developed the farmland into housing, although he retained the layout proposed by William Rhodes, and it was Richard who provided the land for a church to be built on in the early 1840s.

The Benyon family still own a large swathe of land, and although it fell into some disrepair in the post-war years, the recent revival of the wider area has led to the Benyon Estate being set up by the family as a professional management company for the area.

Back to the church though, and St Peter’s was built in the ‘Gothic Revival’ style in the early 1840s, and extended in 1884 as part of the catholic movement in the Church of England.

The original architect, William Lochner, was a regular church builder, and also one of the early members of the Institute of British Architects. The architect of the later extension was Hugh Roumieu Gough.

You can see the extension, as the church originally had four small turrets on each corner of the church, but you can see now that the church has gained an extension at the rear of the church. Inside the church, you can also see that the extension is in a very different aesthetic style to the rest of the much plainer church nave.

The main church has a simple barrel roof in wood, with delicately decorated galleries supported on thin iron columns and lined with white walls. That leads onto the gothic revival-inspired altar space which has been done in stone and richly decorated in total contrast to the main nave.

Something very unusual in the church is the line of crosses on the walls in the upper galleries. It’s not that crosses are unusual, but that they look as if they’ve been filled in with snooker balls. I even went upstairs to give them a closer look and a tap, and yes, they really do look (and sound) like snooker balls.

How very curious.

The crypt, which was an air raid shelter during WWII, and a music venue in the 1960s, was recently renovated into public spaces for rent.

It’s very much a community church still, with lots of signs outside about the various events and charity fundraisers they are running, and the doors are often open for people to pop inside.

But the snooker balls, what’s that all about?


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One comment
  1. Liz says:

    Hi Ian, a lovely post. I used to go to this church and it’s a very friendly and welcoming congregation. I’m sure someone who still worships there can correct me if my memory of the ‘snooker ball crosses’ is wrong… I think the snooker balls are part of an art exhibit that was originally a temporary art exhibition many years ago. If memory serves, the red balls represent each Station of the Cross. The artist might have been called Cyril, maybe? An unusual crossover between Christianity and snooker!

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