01 December 2011


St Peter’s Church is situated at the centre of Peterchurch, a rural community in the heart of the Golden Valley populated by just 800 people. The existing church dates from the 10th century, but during the works, foundations for what was thought to be an earlier building located nearer the River Dore were discovered. Last updated in the Victorian period, the grade I listed church required a 21st century re-order to create a sustainable multi-use community building, and Communion Design under director Alex Coppock was instructed to undertake the design and deliver the project. The design brief had to include service delivery centre for children's services through a Sure Start programme, accommodate a public lending library, and provide a community event space as well as a sacred worship space for Anglican services.
Alex Coppock said, “Due to the sensitive nature of the site in both conservation and religious terms, we endeavoured to change as little as possible about the existing building and sought to reduce to an absolute minimum the facilities required to deliver the brief by ensuring they were absolutely fit for purpose.”
A wood pellet boiler, kitchen and accessible WC, stair and lift access to first floor balcony, and cleaners area were all installed. To minimize impact, all facilities were designed to be contained within freestanding timber boxes, clad in American white oak. When in use, the boxes are opened, allowing the existing spaces to be almost instantly transformed from 12th century patterns of worship to modern and contemporary uses. Once the activities are finished, the boxes are closed and the space returns to sacred silence.
The timber boxes were designed as lightweight, freestanding and reversible insertions within the existing space and considerable care was taken to ensure these constructions comply with the fire regulations. Structurally, the boxes are constructed from 125x75mm softwood stud work, braced with 19mm plywood sheathing. Alex Coppock explains, “Careful detailing of the frame ensured absolute structural stability. The frame bears onto a timber soleplate, which bears directly onto the reinforced slab which prevented the need for intrusive excavations in a very archeologically sensitive site.” The outer cladding was designed to be specific to each box. The largest and most complex is located at the West end of the chancel, which houses the kitchen, accessible WC, platform lift and plant room, and gives support to the oak staircase and first floor balcony with bridge to the new library. The cladding was formed from 20mm thick, 100mm wide American white oak boards, and the results have been exceptionally well received. Alex said, “American white oak was specified for the smoothness and straightness of its grain and the long term sustainable forestry management undertaken for US forests. We used white oak for all the vertical cladding and the bespoke furniture, and everyone is delighted with the results.”
Bespoke storage furniture was designed by Communion and constructed in white oak or clad in Portuguese cork, which created a display space for the children’s works within the nave of the church.
The project is an overwhelming success with its hugely popular lending library, a Sure Start centre which is achieving its full service delivery outcomes, and more, and a church which continues to be used as a place of worship for midweek and Sunday services. The church is also being regularly hired by many community groups from Tai Chi to Voluntary Action Workers, Art Alive events, Flicks in the Sticks, children’s parties, weddings, concerts, and conferences, to name but a few. Designed by Communion, and developed in partnership with St Peter's Church, Peterchurch PCC and Herefordshire Council, St Peter's Centre is now a truly exceptional space.
For more information contact:

3, St. Micheal's Alleye
EC3V 9DS LONDON (United Kingdom)
Tel. +44 20 76264111
Fax +44 20 76264222