The old churches

The current church is at least the fourth church in the parish. The previous structures were built on a different site to the north, where an old churchyard still exists.

A medieval church was built in 1282 and demolished in 1750, apparently because it had become too expensive and difficult to maintain.

The second church was octagonal with a separate bell tower to the south, commissioned by the Rector at that time, Reverend Ralph Freman and completed in 1751. This second church was in turn demolished in 1861-62.

The second church at Ayot St Peter, built around 1751 and demolished 1862
A watercolour painting of the second church by the St Albans based artist John Henry Buckingham (1800-1881). This painting is the property of Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service and is held at Mill Green Museum, reference WEWHM : 88/1. They have the additional information that the painting was a gift to Mrs Emily Webb from her brother Alfred Cheek.

The third church, the last on the original site, was designed by John Loughborough Pearson (1817-97) and mostly paid for by Rev. Edwin Prodgers junior. It had a tower and spire and incorporated some remnants of the second church. It was struck by lightning on Friday 10 July 1874 and largely destroyed by fire, only the apsidal end remained. This was converted for use as a mortuary chapel but was finally demolished in 1954.

A rare photograph of the third church before it was destroyed by fire. This picture therefore dates from between 1862 to 1874. Image courtesy of Hertfordshire Archives
The old church after the fire in 1874. This painting dated around 1877.
Interior view of the church of Ayot St Peter, destroyed by lightning – from The Pictorial World of 1st August 1874
The remains of the third church in use as a mortuary chapel. As Jephson’s tomb is not visible in this picture it was presumably taken before 1914.
Tomb of the Rev Canon Henry Jephson MA (died 1911), Ayot St Peter old churchyard, with the remains of J.L Pearson’s church (destroyed by lightning in 1874) in the background. The tomb was erected by parishioners and family, 1914. From old photos in Herts County Record Office taken c. 1914

The churchyard that surrounded the earlier Ayot churches can still be seen along Ayot St Peter Road, to the north of the current church. The approximate postcode is AL6 9BQ.

There is no car parking space by the old churchyard – the best plan is to walk along the lane from the existing church.

Wild daffodils in the Old Churchyard March 2018

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