St. Peter's Church, Sandwich

St Peter’s is a magnificent Grade I listed church in the heart of the Sandwich Walled Town.  One of the town’s three surviving mediaeval churches, it is believed to have been established in the 11th century. 

While it is thought that large-scale construction ended by the 15th century, the most significant impact to the current structure occurred in October 1661 when the upper part of the tower and steeple collapsed, destroying the south aisle.  The tower was rebuilt with the addition of the present cupola but the south aisle was never reconstructed.  Despite this, the church enjoys landmark status; its iconic onion dome is the most easily recognised building of the Sandwich skyline, and its fabric provides physical evidence of the town’s historical evolution and the influence of the foreign communities it embraced.

St Peter’s Church was vested in the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) in October 1974 and remains consecrated, though services are only held occasionally. To strengthen its tourism role and offer, the CCT appointed MFA to propose enhancements to the visitor experience and to develop the church’s commercial programme. Our proposals included the creation of a substantial timber access stair to a viewing platform on the tower, taking advantage of unrestricted views over Sandwich and the English Channel. The journey up the stair through the clock chamber and bell frame provide an equally powerful experience. 

Creative, efficient and cost effective solutions were sought from the outset to deliver the fast track project.  Utilising 3D modelling technology of the historic tower and bell frame structures, and load spreading techniques for the new stair structure enabled it to require very little structural interventions into the historic fabric (the central bell only was removed to a display position). 

The Church currently experiences visitor numbers in excess of 50,000 per annum, ranking in the top ten of the entire CCT estate in visitation and first in its region.