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St Peter’s Church


©   David Walsby


A very great deal, has been written about St Peter’s Church. Two notable accounts in the last 100 years are
(i) in 1914 the Victoria History of England  Vol VIII  pp 109-118

ii) in 1977  T W Potter and R D Andrews  : Excavation and Survey

Click the links for information about these documents; in both there  is an extensive account about the church and numerous illustrations.
A much shorter account was published by the Rector and Parochial Church Council some years ago and can be dowloaded  here. See also a longer pamphlet published in 1984 by Lancaster City Council, Heysham Village and Churches

It is not the purpose of this page to reproduce details of these accounts but to introduce material not easily available elsewhere..
In 1960 St Peter’s appears briefly in the film The Entertainer starring Laurence Olivier.
In 1967 St Peter’s held a millennium celebration. See separate page (still in construction)

The previous Rector of Heysham, David Tickner, commented that the artist’s illustration of St Peter’s (left)  is the only one he has seen which contains all three of church, chapel and sea.

The Victoria History has a list of rectors from 1190 onwards.. This list appears in the  short church guide and also with notes in Heysham - a History (Dent). When tithes were in operation  the Rector had a considerable income and was sometimes an ‘absentee’ rector. In such circumstances he would employ a paid curate to take services at the church.. On some occasions this also happened when the Rector lived on site in the rectory. A notable absentee rector  from 1813-1819 was Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1759 -1821), historian and contemporary of J M W Turner. He wrote   A  History of Richmondshire (2 volumes). Click here for more information about the book
Rev David Tickner retired from Heysham in November 2013.. Shortly after he arrived in late 1998 he planted a yew tree, presented by the Association, at the entrance to St Peter’s Church together with his predecessor Rev Eric Lacey,

Both David and Eric gave the Heritage Association their full support in many ways and it has been greatly appreciated.  David has been succeeded by Rev Andrew Osborn.



Although the word ’rectory’ once had a wider meaning including land, it has come to mean the residence in which a rector lives. There is a lot of information on Heysham rectory elsewhere on this site. Greese Cottage is called the (old) rectory on the  English Heritage listing for that building. Since that time the rectory has always been to the south of the church .
Click here to see what one time Rector and historian T D Whitaker had to say about the Rectory..
The present (1962 built) rectory was preceded by a much more substantial building slightly westward of the present site. In World War 1 it became an auxiliary hospital and there is more information and images of the rectory on the page about the hospital.


The graveyard

 is much visited; perhaps the grave that is most noted is the one containing the inscription pictured right. This is at the base of a substantial expensive Celtic style cross. You can see Mary Davies in her early 1970s  video available on youtube pause to look at it (about 7.00 minutes in) . To our knowledge  no-one has yet found whether this epitaph by James Jones for his first wife Sarah Hannah is a quotation. Perhaps she requested it.

Look lower down at the larger base which has been added later though looks more worn, we find James had a second wife, Sarah Elisabeth (Sadie) who died in 1929 and James himself followed in 1930. Between these two  there is another epitaph on two lines which appears to read  ‘Guardian Angels’ and  ‘Alas Poor Yorick’,  the second of which is a well known quote from Hamlet ‘  when he finds a skull near Ophelia’s grave. - he adds ‘I knew him well’.


Jones is an unusual name in Heysham in the 19th century. There is only one church record for the name at St Peter’s, the baptism of a son to Edward and Elizabeth Jones who lived in Higher Heysham. Looking further afield reveals a James Jones who married a Sarah Hannah Johnson in Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham in 1895. The railways besides bringing more visitors  also created a more mobile population.   What we wonder brought James to Heysham?

The Harper’s  grave

This picture (right) of the Harper’s grave in the churchyard was given to us recently. An interesting speculation about this was made by  Keith Sanger in 1991. Briefly he suggests the harper (harpist?) might be William Dodmore, an blind Irishman who rose to become harpist for Richard II who was in Ireland twice in the late 14th century. After Richard’s return to England, William transferred his allegiance to Henry IV (Bolingbroke), who usurped Richard..

Sanger describes a much earlier image of the stone than the one here, and also finds a possible Lancastrian connection for William Dodmore.

Weddings at St Peter’s

Rather akin to the modern tradition of getting married at a country house, or on a Caribbean Island, travelling to Heysham for your wedding was popular for much of the twentieth century.

This photograph  was sent to us from Wendy Miles in Australia of a wedding at St Peter’s Church, thought to be in the 1945-55 period. She would like to know if anyone recognizes one or more of the people in the photograph. If so please contact


and your ideas will be forwarded to Wendy.

So far no-one has responded - perhaps all in the picture came from far away from Heysham?