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The church embodies the love and dedication of so many people from each generation of its existence. In the following notes I will merely mention a few who were involved 140 years ago when it was all so new. The aim being to give you a little insight into its history and the people who come to it then, and sat or stood where you are now, part of this living whole.
The first vicar was the Rev A Phillpotts. When the parish of Harton was created by the Dean and Chapter in 1864 and the first Vicar installed the present church building did not exist. To the East of the current building stood a smaller building known as the Oratory and this had been built for the people of Harton in 1836 by the Rev W Coward who was curate of Westoe Chapel. There is a commemorative memorial to Rev Coward in the vestry above the door leading to the church.
Rev Phillpot saw the oratory as rather mean and small, “it did not add grace to the village” and obtained permission and support to set about building the church you now see today. The window in the North Wall nearest the screen was given in memory of Rev Phillpots who was vicar for 24 years. The window depicts the first Easter Day with Mary Magdelene and the two angels. Rev Phillpots died on the 29th April 1888 and is laid to rest in the church yard directly behind the East wall.
Much involved in the growth of the new church was one of the prominent members if Harton Village he became one of the first Church wardens, Mr J M Moore of Harton Hall. He was Mayor and then Town Clerk of South Shields for 21 years and so a very prominent man. He built the village school which is now the Church Hall. The west window above the font was given by Mr J M Moore as a memorial to his wife, Sarah Jane Moore who died in 1884, the window was erected in 1885. Due to its position the subjects portrayed are appropriately, Baptism. Top left the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan, bottom left “Jesus took them in his arms and blessed them”. Top right St. Paulinus baptises King Edwin and bottom wight St. Aidan baptizes St Oswald. The pulpit which is made of oak is also part of this family’s benefaction being given by Mr Moore’s family in his memory. It was dedicated in 1912.
The Oratory had a harmonium and this was transferred to the church and used until 1870 when an organ costing £225 was installed. Miss Jane Reed who had played the harmonium since 1864 was appointed organist at the church. When she died in 1875 the Rev Phillpots recorded that “she was an excellent player and a most valued servant of the Church, being unremitting in her attention to her duties. In the chancel, opposite the organ is a stain glass window dedicated to the memory of Miss Reed, eleven years organist in the parish. The window depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Cecelia patron saint of music. St Cecelia is depicted holding a set of pipes. The organ Miss Reed used was replaced in 1936 with the Nelson organ still in use today.
The church cost £1,945 to build, which was raised by subscription and fund raising events. The Architect who designed the church in the French Gothic Revival Style so favoured by the Victorians was C H Fowler of Durham, the contractor was H Hundspeth of Alnwick. The limestone came from Cleadon Hills with the dressed stone from Hebburn Quarry. The font which is made from one piece of stone was provided by Mr Fowler the architect. The Reredos was designed by Mr Fowler in 1870.
All the families who have worshiped at St. Peters have added something to the life of the church and sometimes their personal achievements are recorded to add to the history.
There are so many stories, so many lives, so many happy times, tons more to tell you about our church, and you would be at no better vantage than to visit in person and see the church as alive as ever.