History of St Peter’s

On 7th August 1857, the Banffshire Journal carried the following notice:

“Opening of New Catholic Cathedral”. The new Catholic Cathedral at Buckie was opened by the Rt Rev Bishop Kyle assisted by Rev Wm Clapperton who was the first missionary therein”.

Such was the plain statement of the opening of the Church.

After the Reformation, when the practise of the Catholic Religion was forbidden, there were many Catholics in the Enzie area, and the Statistical records of 1834 show that there were around 400 at that time in Buckie alone. For many years, these Buckie Catholics had been active members of Preshome Parish, but as Buckie was now growing as a centre, the case for its own Church grew stronger. In 1832, some three years after the passing of the Act of Catholic Emancipation, the Trades Hall, located in what is now Cluny Square, was leased and was opened as a Chapel on Trinity Sunday. Thus was the beginning of the Congregation which was to develop into the present St Peter’s.

In January 1850, Bishop Kyle negotiated with Sir William Gordon, Baronet of Letterfourie, (who together with his brother, are buried in the church) for ground to build a new Church. This was agreed and sufficient ground was marked off to accommodate a Church with an adjacent House for the Priest, and for a School.

Following a design conceived by Bishop Kyle and the young Architect, Alexander Ellis, (who subsequently designed St Mary’s Cathedral in Aberdeen) the foundations were laid in 1851 and completed in 1857, with Father Clapperton as Parish Priest. The new Church showed how the times had changed. It was no longer necessary to conceal such a building, and the resulting fine Gothic Church with its prominent west front (said to be a reduced version of that of Elgin Cathedral) with its twin towers and spires, has become one of the Landmarks of the area.

The grandeur of the exterior of St Peter’s is matched by the richness of the interior, which has been enhanced in later years. The interior is unusually light, with clerestory windows along the length of the nave, and a large Gothic window in the west front above the choir. Although his Church was a “handsome edifice”, Father Clapperton nevertheless made many improvements. In 1865 he opened the School, and in time for Christmas 1867, a new Organ was installed.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Parish, the Congregation presented Fr Clapperton with £200, which he spent in creating the two marble side altars.

This was the beginnings of the interior marble work, now such a feature of the present St Peter’s. Fr Mclntosh became Parish Priest in 1890, and began to plan and raise funds, to embellish and enlarge the Church.

The work duly started in 1906, and included an extension to the Chancel, a new High Altar, Baptistery, and an additional Arch, which was formed in what was formerly the east gable wall. Marble from many different sources was used. The altar rail has bands of Bleu Beige, Irish green and Skyros marble on top, St Sylvester and white Sicilian underneath.

The beautiful High Altar is predominately Pavenezzo, green Swiss, and Langeudoc marbles, with the ornamental parts of it and the Reredos, in Caen stone. The Altar and Reredos were designed by Charles Menart, (the Architect responsible for the dome of St Thomas Keith) and form a fitting focal point at the end of the nave.

At this time, the striking thirteen foot diameter rose window was transferred intact from the old gable to the new.

In 1910, a new pulpit was constructed, incorporating a handsomely carved timber canopy, thus complementing the decorative frames of the ‘Stations of The Cross’, which are a feature of the side aisles.

A few years later this elegant interior was completed and enriched by the application of marble facings to the lower sections of the walls of the side aisles. During 1957, the centenary year, a set of distinctive new wrought iron gates were installed to replace those which had been removed during the Second World War. Following Vatican II, in order to accommodate the new Liturgy, the altar and reredos were most skilfully separated, with the altar being brought forward to the position it now occupies. In 1990 it was decided that the Church badly needed redecoration, having been last done in 1947. The cost of professional decoration was however, extremely high, and the work was eventually carried out by a group of the parishioners during late 1990-early 1991, under the leadership of Father Traynor. It was during this work, that the two massive paintings, one on each side of the Sanctuary, and depicting Biblical scenes, were uncovered. It is thought that they date from the 19th century and have now been beautifully restored by the skilful work of Sister Bernadette Crooke from London. It is understood that in the forties they were seen to be in very poor condition and had been painted over.