The first Christian converts were baptised in the River Derwent in 627 AD by St Paulinus, one of the second batch of Roman missionary monks sent by Pope Gregory to convert Britain.
Norton’s first place of worship was sited on the river bank near to the baptism place – where it is still possible to ford the Derwent – and dedicated to St Nicholas, often invoked as patron saint of fords and bridges.
Today it is difficult to find much trace of the ancient church. A medieval building was replaced by a Georgian one in 1816 and this in turn was demolished in 1900. Anyone visiting the local swimming baths can see the foundation platform of the old church when they look to the right when crossing the pseudo-bridge at the entrance of the building. There is still a St Nicholas Street in the parish and the short road near the baths is still Church Street.
The foundation stone (behind the pulpit) for present day St Peters was laid on 16th October 1889 by Archbishop Thompson. The church was dedicated on St Peter’s Eve 28th June 1894. The new dedication came about because the Archbishop was the patron and he felt at least one of the four churches in either town should be dedicated to an Apostle.
The stone font
This is a massive and impressive piece, probably 12th century, but because of some damage is mounted on a modern base. It is known to be the font of the medieval church, thrown out in 1814 but kept by someone as a garden ornament. It was returned to St Peters in 1894.
This is a three manual Harrison & Harrison. In 1911 the instrument was lifted up to the present organ loft, an electric blower was installed in 1942. It was renovated in 1987 and rededicated by Bishop Wimbush in September 1988.
In the Tower are 8 bells – six installed in 1926-1928 and two in 1946. They are reckoned to be among the best peals in the country and the enthusiastic and knowledgeable come from far and wide to ring them.
The memorial chapel
Norton is unusual in that it has no war memorial and all plaques of names are in this chapel. So on Remembrance Sunday, the poppy wreaths are laid here where those involved in the South African and two World Wars are commemorated. Known to many as the Lady Chapel, it is where weekday Holy Communion services take place and here anyone can come for private prayer. The lovely atmosphere is enhanced by the beautiful windows by C E Kempe.
The East window, again by Kempe and unusual in that it is a memorial to those involved in the Boer War. The donor’s son was killed at Ladysmith.
The tiny window on the South side of the Sanctuary ( Kempe again) is in memory of two young men of the Black Watch killed in Turkey in 1916 and 1917 respectively. Their brother was vicar of St Peters and could glance up at the window from the altar as he celebrated the Eucharist. The priest was our most famous vicar ( so far) The Rev A C Don
The West window is a World War 1 memorial, dedicated on 11th November 1921 and paid for by public subscription. The four British patron saints symbolise 1 Spiritual Victory, St Patrick 2 National Victory, St George. 3 Plenty, St Andrew. 4 Peace and Unity, St David.