The church dates back to the early 13th Century and is Grade II listed. Standing on high ground to the eastern end of the village, its spire can be seen for many miles, especially when floodlit in the evening. All that remains of the original building is the magnificient stone font; the blocked doorway in the south wall of the chancel, and the eastern bay of the south arcade of the nave.
In the 14th Century the church was almost entirely rebuilt. In the 17th Century considerable work was done in the chancel and again the church was almost entirely rebuilt between 1842 and 1850, by J. Potter whose father supervised James Wyatt’s alteration to Lichfield Cathedral. At this time the upper windows, north aisle and porch to the north of the Shuckburgh Chapel were added. The tower and west end of the nave were rebuilt. The end of that century saw more restoration work, especially in the chancel. The interior of the church is spacious and light with an unbroken view from the west door to the altar and with high clerestory windows. There are some wall memorials and coloured glass.
The sanctuary windows are of ancient stained glass. Above the altar table the beautiful oak panel is from Coombe Abbey, and that around the walls from Shenton Hall (Leics). The altar rails with turned balusters are original 17th Century. The chancel floor is paved with stone. There are several floor tablets, the lettering is mostly illegible, but one is dedicated to 16 year old Bert Clark and dated 1638. The chancel roof timbers are noteworthy. They are 17th Century and form a king-post roof. The main beam extends from wall to wall. In the centre the king post supports the upper timbers and the roof.
On the south side of the wide chancel is the pulpit, which with the altar rail and font are our great treasures. Of carved oak it is for parson and clerk – octagonal for the parson, and a rectangular reading desk for the clerk. The date carved on the panel is 1607.
The font is especially noteworthy. It is 13th Century, of stone, octagonal in shape. Each side is carved with trefoils. The deep basin is lead lined.
In the south aisle wall are two superb coloured windows in memory of members of the Darlington family who resided at Bourton Hall 1881 – 1902.The artist was W. Kempe, leading craftsman of the day.
The south aisle also contains the memorial tablet to ten men from the parish who died in the Great War 1914 – 1918. The north chapel contains family memorial to the Shuckburghs 1717 –1942. Seven large slabs at floor level, one lowered for the porch door, eleven wall memorials and four hatchments. There is a piscina from which the basin is missing. A 14th Century stone effigy of a lady in gown and wimple is built upright into the wall. The chapel was restored in 1921. The tower, 6’10” square, rises in three stages. Surrounded by gargoyles, from it rises an octagonal spire, visible for miles around and crowned with a weather vane. Anyone brave enough to climb the ladders inside would be rewarded with fine views across to the Shuckburgh Hills, Draycote Water and beyond.
The clock was installed about 1842 and is in working order, chiming the hour it can be heard in both Bourton and Draycote. There are three bells. The two smaller ones are dated 1570 (Thomas Newcombe of Leicester). The tenor bell is dated 1827 (Wm. Taylor of Oxford).The bell chiming mechanism was installed in 1971. The bells are no longer used. A receiver has been installed in the tower enabling local businesses and village residents to receive BDF (Bourton/Draycote/Frankton) Community Broadband. The pews are mainly box type. The choir stalls were re-arranged to facilitate the installation of the organ in 1888. Forster and Andrew of Hull erected this fine instrument. It is well maintained and played at every service. Heating is by electric storage heaters; the system was installed in 1996.
The churchyard is still in use as a burial ground. Many old tombstones and box tombs remain. There is a Commonwealth War Grave and stone to Sapper Brown. He was killed as he cycled from Bourton to Kineton Camp during WW2. Newly installed memorial stones have to quite strictly adhere to Coventry Diocesan guidelines with the use of sandstone or limestone. The churchyard grass is regularly mown by a team of local volunteers and is usually of a neat and tidy appearance. The churchyard is surrounded on two sides by an old and well-maintained holly hedge. There are three attractive wrought iron gates. A new notice board adjacent to the south-west gate was erected in 2006.
Over the centuries the building has benefited from several enlargements and modifications, most of which are Victorian. The Churchwardens and Parochial Church Council are keen for the church building to continue to be a welcoming place of worship for all ages, but for this to be possible, essential repairs and updating are necessary. This project will cover essential fabric repairs and improvements to the internal layout and facilities required to maintain the building and provide a vibrant place of worship fit for the 21st century. Details of these exciting proposals are as follows:
Essential Fabric Repairs:
- Repairs and treatment to the nave roof timbers, which are affected by death-watch beetle, furniture beetle and rot.
- Repairs to the lintel and surround of the north aisle window together with the removal and restoration of the plasterwork in the entire area of the north aisle.
- The removal of and re-plastering of the walls in the North (Shuckburgh) Chapel. The walls are in a poor state, much of the plaster having fallen away. The need for restoration is to enable the provision of a much-needed area for displaying many photographs, documents and artefacts connected with the history of Bourton and Draycote.
- Repairs to damaged clerestory windows.
- Re-ordering and modernisation.
- Connecting mains water supply, provision of sewage drainage, interior W.C. together with the necessary utilities including nappy changing area.
- Fitting an interior glazed porch, with ramp, to the west door , to provide a more welcoming entrance to the building, and improved disabled access.
- Provision of a tea and coffee making area.
- The removal of obsolete iron pipework from the old heating system.
- Redecoration throughout the entire interior of the building and new carpets to nave, chancel, altar and new coffee area.
- Re-carpeting and improved lighting for the baptistry area. This would provide a more open space for baptisms and also provide a dedicated prayer area.
- For reasons of health and safety, there is a need for the clock winding mechanism to be automated.
Rev G W Brough, Rector of St Peter’s in the 1970s, wrote a longer history of the church and parish. Click Bourton Parish History to read more.