St. Peter Street has been the centre of Roman Catholicism in Winchester from the Reformation, when being a Catholic became illegal, to today.
In Elizabeth I’s time, Lady West owned a house in the street, where Mass was said clandestinely and priests were hidden; one of whom was executed in the city along with five lay men between 1583 and 1593.
These are the Winchester Martyrs, and their names are: John Slade, Roger Dicconson, Ralph Milner, Lawrence Humphreys, James Bird, John Thomas.
About 1674, Roger Corham built a house in the street – St. Peter’s House – in which there was a chapel and resident priest serving Catholics locally. By 1740, a growing congregation led to a larger but makeshift chapel being built in the back garden. In 1792, with Catholic chapels now legal, Rev. John Milner constructed a new church on the site. In that year émigré priests fleeing the French Revolution arrived, with eventually up to 1,000 being accommodated in the city. Two communities of nuns came later; one setting up in St. Peter Street in what is now the Royal Hotel. Both convents stayed until the 19th century.
Milner’s chapel (which still stands as “Milner Hall”) was replaced by the present St. Peter’s Church in 1926. Steady growth followed. A chapel was opened at Weeke in 1957 and a small convent next to St. Peter’s in 1960. The primary school, which had first opened in St. Peter Street in 1853 and moved to Gordon Road in 1899, began relocating to Oliver’s Battery in 1970. It is now adjacent to St. Stephen’s Church, which opened in 1969. A new presbytery (“Peterhouse”) was constructed in 1986. In 2006, St. Peter’s merged with St. Gregory the Great, Alresford and St. Thomas More, Stockbridge to create a new parish, renamed St. Peter and the Winchester Martyrs in 2017. Throughout, there has been a steady growth in ecumenism, mission and parish recognition of responsibilities to people who are vulnerable and needy.