Situated at the place where two rivers -the Trent and the Fowlea Brook – met, this site was probably a Celtic religious site. In the 7th century the first Christian missionaries claimed this “Holy place on the overflowing river” ( “Stoche on Trent”) for Christ by erecting a wooden cross. Hence this site became the birthplace of Stoke-on-Trent. Perhaps St Chad, the first bishop of Lichfield preached here. Sometime around 805 the wooden church was replaced with a stone building and cross. The carved remains of the cross shaft still stands in the church grounds. One one side a vine with three-fold leaves winds its way up the cross and on another it is said shows the earliest example of the Staffordshire knot. Inside the church the Anglo-Saxon font continues in use today. Its unusual dedication – St Peter ad Vincula (The chains of St Peter) – may have been chosen because this festival falls on the 1st August, replacing a pagan harvest festival that fell on the same date. This dedication comes from the story in Acts 12 where Peter is liberated from his chains by a messenger from God. Replica chains can be found on the High Altar reminding of the church’s continued commitment to liberation. (St Peter ad Vincula in Rome claims to have the original chains)
It is not known how much of the Saxon church survived, but extensive renovations were made in 1300 and aisles and a tower were added in 1370. Sadly when the “new” church was consecrated in 1830 the ancient church was demolished. Some of the monuments were transferred, the medieval stone altar slab now tops the high altar, and the Anglo-Saxon font is now used in the present church. Some of the original stones can still be seen outside in the arches that mark to site of the ancient church.
The church had major connections to the commercial and industrial life of the city at the height of the Potteries’ success and the graves of Josiah Wedgwood, and those of the family of Spode can be found in the church grounds The dedication of the church to the ‘Liberation of St Peter’ was echoed Wedgwood work for the abolishment of slavery. The existing church was built to respond to the population growth on the 19th century and the desire of local industrialists to have a more impressive church to reflect the growing importance of Stoke as the centre of the ceramic industry. Although St.Peter’s almost certainly started life as an Anglo-Saxon Minster the title was lost. In 2005 that the church was appointed as the Minster church of St Peter ad Vincula by the Bishop of Lichfield in recognition of its wider ministry to the civic life of the city. It is now normally referred to as Stoke Minster.
The Wedgwood Museum is in nearby Barlaston, and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery is situated in the City Centre. Nearby is the Spode Heritage Centre. Spode ware is now sold by Portmeiron, whose factory shop is only a five minute walk from Stoke Minster.
A printed colour booklet containing a more detailed history of the Minster is available in the entrance foyer for £2.
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