Opening up St Peter’s Crypt
Countless visitors – passers-by and tourists – walk in to St Peter’s every day of the year. Their gratitude for a momentary calm space is expressed in the comments in the Visitor’s Book, alongside their prayers for loved ones and for the world.
Not everyone is aware that underneath St Peter’s there is a crypt. It’s the same size as the church. The elegant iron columns seen in the church and gallery run from the crypt to the roof, connecting all three levels in the building. It is all consecrated, holy space.
People often ask if the crypt ever had dead bodies in it – but there was never any provision for burials on the church site. The crypt has always been used as a community space. For much of the 19th century it was the local school. In living memory, it has hosted many things – from Rock’n’Roll nights in the 1950s to a camp for Kurdish refugees in the 1990s.
This century has seen the crypt used as a winter night-shelter, community café, community acupuncture clinic, yoga/pilates space, rehearsal space, hipster music venue and pop-up supper club. Traditional ‘village hall’ events also continue to be held in the crypt – children’s parties, receptions for life events, seasonal sales and fairs, debates and talks, the WI (Women’s Institute).
For the past 10 years St Peter’s has been developing the facilities in the crypt – making it physically accessible, creating a café space and community kitchen opening on to a secluded south-facing terrace, and a suite of three therapy/consulting rooms, with as much storage space as can be made for many different activities. New partnerships are now being made with Hackney Playbus, supporting homeless families in De Beauvoir, and the Helen Bamber Foundation Happy Baby Community, supporting 200 trafficked women and their babies in north/east London.
St Peter’s has recently appointed Colleena Smith as Open Crypt Project Manager to develop the use of the space, initially during weekdays as an extension of Open Church – a place for visitors and callers to drop in for a warm/cold drink and a cake, have access to Wi-Fi, loos and showers, pick up more information about events and services at St Peter’s, and find a listening ear.
Coffee Crypt is now open from Tuesday to Thursday 10am-3pm. Colleena is currently recruiting volunteers to help make cakes, serve warm drinks and greet visitors.
To find out more about how you can be involved – contact Colleena at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop in to see what’s going on.