S. Peter’s was the first Anglican mission to the poor of London. Work was begun in 1856 by The Revd CF Lowder MA and a group of priests, all were members of the Society of the Holy Cross. The Society had been founded a year earlier with the express purpose of banding priests to a common rule of life and prayer in mission service.
Wapping was one of the poorest districts in London, a haunt of prostitutes and petty criminals, living alongside those who earned a precarious living from the docks.
Lowder’s work began in Lower Well Alley (now the park by the James Orwell sports centre) and moved to an iron Church in Calvert Street (now Tench Street). Lowder’s group of Clergy and Sisters provided practical care through Schools, clubs, cheap canteens and child care and spiritual care through a wide range of services, centered on the Mass at the Mission Churches.
In 1866 the new Church of S. Peter in Old Gravel Lane (Now Wapping Lane) was consecrated. Soon afterwards cholera struck the East End, Lowder organised Sisters of mercy and others to care for the sick and raised funds for a tented hospital. The Priests and Sisters took great risks and worked without stint for the people of Wapping. At the end of the cholera people were calling Lowder, ‘the Father’ because he seemed like the father of the whole community. This soon became ‘Father Lowder’, the first known example of an Anglican priest being thus addressed.
In 1873 Lincoln Stanhope Wainright came to Wapping as curate to Father Lowder.He was to remain over 50 years in the service of the people here . Father Wainright was a living saint working without stint, giving away the very clothes and shoes we wore. He once discovered a young lad stealing a clock from the Clergy House, persuaded him to have some cocoa in the kitchen, talked to him at length and soon had him serving Mass in the Church and in employment.
Fr Wainright died in February 1929 in S. Peter’s Clergy House. The people of Wapping stood in line to climb the un-carpeted stairs to view the mortal remains of one who had been their priest and friend for a life-time.
S. Peter’s London Docks has had other great priests, Father Pond who put the parish back on its feet after Father Wainright’s long final illness, Father Leutchford who was loved for visiting round the parish from shelter to shelter during the blitz, Fr Fox who moved mountains in the post war years to repair the Church, Father Foizey who served Wapping for over twenty years in difficult times of change. Father Peel who transformed the old parish school into a social centre. Wapping has had great priests because priests have always counted it a privilege to serve this unique community.