St Peter in Chains – Doncaster

A church shrouded in history and mystery – and on the day of my visit:

Torrential rain.

How appropriate as:

On the eve of the Reformation came a reputed miracle for Robert Leche and his family who were saved from drowning after invocation of Our Lady of Doncaster.

Its location on the Great North Road seems to have placed it through the years at the centre myth and magic.

On 30 November 1350, licence was granted for alienation in mortmain by, John son of Henry Nicbrothere de Eyoun and Richard le Ewere of Doncastre to the Carmelite Friars who are coming there to dwell in the town of Doncastre, of a messuage and six acres of land there, to build thereon a church in honour of St Mary and houses to dwell in.

A shrine was established to Our Lady of Doncaster.

Time and the Reformation were not kind to the shrine and Our Lady.

She and the church of St Peter came and went over the years until:

A new church was opened by Cardinal Heenan on Palm Sunday 1973, octagonal in shape. John Bentley’s Tabernacle Door, the four reredos panels and the altar designed for the old church are incorporated in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the new church.

The statue of Our Lady of Doncaster now stands in a circular shrine chapel on the north side of the church. Phyffers’ statue stands in an oak reredos with modern stained glass windows depicting St Joseph, the Annunciation, the Nativity and the Assumption.

Ambitious in scale, dotted with vertical detail, the main body of the church has an integrated meeting hall and clerical house. I remain however, more than somewhat unconvinced by its brick monumentality.

On September 23, 1974, the budding Liverpool star married his childhood sweetheart, Jean, at St Peters in Chains Roman Catholic Church in his hometown of Doncaster. 

There was no fanfare, no fans, no celebrity guests and certainly no Hello! style deal. Kevin was just 24, his bride a year younger. 

Watching them with a tear in their eyes were his proud parents, Joe, a miner, and Doris.

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Kevin says: ‘Jean and I hadn’t planned to get married for months, but I had a five-week ban for fighting with Billy Bremner and, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining, so we decided to use the time to get married quietly.’ 

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