In 1848 it was decided to build a new building to replace the second church “which was much decayed and badly constructed for a house of worship.” In 1853 the old church was moved to the southwest corner of the churchyard on Third Street. Plans were purchased from a Philadelphia architect and on 27 May 1854, The Right Reverend Alfred Lee, Bishop of Delaware laid the cornerstone of the present building. The vestry asked Bishop Lee to consecrate the church in 1858, but the church was probably finished long before this, for Episcopal churches can only be consecrated when all debts have been paid.
The steeple was added in 1870. The interior of the church was refurbished in a Victorian gothic style in 1889, but has since been restored to a modified colonial style. A sacristy and other rooms were added to the rear of the church in 1903. After the completion of this addition, the old church was sold for $200 and moved to a farm on Route 1 near Midway where it was used as a barn. It fell down in the 1950s. In 2020 the church underwent an expansion which added bathrooms, and additional pew space on the main level, a new conference room, and an additional chapel on the lower level, and the installation of a broadcasting system which allows us to offer virtual worship to those who cannot be physically present with us. The portico over the front door was completed in 2022, almost 100 years after the first architectural renderings for it were drawn.
Over the years, the church has acquired all of the property bounded by Second and Third Streets, and Market and Mulberry Streets. The parish house was built in 1924 on a lot given to the church by Dr. C.H.B. Turner, a former rector of the church. It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1994. Today it is used for many church activities and is shared with a variety of community groups. The house on the corner of Second and Mulberry Streets, commonly called the Ryves Holt House, believed to be the oldest standing building in Delaware, was sold by the church to the Lewes Historical Society, although the church retains ownership of the land. In 2023 the church offices and Children’s Ministry program will move to the Hart House, located on the corner of Third and Mulberry Streets.
The church also owns a “new” cemetery located near the end of Pilottown Road on the site of the fort built by the original settlers in 1631 and the Ancient Burial Ground. It was established in 1955 after it was determined there were no longer any burial sites available in the church yard.
Today, more than three hundred years after its founding, St. Peter’s Church is an active faith community welcoming all to share in our fellowship.
St. Peter's Square is in the heart of Historic Lewes
The graveyard which surrounds the church has many interesting grave stones dating back to 1707.
There are 18 markers throughout the Churchyard that serve as a guide to some noteworthy graves.
1. NUNEZ FAMILY
Row of old slate stones of the Nunez family, a prominent Jewish family, dating between 1746 and 1775.
2. TOMB OF RYVES HOLT, Esq. (1696-1763)
First Chief justice of Delaware (1745-1763) who is found designated as such in the records of the Supreme Court. He was Sheriff of the county, and in 1733 was appointed King's Attorney for Sussex; he was a member of the Assembly for several years and Speaker of the Assembly. He lived at the corner of Second and Mulberry Streets. In the oldest house now standing, erected before 1685. It was once run as an inn by Phillip Russell.
3. GRAVE OF THE REV. WILLIAM BECKET
Missionary in Lewes from 1721-1743. In his will he asked to be buried between his two wives. The stone of one , who died in 1732, may be seen to the right of his.
4. ELIZABETH H. CULLEN
This is the famous "February 30th Stone"- the inscription reads "In memory of Elizabeth H. Cullen, born February 30th, 1760 and departed this life September 30th, A.D. 1830. Aged 78 years & 7 months. She stretched out her hands to the poor, Yea, she reached forth her hands to the needy. Prov. 31st Chap. & Vers."
5. TOMB OF CAPTAIN JAMES DREW
of the DeBraak. This was the English ship which foundered on the Capes and from which coins are occasionally washed up after a storm. A leather-covered trunk, used as a buoy by three Spanish prisoners, is on exhibit in the Zwaanendael Museum. The stone vase on top of the tomb is reputed to have been sent by Queen Anne.
6. GRAVE OF SAMUEL PAYNTER
(1768-1846), the 26th Governor of Delaware (1824-1827). In 1818 he was appointed a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for Sussex.
7. TOMB OF HENRIETTA STOTESBURY
It is believed that the child died June 23rd, 1840 on the sailing vessel which was taking the family from Philadelphia to Europe and was interred after the ship reached the Breakwater.
8. TOMB OF CALEB RODNEY
The 23rd Governor of Delaware, born in 1767 and died 1840. A life-long resident of Lewes, he served frequently as a member of the General Assembly. He conducted a successful mercantile business for many years at the present site of the Zwaanendael Inn. One of the doors from his store and dwelling that was struck by a cannon ball during the War of 1812 is preserved in the Cannon Ball House.
9. TOMB OF THE HON. CALEB S. LAYTON
Sometime Associate Justice of the Superior Court of the state, born 1798 and died 1882. He served as a member of the State Legislature for several terms and was later a member of the State Senate. He served also as Secretary of State under Governors David Hazzard and Charles Polk.
10. GRAVE OF DR. HENRY FISHER
Born in Waterford, Ireland in 1700. He was probably the first physician of eminence in the territory now known as Delaware. He practiced widely and was one of the few educated medical practitioners in Sussex County during his lifetime. He died in 1748. His son, Mayor Henry Fisher, was a noted patriot during the Revolutionary War.
11. GRAVE OF CAPTAIN HENRY F. McCRACKEN
Pilot of the Delaware Bay and River. He requested that his anchor be buried with him in 1868 and the fluke may be seen protruding from the ground.
12. TOMB OF THOMAS NORMAN
Sexton of the church for 44 years. The stone has a model of the church engraved on it.
13. TOMB OF WILLIAM MARSHALL
Pilot of the Delaware Bay and River, born in Lewes in 1774 and died in 1850. He was many times a vestryman of St. Peter's. He was Lieutenant Commander during the bombardment of Lewes by the British, April of 1813 and left a diary recording those in his battery which is now on display in the Zwaanendael Museum. A Lieutenant Marshall is mentioned several times in Rodney's diary and probably refers to William Marshall.
14. GRAVE OF DR. JOSEPH MAULL
Thirty-fourth Governor of Delaware. He was born in "Pilottown" in 1781. While serving as Speaker of the House, he succeeded Governor Thomas Stockton on his death in 1846, but served only nine weeks, dying on May 3, 1846. A practicing physician in Broadkill and adjoining Hundreds, he often served as a member of the General Assembly, served several times as State Senator, and was one of the delegates from Sussex County to the State Constitutional Convention in 1831. Dr. Maull in 1813 was in the company of volunteer militia artillery at Lewes commanded by Samuel B. Davis.
15. TOMB OF DANIEL RODNEY
19th Governor of Delaware (1814-1817). Born in Lewes in 1764 and died in 1846. He was a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the three years from 1817, elected a member of Congress from Delaware, and also served for a short time as United States Senator. He was a lifelong resident of Lewes and built a house on Second Street about 1800 which is still standing.
16. GRAVE OF JACOB KOLLOCK
Born 1692, died 1772. He was a member of the legislature for forty years, Speaker of the House, and Warden of the Parish for many years.
17. TOMB OF MARGARET HULING
This is the oldest stone in the churchyard. The inscription reads:
HERE LYETH YE BODY
OF MARGARET YE WIDOW
OF JAMES HULING WHO
DESERT FEBRY YE 16TH
IN YE 76TH YEARE OF HER
AGE 1707 BORN 1631
18. HULING FAMILY
In the corner at the front of the church is the second oldest stone. It also belongs to the Huling family. A portion of the stone is broken so that the whole inscription can not be read:
mARTHA HIS WIFE
deCEST FEBRY YE
1708 IN YE 8TH YEAR
of HER AGE
St. Peter's Garden Committee has a long-term vision for the Churchyard that includes a planning and management master plan that can be used by succeeding generations to guide consistent, sensible and appropriate tree, shrub, and perennial choices.
The enthusiastic members of St. Peter's Gardeners are always looking for new members. We aim to support the garden and grounds as much as possible with our labor and a very successful annual plant sale each Spring; usually held the first Sunday after Mother’s Day. The benefits of a green churchyard are many. What was once a hot, dry space has become a shadier and greener place of respite, encouraging more wildlife. Shrubs are being planted which shelter and feed birds and insects, moving towards a more integrated and self-sustaining churchyard ecosystem. Our churchyard has been recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a Wildlife Habitat. The use of adapted local flora helps minimize the upkeep necessary.
It is our hope that a thoughtful, long-term approach to the Churchyard will benefit the congregation as well as our many visitors alike for generations to come. We are trying to give horticultural presence to the spiritual promise: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy-laden and I will refresh you."
St. Peter's is fortunate to now have three labyrinths that are used by the church and the community. Labyrinths are winding paths that are walked for prayer or meditation, to find comfort and peace. The newest labyrinth, completed in the spring of 2011, is a beautiful brick and stone path in the peaceful setting of Pilottown Cemetery. The portable canvas labyrinth, painted in 1995, is used in the parish hall or can be transported to other venues for special presentations or events and was the first church labyrinth in Delaware. The popular grass and stone labyrinth in St. Peter's Square adjacent to the parish hall was completed in 2001 and is walked by visitors daily.
During the year guided walks and presentations are offered for special events, workshops, and retreats. Some special events have included illumination of the outdoor labyrinth for the holidays; a group of Celtic harpers playing music for visitors to St. Peter’s Square; a Lenten walk for Wesley United Methodist Church in Dover; and a Lenten walk and prayer bead workshop in the parish hall. We have even held a wedding in the labyrinth.
ABOUT PILOTTOWN CEMETERY
Historic Lewes, Delaware
St. Peter's Pilottown Road Cemetery is located near the end of Pilottown Road across from the DeVries Monument. It represents one of the earliest official burial grounds in the State of Delaware subsequent to the massacre of the first Dutch Colony at that site in 1631. Saint Peter's Episcopal Church established the present cemetery in 1950. It is open to Members of St. Peter's Parish and Non-Members as well, and is operated by The Pilottown Cemetery and under the direct authority and control of the St. Peter's Vestry.
For Policy and Operating Procedures