the information given in this brief guide I am much indebted to the
scholarly researches of Dr. E.P. Dickin, earlier this century, and
to an earlier guide-book produced by the Rev'd. Charles Heard, a
former Vicar, as well as to many conversations with those who love
'the 0ld Church'. The photographs have been specially taken by Mr.
Donald Roper of the Brightlingsea Photographic Club, the line drawings
are the work of Mr.Ralph Brand, until recently Church- warden and
the text has been prepared for publication by Mrs.Jacqueline Bedwell.
To them and to Mr.Norman Atkinson, who commented on the draft manuscript,
I am most grateful for their help and encouragement.
Michael Swindlehurst, Vicar.
THE PARISH CHURCH
ALL SAINTS BRIGHTLINGSEA
church is reached by the visitor well before he comes to the modern
town. It stands at the high point of the parish where the ancient
roads from Alresford and Thorrington meet and then continue to the
town and modern waterfront. In all probability this is the ancient
meeting place for the scattered agricultural community of the parish
and the natural site for its church. Before the sea receded Alresford
Creek provided a sheltered haven for the town and the meadow below
All Saints is still called Church Dock.
present church dates from about 1250 but had several predecessors,
stretching back to the coming of Christianity to Essex in 653. You
can see St'. Cedd's minster at Bradwell from the town and it would
not have been long before the Gospel was preached in this parish
and some kind of worship centre established. The start of the present
building seems to be linked with the appointment of the first recorded
incumbent in 1237 and this was a time of general prosperity for England.
The building consisted of the chancel and two thirds of the present
nave, with two small chapels. A good deal of material from earlier
buildings, especially Roman brick, was used. Immediately to the
left of the south door as you come in you can see a roundheaded recess
incorporating Roman brickwork. This
is possibly part of the earlier Norman church.
Fifteenth century saw a revival of England's wealth and here this
was associated with the residence of the Beriffe family of wool merchants
at Jacobo's Hall. The great tower, one of the finest in East Anglia,
was built to the west of the church. When it had settled on its
foundations it was joined to the church by the building of the two
western bays of the nave which are in perpendicular style. The south
chapel and porch were added. The vestry was built in 1518 and the
north chapel, where the Beriffes are buried, enlarged at the same
time. Finally, the north aisle was reconstructed. A common feature
of these additions is the use of knapped flints on the exterior walls.
religious controversies which followed the completion of the church
led to losses. Plate and vestments were taken into the
King's hands. Two of the four bells were taken away. Worse followed
in the Civil War when the Puritans destroyed the statues and hacked
away at the beautiful niches which are a feature of our church. We
still have one headless figure which was recovered and may represent
St. Nicholas. But the biggest change came with the collapse of the
nave roof one Monday morning in 1814, bringing down all the clerestory
windows which stood above the arches and brought light into the centre
of the church. The churchwardens were allowed to make a national
appeal and sold one of the remaining bells, but in the end could
only afford the present wooden roof without restoring the clerestory.
the Victorian period the church was completely refurnished and the
small chancel arch replaced with the present one to give a better
view of the sanctuary.
1969 the condition of the fabric had deteriorated to the point where
it seemed likely that the church would be made redundant and closed.
However, a body of 'Friends' was formed in the
town to shoulder the responsibility of raising the funds needed to
restore and maintain the church. As the result of their efforts new
interest in the church has been aroused and so far the necessary
funds have been found. The collecting boxes in the church are for
this continuing work of restoration.
is 97 ft. high and there are 121 steps to the top from where a fine
view may be obtained. The tower can be seen for seventeen miles from
sea and has been an important landmark. Indeed,
Canon Pertwee, a former Vicar, used to climb to the top in stormy
weather to raise a riding light on the flagstaff to guide fishing
vessels home. The tower has four stages, the base being 10 ft. thick
and ornamented with traceried panels and blank shields. The
great doors are the original of c.1500 and traces of decorative mouldings
can be seen. The holes which can be seen are thought to be those
of musket balls and may date from fighting in this area during the
Civil War. The buttresses are at the diagonals and have a series
of canepied niches which do not seem ever to have been filled with
statues. The crenellated parapet is late 19th century. In 1884 the
Essex earth- quake hurled one pinnacle through the roof of the nave
and this now stands in the church.
the 15th century font has, since the last century, been under the
tower. The octagonal bowl has a quatrefoil on each
face enclosing a rose, and traces of colour and gilding can be seen.
Above is a gallery from which musicians would have accompanied the
services in earlier times. The ceiling has some fine woodwork. Above
is the ringing room which used to be the place where the Free- men
of the town met to elect the Cinque Port Deputy. This ceremony now
takes place in the body of the church on the first Monday in December.
In the bell-chamber we still have the bell frame and one of the
mediaeval bells cast c.1400 and inscribed "Dulcis Sisto Melis Vocor
Camparia Michaelis", (I am sweet as honey and am called the bell
Michael). There is also a small 17th century bell. A trigonometrical
point on the roof of the tower is used for the Ordinance Survey.
THE SOUTH PORCH
at the start of the 16th century, beyond the small doorway of 1250,
the porch arch has alternating Tudor fluerons and diadems, with shields,
mostly blank, though one has a symbol of the Trinity and another
is defaced. Above is a fine canopied niche. The spandrels have shields,
one with the keys of St. Peter, the other with the crossed
swords of St. Paul. There is flushwork in the
base and also in the battlements.
piers on the left as you enter are of particular interest because
the two halves are separated by 250 years, marking the beginning
and the end of the building of the present nave.
the walls is a series of memorial tiles commemorating all those who
have lost their lives at sea since 1872 when Arthur Pertwee became
Vicar and instituted the custom. The
tiles bear witness to the serious losses suffered by this seafaring
community in the late 19th century. Similar memorials are found on
the continent but the tiles are a unique memorial in this country.
Beriffe and his wife Joan, are buried in the centre aisle with handsome
brasses of the period. Margaret Beriffe and Mary Beriffe are similarly
commemorated in the north aisle, the latter with her four sons and
one daughter holding her skirts.
pews are provided with a colourful series of tapestry kneelers, representing
the life and history of the town, a visible reminder that this is
the community's church.
painted glass in the north aisle showing St. Paul, is Flemish glass
of the 16th century. Somehow this panel became separated from the
rest of the window, which is to be seen at Ely Cathedral, where apart
from the book and part of the sword, their St. Paul is a later restoration.
The arms of the Cinque Ports in another window
is a reminder that Brightlingsea is the only part of that ancient
connection north of the Thames. The town is a limb of Sandwich, and
the Freemen meet annually in the church to admit new Freemen and
to elect a Deputy who is responsible to the Mayor of Sandwich for
the good conduct of the inhabitants and the payment of dues.
is dominated by the monument to Nicholas Magens who is buried under
a fine leger slab in front of the altar. A
German merchant who made his home in London, Magens was a founding
father of Lloyd's marine insurance. He bought the estates
here a year before his death. The monument in the rococo style was
executed in marble by Nicolas Read, a pupil of Roubiliac and erected
in 1779. The central globe shows California
as an island on the west coast of America. The angel of the Ressurection
stands to the left holding a record of Magens' life and this is balanced
by a huge cornucopia and finely carved anchor to the right. The
stained glass of the east window is Victorian but of good quality.
The reredos with its figures of St. Nicholas and St. Luke is
a modern memOrial to a local doctor. To the right the 16th century
doorway and sturdy door give access to the vestry.
THE ORGAN CHAMBER
Organ was placed in this ancient south chapel during the last century.
The piscina can be seen on the south wall. A canopied niche which
once flanked the altar still has traces of the inscription which
originally said "Ora pro animibus Johannis Mors et Dionisiac uxoris
ejus et pro animibus (omnis) fidelium."
THE LADY CHAPEL
by the Beriffe family c.1520, the chapel contains the following brasses:
1. William Beriffe of Jacobes, 1578,
2. John Beriffe, 1496, with Margaret,
Amy and Margaret, his wives, showing also his merchant's
3. Alice Beriffe, 1536, and her daughter,
'Margaret. This is a palimpsest; a much older brass of two clergy
has been reused by turning the figures over and inscribing the new
likenesses on the back.
4. John Beriffe, 1521, with Mary
and Alice his wives.
the floor beneath the blocked 13th century arch is a coffin-lid which
was once used as an altar. It has an incised foliated cross and
five consecration crosses. The badly hacked niches in the east wall
still carry traces of colour. To the right can be seen the blocked
shape of a lancet window which originally lit the chancel. In one
of the partially blocked windows on the north side can be seen fragments
of 16th century glass. The large hatchment is that of Magens Dorrien
Magens, the last of his family to own the estates. He died in 1848
and the hatchment is a particularly fine example of tempera painting
on canvas. The smaller hatchment is of inferior quality and relates
to his wife, the granddaughter of an Earl of Talbot, who prodeceased
him in 1829.
chapel has been completely refurnished for worship in recent years.
The modern glass in the east window, by Caroline Swash, represents
Mary's contribution as the Mother of Jesus together with symbols
which have come to be associated with her. The statue of the celestial
Mary by John Doubleday is carved in walnut.
extends to about five acres. The wide variety of trees to be found
is mainly due to the enthusiasm of John Bateman, formerly of Hall
Farm and a benefactor of the parish. The lych-gate is a memorial
to his friend, Canon Pertwee, Vicar for 45 years, who devoted himself
to the welfare of his people and who now lies buried in the churchyard.
The flat tomb of the Dodds near the gate
has an interesting inscription. Also buried in the churchyard is
Lord Tennyson's younger brother, Horatio. There are fine views over
the Alresford Creek to the more distant River Colne.
THE FRIENDS OF ALL SAINTS CHURCH
Friends' came into existence in 1969, when the fabric of All Saints'
was in so bad a condition that the closure of the church seemed imminent.
Since then the Friends have raised over 20,000 pounds. The fabric
of All Saints' has been saved from further decay and a start has
been made on the longer term work of restoration. The
Friends represent everyone in the local community and beyond who
want to see this beautiful old church retained and continue in use
for worship. If you would like to contribute to the funds, become
a regular member, or receive further information, please
contact the Friends of All Saints, c/o the Vicarage or 61, Tower