Vicar: Rev’d Caroline Beckett - 01206 30 87 26 -

History of our Churches

UPDATE on All Saints’ project


Welcome to 2021, and I’m happy to report on continuing progress despite lockdown. Although we haven’t been able to meet in person or visit the church, there has been plenty to keep us busy.

First and foremost –  so far we have had five consultation sessions by zoom. We included representatives from all the many groups and organisations that have links with All Saints’. Our Project  Manager and Activity Designer have explained what is to happen to the building, repairing the Tower, building a small extension to include an equal-access WC and small kitchenette.  Then the most of the discussion time was spent on the kind of heritage-related activities that people think would be popular and appropriate.

Now we want to spread the discussion further, and are asking people to complete a very short survey.  We would really appreciate your input: please follow this link to find it

There will also be another chance to join a zoom session on the following dates:

  • Wednesday March 10th from 4pm-6pm
  • Wednesday March 17th from 4pm-6pm
  • Wednesday March 24th from 4pm-6pm

If you would like to join in, please phone me on 01206 305120 to let me know and I will send you the link for the day you require. We are anxious to hear from anyone who has links to All Saints’.

Ideas suggested so far feature local history, maritime traditions, art & craft activities to appeal to different age groups, environmental /wildlife opportunities and how to reach wider audiences who haven’t had much to do with either the church or the churchyard.  Of course, we are also trying to think of ways to overcome difficulties like covid-emergencies or social-distancing and other barriers.

Our timetable for 2021 is focussed on continued meetings with the professionals, the National Heritage Lottery Fund officers (a very important meeting is scheduled for May 21st) and submitting our Round 2 application in August. We also have to ensure that we seek more grants and financial help where possible.

New ideas for fund-raising have been proposed – sponsoring some parts of the new build extension or decoration, special events (once we allowed to meet again in public) and what could be offered in the future to sustain the heritage activities.  Alongside this, our updated Business Plan, although still a work in progress is reflecting the views and results of our research with you all. Making sure our communications and publicity channels work in our favour is another important concern – and we are always on the lookout for volunteers who can help in this way – so get in touch with me if you are able to offer assistance.

We are continuing to follow through on the planning and faculty processes, to ensure that what we build is future-proofed for generations to come. That means thinking about wheelchair sizes, baby-change facilities and how to give everyone a bird’s eye view from the Tower (answer: install a roof-top camera that can be watched on a screen below).

Again – on behalf of the All Saints’ Project Group, may I thank you for your continuing thoughts, prayers and support, it is all much needed and appreciated,

Elizabeth Foss-Smithh 07899 776 620 Chair of Re-development Committee

Background and History of All Saints’ and St James’ Churches

There is just one parish and one Anglican Vicar in Brightlingsea with two parish churches which serve a community of more than 8,000 people.

St James’ Church, which is set in the High Street in Brightlingsea would normally be open outside the pandemic throughout the day and is the centre for the majority of both Sunday and weekday worship. In recent years more use has been made of the building for school services, performances and concerts as it is the largest venue in the town with seating for up to 300. It has recently been upgraded with new disabled toilets, an office, a kitchen, new heating and lighting, a re-polished floor, new chairs and  a re-vamped vestry.

St James’ Church is a Victorian grade 2 listed building in a conservation area in the centre of Brightlingsea.  The main population of the town has always been where it is now: All Saints Church was built in Saxon times where it stands, a mile out of town, on the site of a Romano-British Mithraic Temple. This was common in Saxon times as a symbol of the new Christianity stamping out the old pagan religion. There was a clear need for a more convenient centre of worship. St James’ was consecrated by the Bishop of London in 1836 as a “Chapel of Ease”.

Built with Suffolk White bricks and topped with a roof of Welsh slate it was deemed to be cheaper to build than a similar sized chapel built in stone and provided “larger accommodation at less expense”. The galleries were added in 1866 due to increasing numbers in the congregation. The church is of Early English character and its (liturgically) western elevation is picturesque with the tower and Victorian Jubilee town clock.

With an ever-increasing population a new church was planned for land behind St James’ and a fund was set up for this in 1905. However, following the 1914-18 war the need for a larger centre of worship diminished as the congregation dwindled and with the depression interest in the re-building scheme waned. The remaining funds were then directed towards the new chancel and vestries. When work began in 1957 it was discovered St James’ was built on the site of a pond and the extension foundations were laid at a depth of sixteen feet below ground level to ensure a firm base. The work was completed and consecrated on October 11th 1958, 122 years to the day of the original consecration.

The recent modernisation and redecoration of the building has made it more accessible and to have provision for a variety of uses, whilst respecting its primary purpose as a place of worship.

St James is open daily from 8.00 a.m. until 2.00 p.m. and of course for advertised services outside these hours..  Coffee and tea are served on Wednesdays from 10.45 to 11.15 and Saturdays from 9.30 to 12.00. On the third Saturday of the month a full cooked English Breakfast is available at a very reasonable price.

All Saints’ Church is the older church. It is a grade 1 listed building dating back to the 12th century, though on the site of a much older Saxon church of which only one small arch remains. The tower is particularly splendid and visible for miles out to sea. It is set in a well-maintained six-acre churchyard. The church is well maintained and is the venue for the majority of weddings and funerals. A highlight of the year is the Christmas Tree Festival on the 2nd weekend of December. It is right on the borders of the parish and some distance from the majority of housing. It is featured in “England’s thousand best churches” by Simon Jenkins. This parish church is held in much affection by the townspeople and is used regularly for worship throughout the year.

All Saints’ is open from Mid-May to mid-September every afternoon from 2.30 to 4.30 – if someone wishes to visit at other times (Summer or Winter) they should telephone Janet Russell on 01206 305552 if possible at least two weeks beforehand. Visits are suspended during the lockdown.

Find out more about the history of All Saints by clicking on the links below.

Custodians at All Saints’ Church – The church is open from mid-May until the end of September on each weekday afternoon except Saturdays. If you  wish to visit at other times, please call Janet Russell on 305552.

A team of volunteers meets every Thursday morning at 10.00 until 12.30 (or when you’ve had enough) to mow and tend the churchyard – the 2nd largest in England. If you would like to join us it is great fun and you get coffee/tea and biscuits at half time! Contact Sheila Crow on 01206 30 65 74

Guide to All Saints

The Tile Frieze in All Saint’s Church

Local stories: “My Titanic Connection” by Pat Gilbey

The Lorena – The Forgotten Tragedy