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All Saints Great Braxted

All Saints Great Braxted

Featured Church - St Michael, Galleywood

The Parish of Galleywood Common, was formed by Order in Council dated 2Oth Oct. 1874, from portions of the Parishes of Great Baddow, West Hanningfield, St Johns Moulsham and of the Parish of Orsett. It covers a scattered area which extends roughly from the Pumping Station (now Fowler Court) on Galleywood Road, to the turning to Wickford on the Stock Road and from Seabrights Farm on the road to Baddow, to and beyond Whites Bridge on the Margaretting Road. The boundaries were clearly marked in different places by ten boundary stones which bore the inscription ‘G.C., St. M.C.C. 1874’, which being interpreted means  Galleywood Common, St Michaels Consolidated Chapelry 1874.

The foundation stone of the church was laid on 21st June 1872 by Arthur Pryor Esquire, of Hylands House, Chelmsford. The edifice was designed by Piers St Aubyn, born in 1815, the second son of the Revd. Robert St Aubyn vicar of Powick near Worcester. He was best known in Devon and Cornwall where many churches rebuilt or restored by him testify to his ability. He died on 7th May 1895 in his 81st year, and was buried at St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall.

The Church was consecrated on Michaelmas Day, 29th September 1873 by the Bishop of Rochester, in the presence of 750 people who had gathered together from the surrounding parishes. The cost of the Church, £6,300, was entirely defrayed by Arthur Pryor, who also presented the fine peal of eight bells. These were cast by  Warners of London. The tenor bell weighs nearly threequarters of a ton (744 kg). The building is in a 14th century style of architecture. The Chancel is 34 feet long, 17 feet wide and 30 feet high. The Nave is 64 feet long, 18 feet wide and 34 feet high, with North and South aisles of the same length, and 11 feet 6 inches wide, divided by two arcades of four arches each. Transepts project north and south and there is a South Porch 10 feet square.

The tower is 18 feet square and 57 feet high with octagonal pinnacles at each angle, boldly buttressed, and surmounted by an octagonal spire of Doulting Stone, 74 feet high. The total height of  the Tower and Spire is thus 131 feet, and situated as it is, on a commanding height of 277 feet above sea level, it can be seen for many miles around. The Contractors were Putman & Fotheringham of London and the builder was Mr Patnam.

The East Window  – is by  Clayton and Bell. The central panel depicts the risen Christ with his right hand raised in blessing, and holding a victory banner in his left hand commemorating his triumph over sin and death. In the two small triangular panels above are the Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, signifying Christ’s presence at the beginning and end of time  (In the Bible, see Revelation chapter I verse 8) This window also commemorates the dedication of the church to St Michael & All Angels. Hilltop churches like these, are often dedicated to St Michael and he appears in the top panel, bearing the sword with which he fought against the dragon ( Revelation chapter 12 verse 7). Angels appear in the other tracery lights as well as in the three main lights at the bottom. In the left hand main light, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary to announce the coming birth of Christ (Luke chapter 1 verses 26-28); in the centre light an angel guards the empty tomb following Christ’s resurrection from death (Matthew chapter 28 verses 2-7); in the right hand light an angel releases the apostle Peter from prison (Acts chapter 12 verse 7). Below the East Window is the Reredos by Burrow depicting ‘Christ and the Ministering Angels’.

The Roof – thought by some to be the best feature of the building. It is entirely of pitch pine and the main trusses are secured with wooden pegs.

The First Sermon – September 29 1873
Thanks to eyewitness accounts, we have been able to reconstruct the sermon preached at the first (dedication) service at St Michael and All Angels, Galleywood, September 29 1873, by Bishop Claughton. For the full transcription see our website as well as more information about the church.

Incidentally, we also know that the bishop was a big man (so overweight he could hardly walk), that the organ drowned out the voices of the congregation, that one congregation member wasn't very impressed ('twaddle’ is the word she uses), and that a fight almost broke out when some of the poor sat in an area reserved for the rich!!

Finally, two things are particularly worth mentioning.

First, the “dark valley” in the second paragraph of the first sermon - this is a reference to the Galleywood Racecourse, which encircled the church at that time.  If you come and visit St Michael’s Church (and we hope you will!), you’ll see the racecourse still laid out - but no races have been held there since the early 1950s.  Perhaps Bishop Claughton would have seen this as vindication of the mission of the church. 
Personally, I’ve always thought that, faced with certain social evils which did indeed attach themselves to nineteenth century racecourses, Jesus would have bought himself a bookie’s hat and gone to love the crowd on their own terms, rather than erecting a large building in the middle of the racecourse and encouraging those who frequent it to see the church as somehow closer to heaven than the trackside, but perhaps I’m wrong.

Second, though, those of us who worship today at St Michael’s Church are in continuity with that first congregation.  The original prayer book is still on the original lectern, the bells mentioned in the sermon are still rung, the sunlight still falls upon the spire, and we try (in the bishops memorable but not entirely lucid phrase) to “people this our troubled world with worth.”  Thanks to the help of the Friends of Essex Churches Trust, we have recently remodelled the entrance for access for the less mobile.  Bishop Claughton, I assume, would have approved.

Andy Griffiths, Vicar.

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