History of St Michael the Archangel, Brantham

Brantham is believed to derive its name from the Anglo Saxon meaning “Burnt Home”. This would indicate that the Vikings often raided the old settlement of Brantham, which is situated just north of Manningtree on the river Stour, in the 10th century. It is highly probable that a church has stood on the present location for 1,000 years or more, albeit initially of a wooden construction.

In its early days the Church came under the jurisdiction of Battle Abbey, hence the Shield of the Abbey on the organ case. In 1331, John de Kent was appointed the Priest in charge of St. Michaels, Brantham and also St. Michaels, Coventry. The latter Church is now the third great Cathedral of that city. There is a picture of Epstein’s “St. Michael and the Devil”, sculpted to adorn the re-built Coventry Cathedral, brought to Brantham by a former Rector to commemorate our link with Coventry. Brantham Church also had connections with Dodnash Priory, founded in 1188. When the priory was dissolved at the time of the Reformation the connection was lost. However, it is thought that a little of the Priory’s medieval glass found its way to Brantham and is now placed in one of the south facing nave windows.

The oldest sections of the Church are the 14th Century Arches and Pillars, which are situated between the Nave and the North Aisle, and the Piscina set in the South Wall, adjacent to the Pulpit.

In around 1800, the Church was almost entirely rebuilt. The walls are generally of limestone blocks and fieldstone rubble with some knapped flint work. Some Septaria (River stone) is also used on the south facing walls. The North Aisle was demolished and the Arches and Pillars were then built into the north wall of the Nave. Also the Tower was embattled, pinnacled and lowered to a point below the present louvered windows.

In 1869, Edward Hakewell carried out major restoration work with the re-building and enlargement of the Chancel, the North Aisle, and the opening up of the Arcadia once again. The South Porch was demolished and the doorway blocked up leaving just the North Porch and doorway. The Tower was rebuilt to its present height.

Almost 100 years later, in 1957, the Choir Vestry was constructed on the site of the old South Porch and this doorway was re-opened. The original of the large Constable painting near the Rector’s stall  “Christ blessing little Children” hangs in the Emmanuel College Library in Cambridge.

The Nave was completely re- roofed in 2003, the Rector’s vestry was renovated in 2011 after the part of the ceiling collapsed and we are currently working towards installation of toilets.