Brightlingsea, All Saints Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 15th and 16th century Beriffe brasses
The most striking external feature is the embattled tower, built of local flint in the last years of the 15th century. The tower stands 97 feet high, in three stages, with a minstrel gaklllery built into the lowest stage. The tower really is quite remarkable; with one of the finest examples of diagonal butress bracing in East Anglia. Under the tower is a baptistry, housing a Tudor font, carved with roses within a quatrefoil. Considerable traces of gilding and colourful paint still cling to the stone surface.
The Beriffe Brasses
In the Lady Chapel, north chapel, and central nave aisles are a series of 16th century memorial brasses to the Beriffe family, wealthy local merchants and benefactors of the church. William Beriffe and his wife Joan have brasses in the nave aisle. In the north aisle is a touching brass to Mary Beriffe, showing her 4 sons and single daughter clutching her robe. Also in the north aisle is a 16th century painted (not stained) Flemiish glass panel depicting St Paul. This is part of a larger design, the rest of which is at Ely Cathedral. We do not know how the window came to be separated, and how a panel of a cathedral window came to be here in an Essex parish church!
In the chancel is a very large marble memorial to Nicholas Magens (d. 1764), a German-born lord of the manor, and one of the founding members of Lloyd's insurance company in London. Magens purchased the Brightlingsea estate only a year before his death, and his impressive monument was designed by Nicolas Read and erected in 1779.
In the south chapel are late 17th century grave slabs, including those of Francis Wheeler (d. 1692), and his son Francis, who died just 2 yers alater. There is a 16th cenury statue niche in the south wall, with a headless figure who may be a bishop, or perhaps St Nicholas.
In 1872 severe storms along the North Sea coast caused widespread destruction and terrible loss of life. Thirty six local seamen were lost from Brightlingsea, and this disaster prompted the then vicar Rev. Arthur Pertwee, to create a frieze of individual tiles, each inscribed with the name of the deceased and the ship on which he served. William Stammers, church warden, and Albert Blyth, who wrote the inscriptions, helped Pertwee design the original frieze. The idea took hold, and since 1872 a tile has been added every time a Brightlingsea native is lost at sea. At first the tiles were limited to mariners by occupation, but this was altered to include anyone from Brightlingsea who lost their lives at sea. Hence we see a tile commemorating Sidney Siebert, who was not a fisherman, but was drowned in the wreck of the Titanic in 1912. There are now over 212 tiles, each unique, each telling a story of tragic loss. Its a reminder of how closely the people of Brightlingsea have historically been tied to the sea. Reverend Pertwee, who servedd as vicar for 50 years, from 1872-1912, was known to climb to the top of the tower and raise a light on the flagstaff to guide the fishing fleet safely home in a storm.
One maritime tragedy that is not commemorated visibly is the loss of sailors from the yacht Lorena in 1903. Nine crewmen were being rowed by a pair of local men to their ship in Brightlingsea harbour when the rowboat sank, drowning 8 crewmen and one local man. The sailors were buried in an unmarked mass grave in the churchyard, but there is a move afoot to create a memorial.
Photos by John Salmon are republished with gratitude under a Creative Commons license
About Brightlingsea, All Saints
Address: Church Road, Brightlingsea, Essex, England, CO7 0RZ
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: On the B1029 at the edge of Brightlingsea
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Beth Chatto Gardens - 3.4 miles (Garden)
St Osyth, St Peter & St Paul - 3.4 miles (Historic Church)
Colchester, St Leonard at the Hythe - 5.4 miles (Historic Church)
Bourne Mill - 5.4 miles (Historic Building)
Audley Chapel, Berechurch - 5.5 miles (Historic Church)
Little Bromley, St Mary's Church - 5.7 miles (Historic Church)
St Botolph's Priory - 6.2 miles (Abbey)
St John's Abbey Gate - 6.2 miles (Historic Building)
Nearest Accommodation to Brightlingsea, All Saints:
Nearest Self Catering Cottages
Nearest Bed and Breakfasts
Nearest Tourist Information Centre ('as the crow flies')
Visitor Information Centre
Tel: 01206 282 920
Alternate Tel: 01206 282 828
Fax: 01206 282 924