All Saints’ Church, the first building you see when you come to Brightlingsea and the last you see when you leave. Its tower has been an important navigational aid for sailors as it can be seen from a long way out to sea.
The site has been a place of Christian worship since before 1066 and incorporates part of an earlier Saxon church. The nave and chancel were built between 1190 and 1250 using stone from Caen in Normandy. Some re-used Roman brick indicates one-time Roman occupation of the site.
The 97-ft high tower was built between 1490 and 1520. It contains a minstrel gallery, the “Deputy’s chamber” (with a plaque depicting Winston Churchill, the former Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports) and, highest of all, the bell chamber. There is a mediaeval font and the West door is original 16th century.
There is a unique frieze of tiles around the walls, commemorating every Brightlingsea man who has died at sea since 1872 and the chancel holds an ornate marble memorial to Nicholas Magens, an 18th Century Lord of the Manor, underwriter and merchant.
The church fell in to disrepair in the Victorian era and what is now the parish church, St James’, was built to replace it. In the last few decades, the building has seen a lot of restoration work, driven by the Friends of All Saints’, and is used for occasional services and events such as the Brightlingsea Christmas Tree Festival. It’s a popular wedding venue and its churchyard is one of the largest in England.
The Church is manned by custodians most afternoons from 2pm – 5pm; a board is placed outside the Lych Gate when there is someone on duty.