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All Saints’ Church, the first building you see when you come to Brightlingsea and the last you see when you leave. is visible for several miles out to sea and has made an important navigational aid for sailors.
The site has been a place of Christian worship since before 1066 and it incorporates part of an earlier Saxon church. The nave and chancel were built between 1190 and 1250 using stone from Caen in Normandy. The stone was ferried to Alresford creek and disembarked at Church Dock. Some re-used Roman brick in the walls indicates one-time Roman occupation of the site.
The tower, 97 feet high, contains some thousand tons of masonry. It 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. The nave was extended to the tower by two bays built in a soft sandstone from Barnack Quarry in Peterborough.
There is a mediaeval font and the West door is original 16th century. There is no peal of bells since they were sold to pay for replacement of the roof when the clerestory fell down in 1815. There is a unique frieze of tiles commemorating every Brightlingsea man who has died at sea since 1872
The Deputy (so-called because he is Deputy to the Mayor of the Cinque Port of Sandwich) is chosen annually on Choosing Day in the church on the first Monday in December. Brass plates at the west end of the church record the names of Past Deputies.
All Saints’ is no longer the parish church for the town: St James’ in Victoria Place was built in the 1830s to replace it as the town developed around the waterside area. However, it is still used for regular services and is popular for christenings and weddings. It’s also the location for the annual Christmas Tree festival.
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.