Friends of St Mary’s Old Church
St Mary’s Old Church is no longer a functioning church; the new St Mary’s replaced it in 1904 bring more central to the village. The Old Church can hold up to 6 services a year; although declared redundant in 1975 it is still consecrated.
It is now in the care of a national charity, The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), which is responsible for the preservation of this and over 350 other redundant churches in England.
The church is on Hall Road, CO6 3DU.
Built over a thousand years ago, many generations have worshipped in the Old Church since its Saxon origins. Originally they would have used the old north doorway which has since been partially bricked up. It is thought that the Chancel and North aisle were built in the 12th Century, and the South aisle was added in the 13th Century. The charm of the church is that it escaped wholesale Victorian restoration; this has ensured it keeps its early features such as the wall painting of the Royal Arms of King James, the 18th-century gallery & hat-pegs
The Old Church Today
The Friends of St Mary’s Old Church (FOSMOC ) village group aims to keep the Church as a valued part of the community. Accordingly, it arranges a rota to keep the church open every day from 10 am to 4 pm as well as holding 5 or 6 fundraising events a year. Up to 12,000 people visit each year; if you visit please sign the visitors’ book as this results in more funding. The Old Church is also allowed several services a year and can hold weddings and funerals by special licence.
In 2017 we were fortunate that the CCT arranged for the repair of the Old Church roof and tower; West Bergholt’s generous donors raised £10,000 towards these repairs. CCT Eastern Region awarded the Friends £500 as “Best Volunteer Group” for achieving this in only 6 months.
Following on from the external repair work, in 2019 the CCT undertook the redecoration of the inside of the Old Church, using the legacy of Mrs. Yvonne Henderson which she left for this purpose several years ago. Discovery of some fragments of mediaeval wall painting,s which will need special conservation treatment, delayed the redecoration. It was mostly finished in Spring 2020, leaving only the South Wall untouched to await the conservator in 2021. However, the paint on the ceiling above the North aisle is peeling in places, and this will need rectification in Spring 2021, when the weather warms up.
You can view a presentation about these internal renovations on YouTube:
The Friends of St Mary’s is open to all those interested in helping ensure the preservation of this historical building. Annual membership is just £5 per person or £10 per family. The Friends advertise events on this website as well as posters around the village and by email to the Friends. It’s important to note that all funds raised are entirely used for the conservation and maintenance of the church and churchyard. You can follow the group on Facebook.
If you would like a membership form you can do one of the following:
Events & Fundraising
The Friends organise events from time to time. Events held over the past 2 years have included historical talks, concerts, and a Trattoria Italiana lunch. A very successful Art Exhibition over 15/16th June 2019 saw over 40 artists displaying more than 180 paintings.
In May 2019, the Orpen Players staged a wedding; this was for their production of “The Vicar of Dibley”. Resonate Choir held a very enjoyable performance for friends and family and are planning a concert in the Old Church for Summer 2021. The Comrie Singers and Jubilant Brass from Colchester also give an annual concert in the summer.
Unfortunately, the building and redecoration work, and then coronavirus curtailed fundraising activities; provided that circumstances permit, we hope that events can be resumed in 2021.
If you’re taking young children to visit the Old Church they might enjoy the mouse trail. This includes a word game to help them learn more about the church and encourage their enjoyment and appreciation of the building.
How the Trail works
Minnie Mouse and her 11 friends are hidden around the church. Each of them has a number on its tummy. See if you can find them and answer the question which corresponds to the numbers below:
- Do you know what this thing is called? What is it used for?
- How many pipes can you see on the front row of this beautiful organ?
- Can you guess what these pegs were used for?
- This is called a Lectern. It is used for holding a special book. Do you know which book?
- This panel shows you how the walls of very old houses were made before people started making bricks.
- Why is this area raised up above the rest of the church? What is it called?
- This sometimes has large numbers on it. Do you know why?
- Just above this mouse is the Hanoverian royal coat of arms. Can you see another coat of arms painted on the wall?
- This table has a special name. Do you know what it is?
- Can you guess what was kept in this ancient chest? (Nothing is in it now)
- What is this little room for? Look up and you can see up inside the bell tower.
- Look up at this beautiful stained glass window. Who is the person dressed in a red cloak?
You can download the word game/trail pamphlet and a ‘cheat sheet’ below:
The Old Church normally hosts two annual winter events; Mulled Wine and Mince Pies in early December, and a Candlelit Carol Service run by St Mary’s (New) Church before Christmas. The following news articles on this site have some relevance to the Old Church. To read the whole article please click on the heading…
- Remembrance & Old Church Update - Remembrance & Old Church Update Last week we announced the plans for a Remembrance Service partially in St Mary's (socially distanced and limited numbers) with Zoom. The new Lockdown has… …
- Lockdown Strikes – No Cakes! - Lockdown Strikes - No Cakes! Last week's news roundup spoke of fundraising ideas from the Friends of St Mary's Old Church but there will now be no cakes. Unfortunately, Lockdown… …
- Cakes, History, Remembrance & Fitness - Cakes, History, Remembrance, Fitness & St Mary's Update - Updated for Lockdown This news update covers several topics, starting with Cakes, History & Xmas, then covering: Remembrance Day 2020, how… …
- Old Church Redecoration Ends at Last - Old Church Redecoration Ends at Last - Now Open Daily Having resumed work at the end of lockdown on 26th May, Bakers of Danbury are now completing the interior redecoration… …
- Day 63 of (un?) Lockdown – the Old Church edition - Day 63 of (un?) Lockdown The main news item for day 63 is an update on the Old Church renovations followed by a few updates from our government, and some… …
- Blame the Plantagenets for delays reopening Old Church - Blame the Plantagenets If the Old Church mediaeval paintings are, as believed, around 700 years old, then we can blame the Plantagenets for its delayed reopening. Apparently, deciding how best… …
To view all News about the Old Church & the Friends please visit the news feed as follows:- https://westbergholt.org/topic/clubs/friends-of-st-marys/.