Sunday, 10:00am St Mary's Church, Boston Spa

City Church


All Saints’ History

The oval churchyard is Anglo Saxon and the only example in West Yorkshire,  it is now a haven for a large collection of wild flowers. Bramham village is situated immediately east of the Al trunk road approximately three miles south of Wetherby, and is mentioned in the Domesday Survey as the Manor of Bramham. The oldest part of the church was built in around 1150 with additions in the 13th century, and underwent substantial restoration in 1853. The graveyard is believed to be of Saxon origin.

All Saints’ is part of the Benefice of Bramham, in the Diocese of York.

The village of Bramham dates from very early times.  There could well have been a settlement here in Roman Times as the village  is well placed at a crossing point of   Roman roads and near ford over the River Wharfe.  It would  have been a very good vantage point as there is a good view of the surrounding area from the top of Windmill Hill.   (A recent paper produced by William Kitchen at Sheffield University suggests that Bramham was a quarry during Roman Times and the stone from Bramham used for the buildings in York).  There is a theory that the name Bramham could come  from the Roman Braboniacum, meaning a place where soldiers were picketed, although it is more likely that  the name comes from the old English Brom’ham—homestead among the broom or brambles, or possibly Braeham “homestead by the stream”.

In the intervening years between the Romans and Anglo Saxons, as Christianity came to York through the conversion of King Edwin, it must have gradually penetrated the surrounding area.                   A  archaeological survey of churches in West Yorkshire, stated that Bramham is the only example of an oval shaped churchyard which shows a burial place of great antiquity.  The height of the churchyard above the encircling road and above its retaining wall suggests that it has been built up by successive burials over a considerable period of  time, and it seems likely that the oval shape is not of recent enlargement but is of ancient origin.   A further pointer to its antiquity is the Anglo Saxon carved ivory bodkin which was dug up in the churchyard.

There was a church and a priest mentioned in the Domesday Survey and it was thought that this might have been a wooden church in the centre of the churchyard.  However some Saxon stones have been found in the tower which could have been part of the end wall of an earlier church or could have been removed from a site further up the churchyard.   There was certainly plenty of stone for building in this area.

The existing church has three round arches on the north side which date from around 1150.  In 1936 a circular head of a grave cover was recovered, together with the various slabs, when the floor of the chancel was removed.       The interlacing pattern on the grave marker probably dates from 1160—80.

In Norman times there was probably a series of re-buildings and enlargements.  The early twelfth century church was probably a rectangular un-aisled building a sixth of the size of the present one, with a short chancel and western tower, the north aisle being added in the mid twelfth century and the south aisle and spire in the latter half of the 13th century.  The deep embattled parapet to the tower and corbelled out parapets to the nave roof belong to the 15th century.

The Manor of Bramham had an interesting history after the Domesday Survey, having originally been given to Robert Count of Mortain, who sublet it to Nigel Fossard.  The Fossard Family gave the revenues of the church and quite a substantial grant of land to the Canons of Nostell Priory who founded a small house at the site of the Biggin and were said to be good landowners and made Bramham quite important.  Johanna, daughter of William Fossard married Robert de Turnham who had his lands seized while he was away fighting in the Crusades, by King John.  He eventually recovered the lands in Bramham in 1208 but he had to give King John two beautifulSpanish war horses to gain his favour and the return of his lands.  In the 13th century the manor of Bramham passed by marriage to the De-Mauley family.      The De-Mauley family gave stone quarried in Bramham for the roof bosses in York Minster.

After the grant of lands to Nostell Priory, priests were presented by the Prior of Nostell, for institution by the Dean and Chapter of York Minster to the Vicarage.

There was also a chantry chapel in Bramham Church.  Medieval churches usually had 3 altars and there is documentary evidence of an altar of St Nicholas and an altar of St Peter which may have been at the ends of aisles.   In 1392 a Master John de Clyfford provided in his will for two chaplains to celebrate for his soul in Bramham and he gave his better chalice and his better chest to his chantry in Bramham and his second best chalice for the High Altar.  There is a list of Chaplains in the Chantry of St Peter in Bramham Church from 1393—1528.

In 1539 at the Dissolution of the Monastries the Rectory of Bramham came into the hands of the Crown and Henry VIII granted the Rectory, advowson of the Vicarage and all appurtenances therein to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church Oxford.  They seemed to have had jurisdication over quite a number of tithes belonging to the church.  In 1650 the Great Tithes appropriate to Christ Church Oxford were worth £100 and the rest of the Glebe and profits were only worth £24.

Under a faculty dated 22nd June 1853 a number of alterations costing well over £1,000 were made.  In 1866 a sum of nearly £400  was expended on the repair of the chancel, and together with other alterations in 1927 gave the church its present appearance.

On Christmas Day 1874,  a heating stove caused a fire, by which the tower was severely damaged and the single dial clock and peal of  three old bells perished.    Renewals thereby necessitated included the four belfry windows, clock and bells.

Twice the church has been struck by lightning.   The first time was on Saturday 30th June 1827 when, the parish register records, “The electric fluid struck the church steeple and tore away several of the stones, entered the Belfry and broke the Bell stays, tearing away the woodwork with much violence”.  The second time was in 1902 when the tower and spire were damaged, calling for a considerable amount of repair and renewal.

The registers of the church beginning in 1586 are now safely deposited with the Borthwick Institute in York.  They record a great deal of information about the life of the parish.  At one stage there was a parish coffin which was taken to the grave-side.  It records people being buried in a wool shroud, (this was to help the wool trade).  Many people seemed to die of Measles and in in 1826 there was a very bad cholera epidemic.  Very few people could read or write when our records began.  The first churchwardens only made their mark.

The records show the names of 40 known incumbents of Bramham, the first being the 12th century cleric Peter the Clerk.

On looking round the church there is some medieval woodwork at the ends of the clergy stalls and pulpit.  The stained glass is not old.*

*  (See the NADFAS Church Record for  the details

of all interior furnishings)

The East window is in memory of Katherine Mary Lane Fox erected by her husband in 1874.  There are some other very beautiful windows including one of the Ascension at the west end of the north aisle in memory of George Lane Fox dated 1896.  In the south aisle there is a window showing St Paulinus and St. Wilfred in memory of the Right Hon. John  Lloyd Wharton MP for Ripon, who lived in Bramham and was for many years a churchwarden here.  He gave the lych gate in memory of his wife.  There is a memorial tablet in the north aisle—where the original stained glass window was to—Dr Haigh and his classical master the Rev R V  Taylor.  They taught at the School for the sons of Gentlemen at Bramham Biggin.

On the south wall of the Lady Chapel is the record of those killed in the First World War.  Those killed in the Second World War are commemorated by the north aisle altar.  Bramham was the first place in the district to erect a War Memorial.

The reredos was erected to the memory of Henry Lane Fox.  There are many memorial tablets, some to previous vicars, to members of the Lane Fox family and the one at the end of the south aisle to the Powell and Eamonson Family.  They were landowners in Bramham from at least the early 17th century.

The rood screen and figures were erected by Agnes Lady Bingley in 1935 in memory of her father Charles Viscount Halifax.

There is a grave cover in the chancel which was used twice, once to Elianora, probably the wife of Robert Oglethorpe, who died in 1534.  The Oglethorpe family   lived at Oglethorpe Hall  which is part of this parish.  One member of the family became Bishop of Carlisle and crowned  Elizabeth I  when no one   else would as  Elizabeth  was   considered to be Henry VIII’s illegitmate daughter.  The bottom of this same slab in the chancel bears the name of Ann Linley of Otley buried 14th July 1658.

One more  interesting feature of the church is the  doorway  which although restored, its dog touth mouldings and foliated capitals probably belong to the late 13th century when it may have replaced a Norman entrance.  On the east jamb are two incised crosses, and the old oak door probably belongs to the middle ages but it was repaired and re hung in 1853-54.

In recent years a great deal of restoration work has had to be done to preserve this very ancient church for future generations.  In 1979-80 the whole church had to be re-roofed at a cost of £40,000.  In 1981 a gas heating boiler was installed and in 1984 the outside walls were restored.  In 1984 the stained glass window in the Baptistry was repaired and from 1980-84 the organ replaced and new organ casing had to be made.  From 1988-91 the gutters have been repaired, the church rewired, the clock refurbished and the spire repaired.  The population of our village is small, under 2,500 but we intend to keep faith with past generations and preserve this holy place for others.

In 2002 the central heating system was replaced this has made an enormous  difference to the  building  it also  protected the  organ, however note the  need of urgent restoration for the organ on the last page.

Before you leave the area take a walk round the churchyard.  At the far end of the churchyard, under the cherry trees are the communal graves from the Battle of Camp Hill,   Bramham 1408.  This was a Wars of the Roses Battle on Bramham Moor between Sir Thomas Rokeby, for the Crown, and Earl Percy of Northumberland.

The Earl of Northumberland was defeated and this Battle helped to secure the throne for Henry IV.  There  were also some buried here after the dreadful Battle of  Towton on  Palm Sunday 1461 when there was the most appalling slaughter and stragglers from the battle were buried in the surrounding villages.

There was quite a lot of activity in this area during the Civil War.  There was a battle at Whinmoor, Leeds,  which spread outwards to Bramham Moor.  The Roundheads under Fairfax were routed, many were slain and probably buried in Bramham Churchyard.  There was also a battle at Tadcaster Bridge, and Cromwell was supposed to have  trained his  Ironsides in  this  area before  the  Battle of  Marston Moor 1644.

There is evidence in the Church records of Cavaliers and Roundheads being buried here in 1664.  (After the Civil War the Oglethorpe family lost their lands because of their allegiance to Charles I and the Fairfax family lived at Oglethorpe Hall).

Bramham’s situation on the main road leading northwards has shaped its history for generations.  Flemish weavers were supposed to have settled here.  People were said to have escaped up the Great North Road to avoid the Plaque.  Armies were gathered together on Bramham Moor such as an  army to fight the Jacobite Rebellion of 1713 and an army to fight the Scots in 1745-46.    On many occasions Bramham Constables were ordered to pay various sums of money for the relief of disbanded soldiers.  Coaches have travelled across Bramham Moor and the occupants were no doubt glad to reach the safety of Bramham’s coaching Inns as the Moor was a desolate place and a haunt of highwaymen.  Cattle have been herded to market through the village and over the Moor through the old Drove routes.

The Restoration Work is proceeding all the time and the costs are now enormous, if you have enjoyed your visit to our beautiful parish church we will be  most grateful to you if you buy this  small leaflet and the money will be put into the Restoration Fund for future projects.     

Throughout all this activity Bramham Church has stood in the centre of the village, a link with the past and symbol for the future.  Generations have been born and died and still this building stands solid and secure on its foundations.  It is a good old church and we in Bramham love what it stands for—the love of God for men of every age, the eternal truths of the Gospel and the  indestructibility of our faith in  Our  Lord Jesus Christ.

In 2007      the church was re-wired, the Font was moved to the 1853 position in the crossing at the West end, this created a new space for a kichenette and the area will be used by the children and for a meeting area.  The Vicar’s and Choir Vestries were combined creating a better use of space.  All this was made possible when Arthur and Sally Smith left the church a generous legacy.

2009            The Church clock  mechanism was electrified. 

2017  Today the important fundraising is for the restoration of the 1904 Andrews Organ which is desperately in need of  complete restoration to ensure it lasts another 90 years.