Wrangle Church History

It seems almost certain that the present Church was built on the site of an existing Saxon Church (although there was no mention of such a Church in Wrangle in 1086).  The present building is in the perpendicular style of 12th century French cathedrals.  Arches on the east of the tower and the South door are believed to have been built in approximately 1190.

In the period between 1154 and 1189, the Church and much land came under the governance of Waltham Abbey in Essex which supplied the priests.  It is recorded, for example, that in the glass of the East Window was an inscription in Latin which translated means ‘Tomas de Wyversty, Abbot of Waltham had me made’.  The building eventually fell into disrepair but was rebuilt and almost certainly enlarged in the 14th century, a time of great prosperity for Wrangle and the surrounding area due to the expansion of the wool trade.  In those days there was a river-fed creek close to the Church that enabled shipping to visit what was then a busy port.  The river has long since silted up, but the outline of its banks may be discovered in a field nearby.

The first recorded priest, Peter, took office in 1381 and the list of Priests continues in a seemingly unbroken line from that date to 2005, the year when local Churches were formed into a Cluster under the care of three priests who minister to a group of eight coastal Churches.

The Church of St Mary and St Nicholas would have been Catholic, owing allegiance to Rome, from its foundation. It automatically became Protestant in 1540 when Henry VIII made the break with the Pope in Rome and founded what became known as the Church of England with the Monarch as the Official Head of the Church.  Money and Abbey land were confiscated and the influence of its former priests waned. The removal of obligatory Church attendance meant that the Churches in the Fens (which were built for large congregations) continued to function but with less support and interest from local people. 

With the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the establishment of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell there were great changes yet again in the Church.  Vestments, music, candles, pictures, monuments, even stained glass windows were banned under the Church Settlement 1654.  The people of Wrangle along with many other Churches in England did their best to save the treasures of their Church.  One of the beautiful ancient stained glass windows was saved by being buried in the nearby Vicarage garden when Cromwell’s men came marauding.  It's subsequent rescue and reinstatement was not, however, the work of skilled stained glass window experts.  The result is something of a jigsaw puzzle making it difficult to know exactly what the original window depicted.  St Joseph can be seen wearing a silver and gold hat reminiscent of the early 14th century.  Either the Feast at Canaan or the Last Supper can be deciphered.

After the Restoration of the Monarch in 1660 (which was also the restoration of the  Anglican Church) revolutions, wars, and other outside world events have had little impact on the Church at Wrangle.  A single plaque to the memory of the American Airmen who died when their plane crashed at Wrangle Common in 1944 suggests that the physical impact of two world wars was minimal.  Only the continued activities of the British Legion and its Annual Memorial Service remind us of those who died elsewhere during those terrible times.

The six bells in the bell tower are still regularly rung. The inscription on the sixth bell reads:

"To serve the God of Heaven
I priest and people call
The dead I mourn, the living warn
And peals determine all"

Bells one two and three were all cast in 1714, bell five was recast in 1822.  All six were restored and rededicated in 1953.  Inside the Church, the pulpit was installed in 16th century and the font in 18th century.  The Chancel was restored  1875-78.  New Windows were put in place at various times in the early 20th century, including one showing a tractor overtaking a horse-drawn plough.  The Lady Chapel was dedicated in 1929. The present organ was installed in 1947.

The work of the care of the Church still goes on with sung Eucharists, special Easter and Christmas celebrations, Plough Sundays, Harvest and Flower Festivals, licensing of new priests and restoration projects.