This present church is the third Anglican houses of worship on this site. It is an Episcopal church and has been in continuous use since 1715! It is named for Bruton, Somersetshire, in England, which was the home of the then-Governor William Berkeley.
These first churches stood near the center of Williamsburg's original survey map drawn 15 years later. It must have been important to the community life because it's in such an important location. The third church was made of stone/brick. It had a soaring ceiling, and many galleries were built beneath that ceiling. One gallery that the William and Mary students sat in still stands today.
Would you believe that the church served as a storehouse or hospital or maybe both during the Battle of Yorktown.
In 1840, the town clock was installed in the steeple. In the Battle of Williamsburg, the church served as a Union hospital for both Northern and Confederate soldiers.
When the famed Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin became the rector in the early 1900s, he took over the restoration, and he raised funds to restore the church to close to its original form. He undertook another restoration in 1937.
A brick wall was built in 1754 to surround the church, and there are many graves located in the churchyard. We had fun trying to read these old gravesites.
I was amazed to learn that Blacks in the parish also worshipped at Bruton Church! Of course, they sat apart in the north gallery and the back benches. More than 1,000 slaves (mostly infants) were baptized in Bruton Church.
This church is owned by and still serves the 3-centuries-old parish! The walls, windows, west gallery are all original. It is said that the baptismal font was brought from an earlier church at Jamestown. Admission to the church is by donation.
Dating from 1715, the present structure is the third in a series of Anglican houses of worship that began in 1660.
Inside the building a succession of galleries was built for particular groups beneath the soaring ceiling. For example, on July 10, 1718, William and Mary students were assigned one that still stands.
The north, east, and south gables are pierced by rosette windows, the north and south walls by tall arched and sashed windows. All were provided for ventilation as well as light.
In 1768, an English organ was installed and gaolkeeper Peter Pelham was hired to play it. He held the postition until about 1802. Pelham brought to church with him a prisoner from the Gaol, whose job it was to pump the instrument. The organ remained in service until 1835.
Governor Spotswood was provided with a canopied chair on a platform inside the rail opposite the raised pulpit with its overhanging sounding board. Parishioners sat in boxed pews, their walls providing privacy and protection from drafts. In the early years the sexes sat apart. A vestry book entry for January 9, 1716, says:
"Ordered that the Men sitt on the North side of the church, and the women on the left."
A succession of galleries was built for particular groups beneath the soaring ceiling. For example, on July 10, 1718, William and Mary students were assigned a gallery that still stands. Exterior stairs were added for access to some of these railed, overhanging rows of benches. In 1744, the building was enlarged, and in 1752 the vestry voted to make the east end as long as the west, extending the chancel 25 feet to the east. The assembly paid for the work, and it was completed in 1755.
For a week after the May 5, 1862, Battle of Williamsburg, the church served as a Union hospital for Northern and Confederate soldiers.
The vestry ordered extensive repairs and modifications in 1886 and 1896. By turns, the original pews were sawed shorter, then removed. Many of the marble floor slabs were removed in 1840 or in 1886, and a wooden floor was substituted. Some slabs were recovered when another restoration began in 1901 under the Reverend W. T. Roberts, but new ones had to be ordered for that restoration.
Today Bruton Parish Church continues to serve an active congregation
This Episcopalian church has been in service still since 1715. The bell in the white wooden steeple rang out as the local liberty bell during Revolutionary War and now announces services.
Colonial Virginia churchyards were not the first choices for burials. The custom was to inter the dead at home. In 1724, the Reverend Hugh Jones, Bruton Parish rector, complained about this practice because it meant he had to travel to plantations and farms to conduct funerals.
Graves of note include those of Governor Edward Nott, first rector Rowland Jones, the powerful Thomas Ludwell, merchant John Greenhow, and two infant children of Martha Custis Washington by her first husband. Some of their names are still heard on Williamsburg's streets, including the name of little Matthew Whaley.
As the city's fortunes faded after the Revolution, so did those of the graveyard. Daniel Walker Lord of Kennebunkport, Maine, came through Williamsburg in 1824. He wrote of the church, "There is a burial ground around it, some of the tombs are marked as early as 1693. . . . The tombs in the yard have most fallen down, and look as though their friends are all extinct."
After the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862, the church became a Union hospital for Yankees and Confederates. Many of the wounded were laid in the graveyard to await treatment or to recuperate. Witnesses said their blood stained many of the tablet stones. Some of the dead are buried in graves near the north wall, but there are few names on the markers.
Cynthia Beverley Tucker Coleman organized a group of children into the Catherine Memorial Society. The name honored her daughter, who had died at age 12 the year before. On April 7, 1887, the society requested permission of the vestry "to repair the old monuments in the Church Yard and to otherwise put in order the yard, as their means may justify."
You must take time to venture outside to the courtyard area and maybe say a prayer or two for those resting in peace here.
The Church of England was the official religion for the colony, and, as the Anglican church in the capitol, Bruton Parish Church was probably the most important church in Virginia. This Episcopal church has been in use since 1715 and serves an active congregation today. In fact, when I brought Mark acemj here in October, 2002, we couldn't go in because they were having Sunday services. Many of Williamsburg's prominent people were buried right here on church grounds. In February, 2007, they filmed the meeting hall scene in the movie "John Adams" here. I was part of the action because I served as an extra in that film.
This is the original Episcopal Church in Williamsburg. Church Services are held each Sunday. Christmas is very crowded and those who are not members need reservations to attend that service. Tickets need to be picked up a few days before the holiday. Some hotels will do that for guests.
Bruton Parish Church (1715) can be visited without a ticket and is open for Sunday services, as well. It's a colonial style church with gated pews--see where the dignitaries of the 18th century sat. It has an active congregation even now!
When we attended service on Easter, we were given admission cards to guarantee we would have seating. We didn't get them early enough, though, and had to go to their newer building for church. You can get seating in the old church on holidays if you call early enough.
bruton parish episcopal church was established in 1674 and is named after the town of bruton in somerset england. in 1678 colonel john page donated a plot of land and money to build a brick church on this site. the original bruton parish church was completed in 1678. the church you see today was built in 1715 and restored in 1905. some famous americans that attended services at bruton parish church were george washington, thomas jefferson, richard henry lee, patrick henry, george wythe, and george mason. the bruton parish church is one of the top attractions of colonial williamsburg. bruton parish church is listed on the national register of historic places.
The Church of England was the official religion for the colony, and, as the Anglican church in the capitol, Bruton Parish Church was probably the most important church in Virginia. This Episcopal church has been in use since 1715 and serves an active congregation today.
This church which is Episcopal was built in 1715 and is still in use. In the belfry is the bell that was presented to the parish in 1761 and is still rung when services are held. The baptism font was brought from Jamestown church in the late 1750's.
The church is free to enter and is not part of the Day Pass needed for the other buildings.
Donations are gladly accepted for the upkeep of the church.
Volunteers in the church are more than happy to tell you about its history.
The Reverand William A.R. Goodwin became rector in 1903 and it was he who wanted the colonial town restored to what it once was.
This plaque commemorates the Rev. Goodwin and was dedicated by John Rockefeller jr in 1941.
On seeing his name it was quite a coincidance as this was my late fathers name!
On the lecturn in the church which was given by President Roosevelt is a bible which was given to the Church by King Edward VII.
The pews have little doors at the end of each aisle, these were because the church was cold and drafty. Some pews are named for those who sat there including Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Monroe and Tyler who all at times attended this church.
This photo of me looking trying to cool down from the heat outside is taken sitting in the pew for President George Washington.
The altar rails are made of black walnut. Behind the altar is inscribed the Creed and the Lord's prayer. Communion silver dates back to the 1600's. The silver is only exhibited on special occasions.
This is one of the town's very few original buildings which remain. Not restored--this is the real deal. This is Williamsburg's Episcopal church, completed in 1715. The original parish dates back to 1633. And this is not a museum, but a living church with an active congregation. Visitors are welcome, except during services, every day.
On the way from the Governor's Palace to the Capitol we passed by the Bruton Church.
When Williamsburg became the capitol of colonial Virginia, Governor Alexander Spotswood drafted plans for the structure: a cruciform-shaped church (the first in Virginia) The church was finished in 1715.
During the Civil War, after the Battle of Williamsburg in May 1862, Bruton served as a hospital for wounded Confederate soldiers.
In 1939-1940 the church was completely renovated wich gave us the authentic replica of the old church seen today.
Nat and I were there on a Sunday so services were taking place and we were unable to go inside. However, there are tours available and they are given by those who know it best, the actual church members. Bruton Parish Church is an Episcopal church that has been in use since 1715.