The Sunken Church of Bramcote

by Joe Earp

Many visitors and even residents of Bramcote are curious to know the history of the old sunken church standing in a dominating position at the top of Town Street in a crowded churchyard. All that remains of this ancient relic is the small tower.

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Sunken Church in Bramote. The only part of the church which still survives is the tower- Photo Credit: Joe Earp/Nottingham Hidden History Team.

The Domesday Book (1086) records a settlement in ‘Bruncote’. A simple wooden structure is likely to have served as a place of worship before a stone church was built. The body of the church which consisted the nave, north aisle and the tower date to the 12th or 13th century. The chancel to the church was a later edition. The arch above the east doorway suggests the same early English period as the font. The church was much altered over the years and only guess work can be made of the original church’s appearance. 

Most people when first seeing the church often wonder and ask the question-”has the church sunken into the ground?”. The answer is no but the appearance makes it look like that. There is no evidence of subsidence to the church structure. No one really knows how the church came to have the name of the Sunken Church. Perhaps the reason why is because when approaching the church from a great distance it really does appear to be sinking into the ground. The reason why only the tower survives was because of general decay of the church. The main reason for the church’s demolition was because a larger church was built in the 1860s. St Michael & All Angels was built to cater for the growing population of the village. The early photograph below shows what it was like before the nave and chancel were demolished in 1862.

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The church prior to it being demolished in 1862- Photo Credit: Courtesy of Val Bird and the descendants of F.C. Smith.

The building was described in a Bishops Terrier of 1777 as “in tolerable condition, having three new bells and an elegant singing gallery”. It is believed to have held around 30 people, far to small for the influx of framework knitters, coal miners and domestic servants to the gentry in the mid 19th century. The village population was 700 in 1850 and the burial ground was full by the end of that decade.

When the new church of St Michael & All Angels was built the local squire, John Sherwin Gregory, gave the land for the church. Stone from the old church was used in construction of the boundary wall. The Tower was preserved to house some memorials, and although the bells were transferred to the new church along with the font, the timber bell frame of 1586 is still in situ.

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The 1586 timber bell frame still remains in situ in the tower- Photo Credit: Joe Earp/Nottingham Hidden History Team.

In more modern times the grounds fell into neglect and the tower was deemed unsafe. In recent years however both the tower and the grounds have undergone renovation and restoration by the Bramcote Old Tower Trust, supported by the Friends of the Old Church Tower, for the community and visitors to enjoy.

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The Sunken Church Tower- Photo Credit: Joe Earp/Nottingham Hidden History Team.

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About nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam

Originally formed in 1965 to try to save or at least record before destruction the cave sites continually discovered during the major redevelopment of the City that took place in Nottingham in the 1960′s. Almost every day new sites were unearthed and destroyed before anyone was notified; last thing they wanted was someone telling them to stop what they were doing; TIME is MONEY. The word HIDDEN in the Team’s title is because a lot of what was being invisibly lost in the redevelopment was our early history in the caves, they are under most, if now all, of Nottingham. In the 80’s and 90’s the Team conducted with the help of Dr Robert Morrell and Syd Henley, research and work on Nottingham’s history, folklore and local archaeology. The Team published quarterly magazines on their findings. The Team lapsed for a few years after the death of Paul Nix who was the team leader for thirty plus years. The Team has reformed and is now back working on Nottingham local history. On this blog you will find a series of history, folklore and archaeological related articles and information. Most of the material published will be specifically related to Nottingham/shire local history.
This entry was posted in Bramcote, Nottinghamshire Suburbs. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Sunken Church of Bramcote

  1. Michael Hart says:

    I lived in the vicarage opposite in 1958 I often walked in the grounds amongst the gravestones .I also played cricket at Bramcote Prep School it’s a special place for me , my parents still live on Russley Rd..If anyone would like some memories of Bramcote please get in touch!

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