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.
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.
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.
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.