Braughing was once an important place in the area and had a Saxon minster church, which has long since vanished. There is a tiny fragment of early walling in the current church, but this is most likely from an early Norman structure – the current church is the 4th or 5th on the site.
Of the existing structure, the Chancel is the earliest, dating to around 1220. At this time the church was dedicated to St. Andrew. In the mid 1300s it is referred to as St. Peter and St. Paul and it was not transferred to being St. Mary’s until at least the 15th Century. This looks to be the date for a major rebuild of the church and the majority of the structure that stands today is of this date.
By the 15th Century Braughing had been superceded by nearby Bishop’s Stortford and was on its way to becoming a small village. The tower, nave and south porch all date to this period, it is possible the first spire also dated to this period, although it has been replaced since.
On 2nd October 1571 the funeral of a local farmer, Matthew Wall, took place here. As the coffin was being carried down Fleece Lane one of the pallbearers slipped on some autumn leaves and the coffin dropped. Matthew then woke inside the coffin and he frantically banged the lid to be let out. When he eventually actually died – in 1595 – his will made a provision for Fleece Lane to be swept each year on 2nd October, which it still is today – a custom known as Old Man’s Day, which culminates with a service by Matthew’s grave.
Over the next few centuries work continued on Braughing church, but in typical fashion, by the early Victorian period the church was in poor condition. The roof was re-slated in 1838 and the tower repaired in 1852 (probably when the spire was rebuilt). In the 1880s the church was still referred to as ‘shabby’ and so a full blown restructure took place in 1888 leaving us with the church we have today.
It is one of the nicest rural churches in Hertfordshire and has a very attractive position in a pretty village in a valley.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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