Before my walk though the bluebells at Hilllhouse Wood in West Bergholt, I visited the old West Bergholt Parish Church, now popularly known as Old St. Mary’s. The church is remote from the village, and is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust
The church building is a harmonious mix of different periods. It’s believed that there has been a church on the site since the Saxon period and there are re-used Roman bricks in the walls, but much of the building dates from the fourteenth century.
Although no regular services are held in the church, weddings sometimes take place in it, and each Christmas there is a carol service. The churchyard and the inside of the church, still feel cared for, and it’s a very welcoming and peaceful church to visit.
I particularly enjoyed climbing the wooden stairs to the balcony at the back of the church looking towards the altar. It was easy to imagine 19th century children up on the balcony, playing with their friends and having fun when they should have been joining in with the service on a Sunday afternoon.
The church is still surrounded by farmland, and is next door to a beautiful Georgian country house, so it’s easy to picture the church when it was the centre of life in an isolated rural Essex village in the nineteenth century.