A Short History of
Christ Church Parish

In the early part of the first Millenia AD, when Christians first gathered on a piece of land overlooking the Dargle River, near old St Paul’s Church, they would have had little sense of the journey that lay ahead of them.

As generations of believers passed on their faith and values to their children, temporary, wooden places of worship were replaced by stone buildings, which placed the cross, communion and preaching at the heart of their worship.

With the advent of the railway and the evangelical revival of the mid 1800s, the congregation at St Paul’s grew rapidly, necessitating a second church. While some chose to go outside the parish to build a Chapel at Crinken, others dreamt of building a larger edifice on the Rock of Bray, which had been offered in a 900-year lease by Lord Herbert of Lea.

In 1861 the first stone of Christ Church was laid, building a tradition of Christian worship on the site that has lasted for over 150 years.

Since our first Sunday service on July 23, 1863, we have evolved with the times, growing our Ministries and tailoring our services to the needs of our community.

Thanks to the dedication of our congregation and the generosity of our sponsors, we aim to serve for many years to come.

The Art and Architecture of Christ Church Bray

Designed by architect William Slater of Messrs Carpenter and Slater of London, and built by Mr. Carroll of Dublin, Christ Church Bray was consecrated by the Bishop of Killaloe on St James’ Day, 1863, culminating with the completion of the spire in 1870. Hewn from local granite, the Church was constructed in the French style popular at the time, but incorporated several features possibly inspired by medieval Ireland.

The Interior

Upon entering the Church visitors are struck by the size of its interior.  Measuring 38.1 m long by 20 m wide, with the peak of the main roof reaching 19.8 m, the Church as it was constructed is 9.1 m shorter in length than the original design—a detail rumoured to have greatly disappointed the then Lord Meath. 

Upon completion in 1863 the Church was unadorned. Described in the Church records as “tiling throughout … of the plainest kind,” decorations were added in accordance with the architect’s original plans, but over a period of many years.

The Bells

For 10 years after its completion, the octagonal drum and spire of the Church tower remained empty. It is said that the impetus for a collection for a peal of bells came in a visit by Prime Minister William Gladstone, during which he remarked: “So noble a Church tower as this should not be silent.” 

Made in England by Taylors of Loughborough at a cost of £1,100 the bells vary in weight from 356 kg to 1,416 kg. Hung between 1880 and 1881, the bells have been rung regularly ever since, barring a sojourn to England in 1950 for tuning.

In an age of automation, our bells are still rung manually every Sunday morning by the Bell Ringing Team and occasionally by visiting teams of bellringers from further afield. 

Each year at midnight on 31st December, the bells are rung to welcome in the New Year. 

Described as one of the finest peals in the whole of Great Britain and Ireland, the ringing of bells at Christ Church would impress the most discerning campanologist.

The Woodcarving

The distinctive woodwork in Christ Church is of special importance as its origins reside in a wood carving class for choir boys run by the Messrs Faulkner in 1887. The pupils were so successful that they soon began winning prizes and selling their work.

The first effort for the Church was the Celtic Alms Box at the North door. In 1902 four members of the class—by then a men’s carving class—carved the Bishop’s Chair, a reproduction of one found in the church of San Pietro in Perugia, Italy.

Epiphany Chapel

The Epiphany Chapel takes its name from the subjects of the East window. On the panelling on the chapel’s North wall are carved the names of many parishioners whose relatives and friends in 1936 wished to commemorate them.

The Organ

The organ was built by Messrs Conacher of Huddersfield in 1912 when the previous organ was moved to St Paul’s Church. It is a fine example of the romantic Edwardian organs built by Conacher and has not been rebuilt or altered substantially since its construction. It is of some interest to note that the organist in 1886 was Hamilton Harty who left for London in 1901 and subsequently became world famous as the founder of the Halle Orchestra.

pulpit crop

The Pulpit

The massive pulpit is in keeping with the scale of the building. The featured figures are Moses, St James, St John, St Peter, Jeremiah and Abraham. A final plinth is left vacant. The four Evangelists have their individual signs incorporated into the panels.

St Paul's Chapel

Following the closure of St Paul’s Church, its Holy Communion Table was brought to Christ Church and placed in the space outside the choir vestry. This was designated St Paul’s Chapel in 1978. The area was refurbished in 1986 and a new set of altar frontals was made by a group of dedicated parishioners and friends. All of the refurbishment was done as a memorial to Reverend Richard Groves Large, whose ministry (1971 – 1985) is honoured by a brass plaque on the wall beside the Communion Table.

Illuminated Manuscripts

There are two illuminated manuscripts in separate display tables at the rear of the Church.  These were presented to Archdeacon Scott and Canon Scott in 1903 and 1910 respectively.  Each illustrates every parish where the clergymen served in the course of their ministry, the latter being signed by each parishioner.

The Windows

Christ Church is home to a fine collection of stained glass windows, each of which was given as a memorial. At one time a phrase had been stencilled above each window describing its contents. These were destroyed by water damage from serious roof leaks, but were replaced in the 1980s with the same inscription carved on Irish oak panels.


Christ Church, Bray in the 21st Century

For many people of Bray, the 21st Century began with the traditional ringing of the bells at midnight on New Year’s Eve 1999.

We celebrated the dawn of the third Christian Millennium by flood-lighting the exterior of the building to remind us that through the darkness, Jesus is the light of our world. The exterior lighting highlights the granite cross opposite the church steps, which was made from the same stone as the Church itself and was presented in 1912 in memory of Archdeacon Scott by his widow and family.

We continue to celebrate by embarking on a major refurbishment programme of the interior and exterior to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the magnificent heritage of Christ Church, Bray.