History of the church

Beginnings

The first St Paul's church was in East Street, next to where Dominos Pizza is today. It was opened on Saturday October 11th, 1913, at a time when Courtaulds, Crittalls and Lake and Elliot were employing hundreds of people in their new factories and providing for housing for them in East Braintree. There was a population of nearly 2000 within ten minutes walk of St Paul's.

first service

The first St Paul's was a converted Unitarian chapel that had walls of corrugated iron - because of this, it earned the nickname of 'the Tin Tabernacle'.

the tin tabernacle

inside the tin tabernacle

In August 1914, the First World War began. In October, St Paul's Church was requisitioned for war use, first as a YMCA recreation hall, for soldiers billeted locally, and later as a meat store.


Daughter church of St Michael's

By 1925, the then-vicar of St Michael's, who had responsibility for St Paul's, recommended that there should be a new site for St Paul's, in the Hay Lane/Cressing Road area. By 1929, no site was found, and the idea was abandoned.

During the Second World War, on October 16th 1940, two parachute mines fell behind East Street, damaging St Paul's, but it was repaired and services started again on November 6th 1940.

In the 1950s, a new St Paul's was considered again. The council offered St Paul's a vacant plot of land, plans were made, a 'Building for the Future' sign was erected, a fund was started, but nothing happened.

In 1966, the Reverend Richard Mulrenan became vicar of St Michael's. He revived the idea of St Paul's, Hay Lane. Plans were prepared in 1967. They were ready to go ahead in 1968, but funds fell £8000 short of the estimated cost. A PCC meeting was arranged. On that day, the vicar received a solicitor's letter containing a cheque for £8000, a third share of the estate of a former Braintree resident and member of St Michael's Church, unknown to anyone present at the meeting. The PCC vote was unanimous, certain that their prayers had been answered.


The move to Hay Lane

In December 1968, Norman Thorp arrived as curate-in-charge. The Foundation stone was laid on a snowy winter's day on February 15th 1969. On October 11th 1969, St Paul's was dedicated, exactly 56 years after St Paul's, East Street was opened. Morning and evening services began the following day. There were just 24 members of St Paul's on the parish electoral roll, 4 of whom had been asked by the vicar to transfer to St Paul's to help establish the work there.

opening service

Norman and Bettine Thorp worked hard to build up the church. Monthly family services were introduced, and gradually increased in numbers. By 1973, the average attendance was about 130. The Sunday school groups grew, and groups for Jucos (Junior Covenanters, 10 to 13 years), and Covenanters (13 plus) were established. A youth fellowship followed, together with a wives group, and social events like film evening and garden parties. At about this time, East Street was sold, and the proceeds were used to build a wooden church hall.

John and Madge Cassleton carried on the good work that the Thorps had begun. Through the 70s, St Paul's saw a considerable growth in the numbers of families joining - quite a few as the result of the formation of a St Paul's football team!


The parish of St Paul's

As East Braintree developed during the ministry of Stephen and Sheila Lloyd, the diocese looked into creating an independent parish of St Paul's. Initial consultations took place from 1989, and on 1st August 1992, the new parish of St Paul's Braintree was created.

Under the incumbency of Robin Sewell, an extension consisting of a welcome area, a new kitchen and new toilets was started in 2003, and completed in 2005.

Under the leadership of our most recent vicar, Sarah Hayward, Messy Church was launched, which proved to be very popular with the local community. Sarah moved to begin a pioneer ministry in Myland, Colchester, in August 2019, and St Paul's is currently in interregnum.

Sarah's last service

Ministers at St Paul's

Norman Thorp - 1968-1973

John Cassleton - 1973-1980

Stephen Lloyd - 1980-2001

Robin Sewell - 2002-2012

Sarah Hawyard - 2013-2019

Norman Thorp and John Cassleton were both 'curates-in-charge' rather than vicars, because St Paul's was not its own parish during their tenure. Stephen Lloyd started off as a curate-in-charge, but became a 'vicar' when St Paul's gained parish status in 1992. 'Vicar' is not a term recognised by the Church of England itself - the preferred term since 2000 has been 'priest-in-charge'.