Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
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Christ Church Parish - A Brief Historical Outline

January 29, 1666, a General Vestry meeting was held at Rosegill, the house of Sir Henry Chichley.   Records preserved in the The Vestry Book of Christ Church, 1663-1797 read.

“We doe accord and agree that ye two parishes formerly call Lancaster and Peankatanck from hence forth be united as one and be called Christ Church parish.

“Item. That a Mother Church be built in ye small Indian field next ye head of Capt. Brocas ground.  It being adjudged by us to be about ye middle of ye parish.

“Item. That ye Mother Church be called by name of Christ Church … building of ye Mother Church in every respect to be done and finished according to ye Middle Plantatcon, to be finished in six months, glass and iron worke convenient time to be given for its transportation out of England.”

The first building was wooden, probably clapboard.  June 9, 1712, the vestry ordered a new church built of brick over a period of two years.  We have every reason to believe it was completed by June 1714.   In 1712 directions were also given for an “arbor” (where services could be held during construction.).  Thus, we believe the present building occupies the identical ground of the original wooden church.

The parish was disestablished during the American Revolution, 1776-1781.  The abandoned building deteriorated severely,  the roof fell in and a large tree grew up in the center aisle.

The parish was revived under the leadership of “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.”  The brick building was restored starting about 1840.  Since then, for about 170 years, it has served the house of worship for an active congregation.  Considering the fact that the building is 300 years old, it is in remarkably good condition.  Of course, there has always been, and continues to be, a need for maintenance, repairs and renovations.

Christ Church uses a Communion Silver Service with pieces that date back to a set donated by the Honorable Ralph Wormley of Rosegill in 1678.  During the Revolution the Communion Silver was placed in a bank vault in Fredericksburg, where it was partially destroyed by fire.  Three pieces were restored by S. Kirk and Son of Baltimore in 1855.

There are records of seven graves under the church.  Sir Henry Chichley, Deputy Governor of Virginia, was buried, February 9, 1682, near the Communion Table. The following year, Rev. John Sheppard, rector from 1668 to 1683, was buried under the floor.  Other recorded burials are: Madam Catherine Wormley, Aylmer Wormley, Edward Thompson, Mary Reeves and her son.  The Thompson slab, now set in the aisle flagstones, was found under the floor of the church when the building was renovated in the 1920’s.

The historic cemetery has a number of interesting table tombs.  One marks the grave of the beloved Bartholomew Yates, who served as rector for many years and also taught at William and Mary College.

Adjacent to the parish church, Christchurch School for boys was founded in 1921 by the Rev. F. E. Warren.

Details and subsequent history can be read online in the book "Colonial Churches" pages 246-257.  

An Inscription above doorway to church has dates carved in stone most significant to the congregation in the 19th century.

 Timeline is a copy of a document published by national Episcopal Church, USA, merged with a list of dates significant to our local parish.  It provides an interesting perspective on the evolutions of the local and national churches

Although there were additional restorations in the mid and late 20th century, much of the flavor of the original colonial church remains and the present building is an inspiring example of a historic colonial church celebrating an exciting present.


Gordon Eliot White