Woodham Walter - St Michael the Archangel
The church of St Michael the Archangel in Woodham Walter is the only Elizabethan church in Essex, and one of only 6 in England. Built in 1563, this church is believed to be the first consecrated after the Elizabethan Settlement of 1559, and as such has a claim to be the first purpose-built Church of England church. When Elizabeth I inherited the throne in 1558 the country had suffered almost 25 years of religious turmoil between Catholics and Protestants. One of Elizabeth's first priorities was to resolve this dispute. She managed to find a middle way between the opposing views by establishing a Church that was moderately reformist in doctrine, whilst also emphasising continuity with its catholic and apostolic traditions. To achieve this she passed two laws in 1559: the Act of Supremacy, which re-established the Church of England's independence from Rome, and the Act of Uniformity which set out the form the English church would now take, including establishing the Book of Common Prayer. Collectively, these Acts are known as the Elizabethan Settlement. Although the church building dates from 1563 much of the interior, including the font and the pillars between the nave and the north aisle, is older and may have come from a previous church. There is some graffiti scrawled on the pillars (saying 'William Barton' in different styles), which has been dated as between 1450 and 1500. The church is open during daylight hours for people to visit.