The view of the St Mary-the-Virgin Church from Lower Way
The history of Great Brickhill is thought to date back to the Saxon period when the Romans left Britain from 400 AD. With its hilltop position and clear views of the surrounding area it would have been a typical site for a Saxon settlement. Great Brickhill is mentioned in the domesday Book, drawn up by William the Conqueror in 1086, the village then known as Brichella.
Great Brickhill also featured in the English Civil War in 1643, when a large force of the Earl of Essex's troups were positioned at the top of the ridge waiting for the King's forces to arrive. The Earl of Essex stayed in the village at Cromwell Cottages during the war; the cottage is still surving today.
Great Brickhill is the largest of the four parishes with a population of approximately 800. Great Brickhill and its farms retain all the qualities of an old rural community with a blacksmith and a pub, but now a significant number use it as a dormitory village for nearby Milton Keynes or London. There is a good mix of both age and social groups.
High Ash School is a Church of England School for children aged 4 to 11 years old and serves the villages of Stoke Hammond, Little Brickhill and Great Brickhill. The school also attracts a large number of children from outside the three villages. High Ash is in the catchment area for Aylesbury Vale schools including the Aylesbury grammar schools - when the children leave High Ash CE school they go on to either the grammar schools or other local schools. For more information on the school visit:- https://www.highashschool.co.uk/
There is a Parish Hall within the centrally located Recreation Area which also houses the cricket field and modern clubhouse, tennis courts and children’s play area. This whole site provides excellent facilities for the many activities which are held in the village. A weekly Post Office Service and a Pre-School Play Group is held in the Parish Hall which is also used for many Church events and fund-raising activities for local and national Charities. Groups such as the Women’s Institute and the Good Companions for senior citizens, also make full use of the Hall.
There is a monthly Parish Newsletter sponsored by the Parish Council and the Church. It includes a letter from the Rector and a schedule of church services. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the Newsletter is distributed by e-mail to anyone who wishes to be included on the data base. A printed copy of the news items is delivered to those known not to have internet access and a printed copy is available to read in the church porch.
The Church & Clergy
The Parish Church of St Mary-the-Virgin, now the only place of worship in the village, dates from the thirteenth century with later additions, and is a Grade 2* listed building. It is the largest of the four Churches forming the United Benefice of The Brickhills and Stoke Hammond. It can seat over 250 people and has a very fine organ, and a very good sound enhancement system. A new extension was added at the west end of the church in 2021, housing a lobby area and two toilets. At the same time a refreshment area was installed in the south west corner of the church.
There were six bells up to October 2009 when the bells were removed and taken to Whites of Appleton for restoration. Work was done to stregthen the tower and a new eight-bell cast iron frame was installed. In 2010 the six bells were re-hung, along with two new bells that were cast by Whitechapel Bell Foundry where the existing six bells were cast. For more details go to the section "Bells and Bellringing".
The church yard is closed but there is a new cemetery opposite the church, which is run by the Church but is maintained by, and the responsibility of, the Parish Council.
The Reverend John Waller is the Rector for the four parishes of the Benefice. The Rectory is located in Great Brickhill, at the bottom of Pound Hill. The Rector is unable to take all the services within the Benefice. As a licensed Lay Minister Mr. Jeremy Hopkinson regularly takes Services at Great Brickhill and at the other Churches within the Benefice. Visiting clergy take some services and the remaining services are led by members of the laity.
“St Mary's 2000” is the project that was initiated in 1997 to raise funds to provide the facilities needed to enable the Church to fulfil its role in the 21st century. The project was divided into two phases:
- Phase I was to repair the north, south and tower roofs, repair the tower, install a new bell frame & re-pair and re-hang the bells. All of this work has either been completed or is currently being carried out with a completion date of Spring 2010.
- Phase II is the building of new facilities with a meeting room, office, store, kitchen and toilets. Planning permission for the new facilities was granted a number of years ago and some funds have already been raised for this part of the Project.
English Heritage have been involved in every aspect of the work and a grant was received from them for the re-roofing of both the south and north aisle roofs. Grants have aoso been received from a number of bodies including Bucks Historic Churches and the Great Brickhill Parish Council.
Fundraising events take place on a regular basis - for details of those events go to the "Events in GB" page.
For full details of the St Mary's 2000 Project go to the section "St Mary's 2000"
Church Services & Activities
There is a wide range of services held throughout the month ranging from 1662 (Said) Holy Communion and Sung Evensong, to Holy Communion (Common Worship), to more informal Family Worship. “Hymns and Psalms” and occasionally “Songs of Fellowship” are the hymn books used. The organ is played for most services, sometimes accompanied by a choir and the piano is used on occasions. The average attendance for the regular services in 2008 was 24.
The general pattern of services per month is:
- 1st. Sunday, 9.30am: 1662 Said Holy Communion, led by visiting clergy.
- 2nd. Sunday, 9.30am: Morning Worship (Common Worship), led by the laity.
- 2nd. Sunday, 6.00pm: Sung Evensong, led by the Rector.
- 3rd. Sunday, 9.30am: Holy Communion (Common Worship), led by the Rector
- 4th. Sunday, either: 11.00am Family Service led by the Rector
If there is a fifth Sunday in the month there is one service only in the Benefice, Holy Communion (Common Worship) in one of the parishes at 10.00 am. Baptisms usually take place during a normal Sunday Service.
The village School holds end of term Services in the Church. Confirmation classes are usually held for the Benefice as a whole.
Fortnightly Holy Communion and Bible Study sessions are held on Wednesdays at 10.30am. Thursday Group meets fortnightly on Thursday afternoons for discussions, talks, tea and chat; the programme also includes a number of outside visits. During Lent the Thursday Group expands and changes to become the Lent Group. Lent Lunches are organised and a theme is studied over the 5 weeks. A Drop-In Centre sponsored by the Church opens each week on a Monday afternoon at the Parish Hall.
There is a weekly Pew Sheet giving up to date information – a copy of these can be obtained from the bookcase just inside the main door to the Church. A Service Schedule giving all details for the month ahead appears in the Parish Newsletter to download a copy of this schedule go to the "Service Schedule GB" page.
The P.C.C. & The Congregation
The PCC meet five times a year and has a total membership of 11 including the Rector, two Church Wardens and two representatives on the Mursley Deanery Synod. At the start of 2009 there were 55 on the Electoral Roll, some of whom live outside the parish. Anyone who is resident in the parish or who regularly attends services at the Church may have their name added to the Roll at any time.
Members of the congregation are encouraged to assist with the services. There is a team of sidesmen who take it in turn to welcome people to each service. Lessons and intercessions are read by members of the congregation.
Others within the congregation contribute freely to help in the running of the church life, including maintaining the church and churchyard, flower arranging and assisting with fund-raising etc.