We are privileged indeed to be able to worship in St Nicolas Church.
For those of you who are interested in the history of our Church, please see below taken from the booklet prepared in celebration of the Church's centenary celebrations in 1975. As you will see, 1875 was not the beginning of the story of St Nicolas Church in Manea.
Manea was formerly a parochial chapelry and hamlet of Coveney, but it became an ecclesiastical parish in 1883 when a change occurred in the patronage of Coveney.
The first building, a ‘Chapel of Ease’, was rebuilt in 1791 and this consisted of a nave, chancel and north porch, all of which were thatched.
There was one bell in the turret at the west end, under which stood a small stone font. The bell was given in memory of some of the parishioners and before the turret was built, it hung in an old witch elm tree near the chapel.
It is interesting to note that there were no inscriptions inside the chapel, as the dead were buried at the mother church of Coveney.
Around this time Manea was a hamlet of only 36 dwellings and 14 cottages, but it held a fair or wake on the Tuesday before Midsummer Day.
We know that King Charles I had a plan for the drainage of all the fens. He envisaged a town in the little Isle of Manea called Charlemont. However trouble in the Country upset his plans, and the town never materialised.
‘The Chapel of Ease to Coveney’ as the first building was called, was replaced by the present building, consecrated on April 1st 1875. At that time the Vicar was the Rev E J Marshall, who was assisted by his Curate, the Rev A L’Argent Bell.
On April 4th 1875, there was no evening service at Coveney, and the entry in the service register read: “The Rector preached the first evening sermon at St Nicolas, Manea, consecrated on April 1st”.
The next visit was made on November 30th that year.
The building is of stone in the Early Decorated style. It cost £4,000 to erect and consists of chancel, nave, north transept, north aisle, vestry and over the chancel arch, a turret containing a bell.
The Church Register dates from the year 1708.
Church Registers 1875 – 1975
Registers of Marriages - record the marriage details of 1448 couples
Register of Baptisms - record the baptisms of 2211 persons
Register of Burials - records details of 832 funeral services
William John Ford Butcher from Beck Row near Mildenhall helped to build the Church. He married Sarah Ann Oldfield from Manea, and both of them are buried in the churchyard with their grave near the West door.
The Rev. G Guy, during his ministry, lived with his family first at The Chestnuts in School Lane. But when the Catherine Wheel, a public house next to the Church was bought, it was modernised and made into a vicarage in 1902.
The Institiute, which belonged to Mr R Sears, a Manea farmer who lived at Park House, was used for Sunday School and church meetings.
A harmonium was played by Mrs Guy and Miss Skelton (neice of Mr W Skelton, another village farmer), because there was no organ in the church.
The 27th and 31st anniversaries of the consecration of the church were observed in 1902 and 1906, and in 1914 a fund was launched to raise money for a new organ, to replace the harmonium.
It was in 1921 that a site for a Church hall was discussed and the plan became a reality in 1925. Ten years later a new heating system was installed in the church.
At this time a mission church at Welches Dam served the residents both there and at Purls Bridge. Mr Wootten from St Wendreda’s Parish at March cycled over each Sunday afternoon to supervise its Sunday School and take a service. However, the services were discontinued while the Rev Herbert was vicar.
We are very proud of our Church of St Nicolas, with its stained-glass window in the chancel depicting the Ascension. The window was given in memory of Mr W W Green, and the pulpit is in memory of the Rev. A L’Argent Bell.
Other features are the brass lectern and located near the west door, a stone font. Also in the west end of the Church there is a War Memorial plaque and an oak table, probably used in earlier times as an altar.
The Church silver includes two chalices and patens. The larger of the chalices was presented to Rev Arthur L’Argent Bell M.A. by Walden Lodge of Freemasons No. 1280 1875. The smaller of the chalices was presented by Robert Negus and William Crofs, both Churchwardens in 1774.
The beautiful red carpet which adorns the chancel and nave was given by the Rev. Canon W Burne and Mrs Burne.
Until quite recently a picture of Saint Paul and Saint James by Martino Di Bartolomeo hung on a pillar in the nave. It was found to be quite valuable and at Sotheby’s on December 8th 1971, it fetched £3,000. The money helped meet the cost of repairing the roof.
For many years no burials have taken place in the Churchyard. The Northern end, where the village War Memorial stands, always has been well kept. The Southern strip has proved difficult to maintain, however through the help of band of village men whom the Vicar calls “The Ship’s Company” and Mr W Seabrook, improvements had been brought about by 1975.
It is in this Southern part of the Churchyard that many residents of Purl’s Bridge and Welches Dam who died in a cholera epidemic, are buried together.