An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Bruton Parish, Williamsburg, Virginia

An important pre-Revolutionary parish. It had a strong association with both the College of William and Mary and the colonial government of Virginia. In 1632 or 1633, the parish of Middler Plantation was formed. In 1658 it was combined, by act of the Colonial Assembly, with Harrop Parish to form the new parish of Middletown. The first building was completed around 1660. In 1674 the parishes of Middletown and Marston were combined to form Bruton Parish, named for the town of Bruton in Sussex, England, the ancestral home of the governor, Sir William Berkeley. It is assumed that the 1660 structure was of wood, since in 1677, by order of the vestry, a brick structure was to be built. This building was completed on Nov. 29, 1683. In 1699 the colonial government of Virginia was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg and Bruton Parish became the court church. Church and state were united in Virginia in colonial times and office holders were required to attend church regularly. In 1706 the vestry again ordered a new, larger church to be built. It requested that the government contribute to defray costs. The governor, Alexander Spotswood, agreed to supply the bricks and to pay for twenty-two of the seventy-five feet length of the building. The building was completed in 1715. It has remained in continuous use. Other additions were made by 1769, but no subsequent additions have been made to the exterior. In 1744 the vestry suggested that the General Assembly purchase an organ for the church. In 1752 the church was enlarged and what is believed to be the first church organ in the colonies was installed. During the Civil War, the congregation went “underground” to avoid praying for the President of the United States, as ordered by the Federal commander. The building was used as a hospital. Restoration of the building was begun in 1905 and again in 1960.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.