The Episcopal Society comprised of Branford, Guilford and New Haven was established in 1748 even though this group was still legally bound to the First Ecclesiastical Society of Branford. At that time itinerant ministers held worship services in people’s homes as they traveled from town to town. During the revolutionary war, the Episcopal Society was forced to go underground because Episcopalians were considered part of the Anglican Church of England.
Trinity Episcopal Church
After the war a number of members wished to break away from the First Ecclesiastical Society to form the Episcopal Church. “They all progressed together in obedience to the general determination to found a parish”.*
Three things had to be done: the parish had to be legally organized, a place of worship had to be provided and a pastor had to be secured. In 1784 members of the Episcopal Society had legally been released from paying dues to the First Ecclesiastical Society of Branford now known as the First Congregational Church. On November 28, 1784 the Rev. James Sayre was hired to conduct the services of the church. A wooden framed church was built on the Green northwest of the present edifice. Lumber was provided by the First Ecclesiastical Society. The Episcopal Society of Branford established a church with 54 members under the newly consecrated Episcopal Bishop of the United States Samuel Seabury. The appearance of the name Trinity Episcopal Church was first found in church records dated 1818.
The present church building was consecrated by Bishop Brownell on January 27, 1852. It was designed by a New Haven architect, S.M. Stone in the English Gothic style with ship’s siding lumber. The Derby Building and Lumber Company constructed the church for the sum of $5500. The original exterior of the building was a classic English gothic design with ornate pinnacles, crockets and parapet, lancet windows and buttresses. The interior structural design was influenced by ship building techniques using oak, hemlock and hickory, which was available along the coast of Connecticut at that time. The ceiling beams and rafters were hand hewn. Over the years some of the ornate detailing was removed from the church exterior. In 1920, a white stucco covering was added to the exterior walls as a protection. The stucco was replaced with vertical widths of long leafed southern pine in 1944. Around the turn of the century, the lighting of the church was converted from gas to electricity.
|Above, circa 1852
The Messenger first appeared in 1907 as a means of communicating with the parishioners.
There are thirteen stained glass memorial windows in the church of which three are Tiffany windows. The oldest windows are located in the Narthex and date back to 1881 and 1889. These windows originally were in the chancel and are believed to have come from England.
Trinity’s only bell was cast in Troy, New York in 1869 weighing 2500 pounds. The bell was used as Branford’s first fire alarm until 1925. The parish hall was built for $8481 in 1916. The hall served as an infirmary during the great influenza outbreak in 1916. In the 1930’s the area under the church was excavated to create the present undercroft. The copper cross finial and ball base were installed on the steeple in memory of Richard Bradley in 1938. The undercroft was remodeled and the kitchen improved in 1949. During this period of time, the original carved walnut pulpit was reinstalled replacing the brass pulpit stand and new sacristies were added. A free standing altar was given in 1982 in memory of Reverend James Martin.
The Rectory, located on Elizabeth Street, was built in 1953. Records indicate that there were two previous rectories. One was located on Montowese Street. The parish house, which sits behind the Church, was built in 1957 with a connecting passageway to the undercroft.
Trinity Church with the Parish Hall, late 1950s
The first year that women served on the Vestry was 1974. Since Trinity was founded there have been 46 Rectors. After 212 years, the first female ordained minister was called to serve the parish as an assistant to the Rector.
In the early 1990’s plans were made to create a restoration fund. To date there have been three phases. The first and second phases were completed in the late 1990’s. The third phase was launched in 2004 and is ongoing.
Today Trinity anchors the eastern edge of the historic Branford Green and serves as a gracious testament to the faith of generations of worshipers.
*Bailey, Rev. Melvin K., An Historical Sketch of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Branford Ct. 1887, p.20