1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bray (England)

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BRAY, a village in the Wokingham parliamentary division of Berkshire, England, beautifully situated on the west (right) bank of the Thames, 1 m. S. of Maidenhead Bridge. Pop. (1901) 2978. There are numerous riverside residences in the locality. The church of St Michael has portions of various dates from the Early English period onward, and is much restored. It contains a number of brasses of the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. A well-known ballad, “The Vicar of Bray,” tells how a vicar held his position by easy conversions of faith according to necessity, from the days of Charles II. until the accession of George I. and the foundation of “the illustrious house of Hanover” (1714). One Francis Carswell, who is buried in the church, was vicar for forty-two years, approximately during this period, dying in 1709; but the legend is earlier, and the name of the vicar who gave rise to it is not certainly known. That of Simon Aleyn, who held the office from c. 1540 to 1588, is generally accepted, as, in the reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary and Elizabeth, he is said to have been successively Papist, Protestant, Papist and Protestant. The name of Simon Simonds is also given on the authority of the vicar of the parish in 1745; Simonds died a canon of Windsor in 1551, but had been vicar of Bray. Tradition ascribes the song to a soldier in Colonel Fuller’s troop of dragoons in the reign of George I.