Originally a chapel of ease to Sawley, St. Michael's was probably built during the reign of King John. The first building consisted of a nave and small tower. Discovery of an aumbry in the north wall of the nave suggests the chancel arch was the original east window. This aumbry may have been blocked up when the chancel was added c. 1250.
In the thirteenth century it became fashionable to increase the height of church towers by adding a spire. This trend was achieved at Breaston by forming a broach to each upper corner of the tower upon which the octagonal spire now stands.
Following the Black Death, in the mid fourteenth century, a second extension was built onto the chancel with two buttresses added to its north wall for support. At this time the altar was probably moved to its present position. Two piscinas were inset in the south chancel wall, one of which remains; the other was removed during the Victorian restoration.
Three bays were made in the nave's south wall; the removed stone was used to construct the outer wall. At the base of the northernmost bay arch is a sculptured face known as the Breaston Boy, reputed to be that of the master mason in charge of alterations. The new south aisle contained an altar, above which were two corbals to support statues of saints. The piscina here has been despoiled and plugged at some time.
The church's main door was in the south wall and stonework around the outside of this door is decorated with carvings said to be signs of the zodiac. These are now badly eroded. By 1839 this doorway was blocked and a new entrance made in the north wall of the nave.
Early church roofs were often thatched and steeply pitched. To combat fire hazard, and improve internal light, St. Michael's walls were raised and the roof pitch reduced enabling two clerestory windows to be added. The line of the old roof can clearly be seen inside. A window in the north wall of the chancel was probably blocked at this period since a support for a roof beam is embedded in the stone.
The Church goods Commissioners' survey of 5th October 1553 reported that Breaston chapel was served by Ralf Harryson, curate (said to be a dispossessed monk from Dale Abbey).
At this time two bells hung in the steeple and just over a hundred years later, Sir Henry Willoughby of Risley gave a third on which was inscribed Ex dono Henricus Willoughby, Barronet 1657. A buttress to the left of the lower tower may have been added at this time to give support to the additional bell. At the top of this buttress are carved coats of arms of the Gray and Willoughby families along with initial E.T.(sic) R.W.Chur.W.1680. The Churchwardens' Accounts Book of St. Chad's, Wilne, reveal that Edward Jowitt was churchwarden for Breaston in 1680 and Robert White in 1681, so possibly these are their initials.
Early in the 18th century the status of St. Michael's was raised to that of church by an endowment from Elizabeth Gray, daughter of the Hon. Anchitel Gray and Anne (daughter of Sir Henry Willoughby) and an augmentation from Queen Anne's Bounty.
Elizabeth gave a silver chalice with a cover designed to be used as a patten, together with two silver alms dishes which bear her coat of arms. The chalice is inscribed The Hon. Mrs. Eliz. Grey, who endowed this Chapell of breaston, gave to it this Cupp 1721. The Derbyshire alabaster font bears the initials I.W. or T.W. and date 1720, and is believed to have come from Risley Hall. The new font cover was purchased in 1911, despite earlier misgivings that the ornate cherubs might be construed as representing paganism.
The early Victorian age brought many changes to St. Michael's; in 1840 the seating was re-arranged to face north (towards the road), the belfry arch bricked up, and a gallery erected across its wall. Subsequently the belfry was entered through a door in the tower. The pulpit was moved against the north wall of the nave, and the font re-sited.
In 1871 much of this work was reversed! A large early 18th century semi-circular window in the north wall of the nave was replaced with a three-light traceried window. New pews of deal and a pulpit were installed. The floor level was raised 18 inches, and the font once more moved. 26 years later, however, a faculty was granted to build an organ chamber and vestry breaking through the south wall of the chancel, thus forming an arcade of two arches filled with oak screens with doors. These doors were later removed.
Before 1719, when Breaston benefice became united with that of Risley, all baptisms, marriages and burials took place at St. Chad's, Wilne. Interments continued at Wilne until the churchyard at Breaston was consecrated by Bishop Henry Ryder of Lichfield and Coventry in 1824.
Three new bells were hung in 1919, making a new peal of six. A Thanksgiving Service for a "new" second hand organ was held in 1924. This has since been replaced in 1975 with a single-manual instrument (designed by David Butterworth, organist and choirmaster at St. Mary's, Nottingham, and built by Nigel Church) which is sited at the west end of the church. To raise money for this purpose the choir held a 24-hour "Sing-In".
New choir stalls were added at the beginning of the 20th century; the church council was "highly pleased". A north porch was added to the church on 1935 "in affectionate remembrance of William Williamson, Churchwarden". Seats were shortened at the west end; a screen fitted in the tower arch and the font once again moved. Ten years later a new pulpit, lectern and altar rails were installed, and a lych gate built in 1950.
Recently the church has again been re-ordered; the organ and choir have been re-sited to the west end of the south aisle, and pews removed to create an area for additional seating and displays. More recently still, a glass screen has been fitted to the belfry arch, creating an area which can be used as a creche during services. The glass door to this area has a modern engraving of St. Michael.
In 2003 the window at the west end of the north wall of the nave was fitted with a stained glass depiction of the Holy Spirit, in memory of Canon Wilfred Pemberton who was rector of Breaston from 1951 to 1991.
The addition of an extra floor in part of the School Room/Church Hall enabled us in 2007 to create a new church office.
In 2008 the chancel was reordered: the old choir stalls were removed, the area carpeted and equipped with comfortable seating and new curtains, including one to close off the chancel arch, thus providing a more intimate space for small services or meetings.
In 2010 the internal oak doors were replaced with glass ones, making the entrance to the church much more welcoming.
2012 saw - at last, and much to everyone's relief - the creation of toilet facilities, situated in the old "engine shed" in the southwest corner of the building. This project also includes small kitchen facilities.
In 2013 the single-manual pipe organ was sold, and a two-manual digital electronic instrument installed, in memory of Diane Sanderson, who had been a choir member for 40 years.
2015 saw the refurbishment of the kitchen and toilets in the church hall - long overdue, and a great improvement. We were greatly helped by grants from the Garfield Weston Foundation, Derbyshire County Council (via Councillor Robert Parkinson) and Allchurches Trust.
St. Michael's has no particular claim to fame or notoriety, but like so many of its contemporaries, it has been instrumental in providing both local residents and strangers passing through the area with a quiet place in which to to resolve inner conflicts, pray for God's guidance and gain the strength to face life's problems with a lighter heart. The congregation of this much-loved House of God are always delighted to welcome newcomers.