Thomas ABEL

 B approx 1497 d 30 July 1540 Rector and Royal Confidant

Thomas Abel entered the priesthood and became chaplain to Catherine of Aragon who entrusted him with a secret  commission to Emperor Charles V concerning her divorce from Henry VII. As thanks for the completion of this task she presented him with the Rectorship at Bradwell on Sea.

King Henry VII obtained a divorce which Thomas preached against and published a booklet entitled -
"Invicta Veritas, an answer to the determination of the most famous Universities, that by no manner of law it may be lawful for King Henry to be divorced from the Queen's grace, his lawful and very wife".

Despite a period of imprisonment Thomas contained to preach against the divorce  and was imprisoned in the Tower of London for 6 years. He still maintained his stance and so on 30 July 1540 he died a martyrs death and was  hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn .

In 1886 he was beatified by the Pope as a martyr.


b 28 August 1745 d.1 February 1824 Rector, Magistrate and Squire

Sir Henry combined the roles of national celebrity with that of Rector and Squire of Bradwell on Sea from his home at Bradwell Lodge.

His life is so fascinating that he has a page devoted to his exploits.

to find out about his life


Samuel Levy BENSUSAN  

b.1873 - d.1958    Author

Samuel Bensusan lived at Asheldham and Mote Cottage, St Lawrence . He became famous for novels centred on a fictitious village called Maychester which were affectionate portrayals of life in the Essex Marshes.


Rector of Woodham Walter

b1606   d 1685

Castell entered Cambridge at 15 and became an expert on languages. He assisted Sir Brian Walton in his polyglot Bible ( arabic, herbrew and english language side by side). This bible is still used by scholars today. 

He spent 16 years preparing a lexicon in 9 languages and fell into debt as it did not prove a commercial success.

 Sadly he was put into debtors prison for debts of his brother for which he had stood as guarantor and could no longer afford to pay.

In 1660 he wrote an published a book of verses supporting the restoration of Charles II to the throne.

This paid off as he was appointed by Charles II as a Royal Chaplain.


    Peter John CHAMBERLEN  

b 1601  d1683    Surgeon

Peter Chamberlen lived at Woodham Mortimer Hall. He advocated the incorporation of Midwives and the provision of public baths. In surgical terms he was a pioneer in the use of forceps in the delivery of babies. At this time many babies and mother died during difficult labours.
Chamberlen avoided becoming involved in the Civil War by buying Woodham Mortimer Hall away from London but still within a day's ride of his practice in London.
Peter Chamberlen is buried in the adjoining churchyard.

His son Hugo (one of 18 children) was appointed as physician to King Charles II.
In 1692 Hugo officiated at the birth of a son to princess Anne but the child died immediately after birth. Hugo advocated a state medical service paid for by taxation .Hugo fell from favour and moved to Amsterdam to practice although he died in Essex and his tomb can be found in Woodham Mortimer Churchyard.

Frederick Nicholas CHARRINGTON

B 1850 D 1936 Temperance Campaigner

A member of the Charrington brewery family Charrington saw the ill effects of alcohol and spent his life campaigning against its ill effects.

He established a home for alcoholics on Osea Island working on the basis that the alcoholics would be unable to obtain alcohol on the island.


Son of the Earl of Oxford who was Lord of the Manor of Stokehall(Althorne) . He spent most of his life as a soldier in the service of Edward iii in Scotland, France and Brittany.
De Vere was a commander of the first division in the victories at Crecy in 1351 and Poiters in 1356 when 8,000 Britons beat 50,000 Frenchmen.  

The Fitzwalter family were a prominent Essex family. Their wealth was  founded by Walter Fitzwalter  (d 1198) who established home in the Dunmow area. His son Robert was elected leader of the Barons who forced King John to accept the Magna Carta and his signature appears on the document.
Walter Fitzwalter ( b1400 d1432) was the 7th Baron had by this time moved the family seat to Woodham Walter .His only child was a daughter called Elizabeth who in 1444 she married Sir John Radcliffe .
Their son John( b1452 b1492) was summoned to parliament in 1485 as Baron Fitzwalter. He took part in the Perkin Warbeck conspiracy and in 1495 was beheaded.
John's son Robert ( b 1483 -1542) regained the trust of the Monarch and was created as 1st Viscount Fitzwalter.
On the death of Robert, the 6th Earl Fitzwalter, in 1629 the title passed to the Mildmay family.


d.1811  Rector and Author

John Gamble was Chaplain General to the forces and Rector at Bradwell on Sea.
He was also an expert of telegraphy and published a book which was accepted as the definitive work on communications for that period.


1606 - 1662 Priest

John Gauden was the son of the Rector of Mayland who entered the ministry and became Bishop of Worcester. In 1646 John Gauden was the author of a book about the execution of Charles 1st.


Rector of Bradwell on Sea

Lyhart was a fellow of Oriel collage, Oxford who was appointed as Rector of Bradwell on Sea in 1440. His time at bradwell was limited to 4 years as in 1446 he was appointed as Bishop of Norwich. During his term at Norwich the cathedral was paves, the nave  and the beautiful Rood Loft completed.

On his death he left the large sum of 10 for the poor.

He is best known for his part in brokering the reconciliation in the Roma catholic world, which had split with factions recognising Pope Felix V and Pope Eugene IV , by helping to persuade Felix V to renounce his claim to the papacy.

see Fitzwalter

Guido MONE

Rector of Bradwell on Sea and Statesman d 31 08 1407

Mone was Rector of Bradwell from 1374 to 1384

He held high office in both State and Church being Treasurer of England for both Richard II and Henry IV , Keeper of the Privy Seal, Treasurer , Bishop of St David's and Major of St Paul's Cathedral.


Hugh Glendwr Palmer Owen

B 19 May 1859  D 20 October 1912

Hugh Owen pictured on a wills cigarette card in 1896h g owen

Hugh ( Universally known as Glen) was the son of Bradwell Rector Edward Owen and was a naturally gifted cricketer. Glen played for Essex Cricket Club from 1882 to 1902 and for most of the years was Club Captain. He also played a few games for MCC including matches against the touring Australian side.

'Glen' played 136 matches and scored 4510 runs with a top score of 134.

'Glen' Owen's Headstone in Bradwell Churchyard


John Robert Blayney OWEN

Rector of Bradwell on Sea and Sportsman B 25 May 1848 D 1821

Educated at Queen's College, Oxford he was Second Master at Trent College from 1872 to 1881 and then appointed as Headmaster of Hawkshead Grammar School , Westmoreland in 1881. He was ordained whilst at Trent Collage and in 1890 left Hawkshead Grammar School to become rector of Sherford before moving to become Rector of Bradwell on Sea from 1904 to 1921.

John was a keen sportsman who was capped by England as an international footballer playing as no 11 in the 3rd ever international match on 7 March 1874 in Glasgow when Scotland beat England 2 -1. Thus he became the areas first ever international footballer.



Before her accession to the throne Mary lived at New Hall, Boreham.
At times in and around 1550 her followers felt that her life was in danger at the hands of Queen Elizabeth 1.

On 4 July 1550 the danger was considered so great that Dubois , the Spanish Ambassodor sailed his six oared galley to Stansgate where he waited with 6 Spanish Ships to take Mary to the Spanish Court at Brussels.

A stong storm blew up and by the time it had subsided the crisis has past and the escape was not required.


see fitzwalter


d 664      Missionary

In 663AD St Cedd was commissioned to convert the East Saxons by King Oswy. St Cedd became Bishop of the East Saxons administering his diocese from Ythancestir at Bradwell on Sea next to the roman fort of Othona.
St Cedd died of yellow fever in 664 . Many of his East Saxon converts believed that this was a sign that the old gods were offended by their conversion to Christianity and reverted to paganism.

Rev Alexander  SCOTT

b 1768  d 1840   Vicar

Rev Scott was chaplain to Horatio Nelson at the time of Trafalgar . Nelson died in the arms of Rev Scott.
From 1809 to 1840 he was vicar of both Southminster and Burnham on Crouch.
On his retirement from Navy service Rev Scott was given Nelsons wardroom table which is still on display in the vestry of St Leonard's Church, Southminster

Thomas SMITH   

B 1857  D 1955        Horticulturist

In 1879 Joseph Fels , a rich American, bought an area of land at Mayland . He then developed a co-operative letting sections of the land to smallholders who produced vegetable for the London market.
The Co-operative was managed by Thomas Smith.
After a few years Thomas Smith saved enough money to buy a small plot of land called the Homestead at Mayland. Smith and his wife lived frugally and ploughed all profits back into the land until he had two 50 x 20 greenhouses growing tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuces.
Smith developed new  methods , based on French horticulture, which brought greater crops and allowed him to grow tender salad crops and melons which until then had to be imported.
His methods brought him great fame and the Homestead was visited by H Rider Haggard, George Lansbury and Prince Kropotkin.

Smith wrote The profitable culture of vegetables which became accepted as the definitive work  on horticulture for the next 50 years.


William Wedgwood Benn, was born on the 10th May 1877 died 17th November 1960 Benn became the youngest MP winning the seat of Wapping for the Liberals in 1906

When the First World War was declared in August 1914 although Benn was a junior minister he resigned to join the armed forces. Benn became a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps winning the Distinguished Flying Cross, the French Croix de Guerre and the Italian Military Cross.  

In January 1927, Benn joined the Labour Party and in 1929 became secretary for state for India.  

Although nearly sixty-three at the outbreak of the Second World War, Benn enlisted in the Royal Air Force as a pilot officer. Over the next four years he flew on several operational missions rising to the rank of Air Commodore.  

In December 1940, Benn as asked by Clement Attlee to become a Labour member of the House of Lords. Benn took the title Lord Stansgate in deference to the Family home at Steeple, which has been built by his father.  

On Lord Stansgate's death, Lady Stansgate continues to reside in the family seat at Steeple although the second Viscount of Stansgate, better known as Tony Benn, immediately renounced the title to continue his distinguished political career, which meant that the title skips a generation.


Thomas Sutter lived at Cold Norton Hall . In 1610 he founded Charterhouse School .
At the time he was described as the richest commoner in England having made his fortune from Soldiering and Coal mining in Durham.
Until recent times the Governors of Charterhouse School owned Cold Norton Hall.

Christopher  URSWICK

Rector of Bradwell on Sea

Urswick was at the centre of the Royal Court in the late 1400's . His position as priest and confessor to Lady Margaret Beaumont mother to King Henry 7th gave him great power evidenced by his appearance having a conversation with powerbroker Lord Derby in Shakespeare's play Richard III.

Urswick was Rector of Bradwell on Sea from 1488 amongst several other similar appointments. He was mainly an absentee Rector leaving the ministry in the hands of his Curate although on his death Essex featured prominently amongst his legacies


        Rector of Purleigh

b 1602  d 1652

Purleigh church was built in the 14th century but has a major restoration in 1892.This restoration was paid by Americans in memory of Laurence Washington who was Rector from 1632 to 1643 . The reason for this generosity? Rector Washington was Great Grandfather of the first president of USA.

Washington became Rector of Purleigh in 1663 but his Royalist oratories upset his superiors and he was removed in 1643.

He died in 1652 and was buried at All Saints Church, Maldon.

Washington had six sons John and Laurence who unhappy with their fathers treatment and emigrated to America. John was the Great Grandfather of the first US President George Washington.

for the full story behind the Washington Family at Purleigh