St Peters Chapel, Bradwell on Sea

St Peter's Chapel is one of the oldest intact churches in the country having been built in about 653 AD by St Cedd.

Towards the end of the Roman empire and the beginnings of the Saxon occupation Christian evangelist begun spreading Christianity amongst the native Celts in the British Isles. St Patrick was based in Ireland, St Columb in Scotland and Aidan formed the monastery at Lindisfarne.

St Cedd was trained at Lindisfarne by Aiden and one of a group of missionaries who were to carry the word of Christianity to the Saxons.

In 653AD he landed at Bradwell on the Quay built to service the Roman Othona Fort and began work in the East Essex area. He reported his success to Aiden and was consecrated as a Bishop. He continued his missionary work by building St Peters Chapel at the spot where he had landed and founded other chapels at Tilbury, Prittlewell and Mersea island. The ministry was taken even further when St Cedd established a monastery at Lastingham in the Yorkshire moors.

St Peters developed a twin role in that it offered a monastic community and a centre for the expanding missionary work.

St Cedd visited Lastingham in October 664 but sadly contracted the plague and died at Lastingham. 30 members of the community at St peters were so upset by news of his death that they traveled to Lastingham to pay their respects and once again the plague struck killing 29 of the mourners.

The chapel was damaged during Viking raids although the structure remained intact.

In medieval times it was used as a chapel and a tower was added above the entrance to house two small bells and to act as a look out post and beacon..

During the 17th century St Peters was no longer used as a chapel. The Chancel was pulled down and the Nave used as a barn. St Peters was reputed to have been used by smugglers on many occasions.

In 1795 for the duration of the Napoleonic wars the chapel was used as a  signaling station and in 1811 was upgraded to use the new semaphore signaling as part of the coastal defences and administration to the armed forces quartered in the coastal area.

A drawing of St Peter's when still used as a barn in about 1908 by Rev J Charles Cox

In 1920 Mr Parker who owned the land on which St Peters stood returned the Chapel to the Chelmsford Diocese and it was restored and then re consecrated by the Bishop of Chelmsford on 22 June 1920 .

The altar was consecrated in 1980 by the Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brentwood. In the altar are stones donated by the religious communities at Iona, Lindisfarne and Lastingham

The original Nave still remains as it was in the time of St Cedd being constructed mainly from roman stone and tiles that would have been available from the old roman fort adjoining the chapel. The building measures 49 feet x 21 feet internally with walls that are 2.5 feet thick.

Visitors often remark on the calmness felt in the building and the sense of awe when considering the history of the building.

We are fortunate in that St Cedd appears to have built his chapel directly over the main gateway to the old roman fort of Othona.

As the chapel had such a fine base there is not the cracking and structural damage that often occurred with ancient buildings built directly onto soil.

MORE INFORMATION ON ST PETER'S CHAPEL

The friends of St Peter's Chapel have a web site that tells the story of St Peter's in more details. Click the button below to visit the site

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www.essex-family-history.co.uk