Bradwell, Essex

St. Peter's on the Wall, Bradwell, Essex

Bradwell-on-Sea, not to be confused with the nearby Power Station, is a small, ancient village at the very end of the big square peninsular of Essex which is topped and tailed by the Blackwater and Crouch rivers respectively. Go through the village and carry on towards the sea ... the landscape gets bleaker and flatter and then, just before fields turn to salt marshes, there it stands - a tiny little building, obviously very old, and apparently standing in the middle of nowhere.

Surprisingly this building has up to 1,000 a year, including an annual pilgrimage on the first Saturday in July.

The building was founded by St. Cedd in 654 over the ramparts of the Roman Fort which stood here (hence the name "on the Wall") of which nothing but hummocks and a couple of very small bits of wall remain. He built the church as a Cathedral and was Bishop of Essex until his death in 664 when the Diocese became part of London.

From 1068 until 1391 the Chapel, as it had then become, was owned by the Benedictine Monks of St. Vallery in France. In 1391 the Chapel was sold into private ownership and for many years it was used as a storage place or even a barn for cattle.  In 1920 it was reconsecrated and became a working church once more.

Because it ceased to be a Cathedral very quickly what stands today is the earliest "Cathedral work" to remain in England, simply because earlier Cathedrals were heavily rebuilt in later times. If you find yourself in the area it is worth making the trek out to St. Peter's on the Wall, if nothing else for the sense of grand isolation this spot inspires.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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