Our history starts nearly 1400 years ago when Cedd arrived in what we now call Essex.


Key Events and Dates


The Chapel

653 AD

The arrival of St Cedd.

654

Cedd founded a Celtic style community at Othona, built his Cathedral of St Peters on the foundations of the Roman fort and was consecrated Bishop of Essex. In fact Cedd's Cathedral was built where the gatehouse of the fort had been - so it was built on the wall of the fort - hence the name - Saint Peter-on-the-Wall.

664

Cedd died of the plague at Lastingham in October. Soon after the death of Cedd, Essex was taken into the Diocese of London and St Peter's became a minster for the surrounding country.

1068

The Chapel became the property of the Benedictine monastery of St Valery on the Somme.   

1391

The Chapel was sold to William of Wykeham.

1750

For many years it was used as a barn for the storage of grain and shelter of cattle.

1920

Restored for use as a Chapel.


The Early History


1300 years ago there were people working in Ireland and Scotland to spread the Christian faith. In Ireland, Patrick had established many monasteries and from there Columba had come to Iona, a tiny island off the west coast of Scotland, to establish a monastery and many other Christian centres.


From Columba's monastery, a man called Aidan was sent from Iona at the invitation of King Oswald of Northumbria to set up a monastery at Lindisfarne on the north-east coast. It was also to be a school where Anglo-Saxon boys could be trained to become priests and missionaries. It was in this school that Cedd and his brothers Caelin, Cynebil and Chad learnt to read and write in Latin, and learnt to teach the Christian faith.


The four brothers were all ordained as priests and two of them, Cedd and Chad, later became bishops. Cedd's first mission was to go to the midlands, then called Mercia, at the request of its ruler, King Paeda, who wanted his people to become Christians. Cedd was so successful that when King Sigbert of the East Saxons (Essex) asked for a similar mission, it was Cedd who was sent.


So in 653 Cedd sailed down the east coast of England from Lindisfarne and landed at Bradwell. Here he found the ruins of an old deserted Roman fort. He probably first built a small wooden church but as there was so much stone from the fort he soon realised that would provide a much more permanent building, so he replaced it the next year with the chapel we see today! Cedd modelled his church on the style of churches in Egypt and Syria. The Celtic Christians were greatly influenced by the churches in that part of the world and we know that St Antony of Egypt had built his church from the ruins of a fort on the banks of a river, just as Cedd did on the banks of the River Blackwater in Essex (then known as the River Pant).


Cedd's mission to the East Saxons was so successful that the same year he was recalled to Lindisfarne and made Bishop of the East Saxons. His simple monastery at Bradwell would, like those at Iona and Lindisfarne, have been at the same time a church, a community of both men and women, a hospital, a library, a school, an arts centre, a farm, a guest house and a mission base. From there he established other Christian centres at Mersea, Tilbury, Prittlewell and Upminster.


Cedd often visited his northern childhood home and in 659 was introduced to King Ethelwald who asked him to establish a monastery in Northumbria. Cedd chose a site at Lastingham as it was wild and seemed fit only for wild beast, robbers and demons. Again this was exactly how St Antony of Egypt chose his sites. In 664, while at his monastery in Lastingham, Cedd caught the plague. As he lay dying 30 of his monks from Bradwell came to be with him. They too caught it and one young boy survived and returned to Bradwell.