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Key Events and Dates
The Early History
A Modern History (the 2007 report on Chapel activities)
Our history starts nearly 1400 years ago when Cedd arrived in what we now call Essex.
Key Events and Dates
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.
A Modern History (the Chapel 2007 report)
The world it seems, never ceases to beat a path to the ever-open door of the Chapel. 'Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest', as Thomas Chilsholm's hymn has it, the Pilgrims come. Each with their own story, each with their own gift of thankfulness to bring on their pilgrimage or with their burden of care to lay down here in this Holy Place. Some of them we meet by design - more and more groups want a 'guided' tour with a brief talk about the history and significance of this place. Others we meet by accident - wandering in when we are at the Chapel or encountering them somewhere on the road.
We keep a book at the chapel in which we invite visitors and pilgrims to record their names, when they came, where they came from and a brief comment. On one sample page of thirty-six entries are listed a diversity of places as far apart as Southend, Basildon, Perth West Australia, Danbury, Italy, Pitsea, Middelburg North Carolina, Dorking, Newport Pagnall, Apla Samoa, Cyprus and Venezuela. Their comments range across 'Peaceful', 'Beautiful', 'Wonderful', 'Amazing!', 'Impressive', 'Moving', 'Very Quaint', 'Beautifully Scerene', 'An Oasis of peace and more in a frantic world', 'Exudes the centuries of worship and peace', 'Never fails to amaze', 'What a surprise', 'Big!' 'Impresionante!' 'Holy', 'A proper place to worship.' and 'Yummy!' Few fail to be moved in some way by their visit here.
The Chapel year is underpinned by the Eucharist celebrated there at 08.00 on Wednesday mornings followed most weeks by breakfast at the Othona Community. This regular underpinning sustains many and varied activities: School visits, parish pilgrimages and confirmation groups, students of Architecture and Anglo-Saxon history. Chelmsford Cathedral Choir and the Cathedral 'walkers' make their annual visit to the chapel as do the Pleshey 'walkers' and the Choir from St Mark with St Margaret Plumstead Common.
The year unfolds with our Good Friday Walk of Witness following the Pilgrim Route from St Thomas Bradwell-on-Sea to St Peter's Chapel, walking the Stations of the Cross down the Chapel Track and finishing with a service in the Chapel. We gathered in the thickest mist we had seen all year at 05.30 on Easter Day to kindle the Paschal Fire and to celebrate that 'Christ was Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
The Chapel was the backdrop for the Annual Bradwell Pilgrimage on 7th July 2007 when Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor encouraged us all with his thoughts about Spiritual Ecumenism. Pilgrims were invited to leave behind a prayer card with their details and prayer concerns. Some 700 responded, some cards contain one name, some as many as 35! and all these people, places and concerns have been remembered throughout the year at our regular Wednesday service.
A wide and exciting variety of Summer Evening Services followed in July and August. The Chapel resounded to many voices of prayer and worship from the stately measured tones of formal Choral Evensong to Christian new wave. A film crew were present at the last Summer Evening Service, gathering material for a forthcoming magazine programme about contemporary life in the British countryside.
Innovations this year included the Parish Animal Service which was attended by 40 people, 10 dogs, 2 horses and a gerbil! The Chapel was the focus for a Deanery Mother's Union Quiet Day in September and continues to be the local Spiritual Home of the Othona Community with whom we work closely.
The 'season' ends with a Eucharist for St Cedd on the evening of the last Sunday in October. The Chapel is flooded with light and expectation at the Parish carol service on the evening of the Sunday before Christmas with once again more than 200 of us braving the elements to join our voices with those of the Angels and hear the Christmas story unfold.
We are all too aware of the depth of need and distress of an increasing number of people who arrive at the Chapel looking for answers to life's problems. Given the limited resources available to us, we are considering what further things might be done to provide information or support for these people.
As ever, tribute must be paid and thanks given to the band of local volunteers from Bradwell Parish and the Othona community for their hard and unsung work of cleaning, grass cutting, flower arranging, ensuring supply of books and publications, preparing for services, welcoming groups and individuals, providing refreshments, answering queries, tracking down lost property - and lost visitors! Thanks also to the Chapel Committee which cares for the fabric and finances of the Chapel.
Revds Margaret and Laurence Whitford, Chaplains, St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell-on-Sea. March 2008
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