St Peters on the Wall


Location; 18 miles east of Maldon, Essex, on the south shore of the Blackwater Estuary.

Description; The building dates to 654 AD. It is built across the Main Gateway of and from the reused Roman stones and tiles of the Saxon Shore fort Othona.

The Saxon Shore forts were built by the Roman General Carausius at the end of the 3rd century and stretch from Portchester in Hampshire to Brancaster in Norfolk. They get their name from an assumption that they were to protect the roman province from Saxon raids. However it is just as likely that they were built to defend Britannia from the mainstream roman army, as Carausius declared himself emperor of Britain in 286AD. Seven years later he was murdered by an officer, and Britannia again became part of the Roman Empire under Maximian. 

Marked in the ground are the foundations of an apse. The remains of brick arches show where this attached to the east wall. However, if the two fragments of arches are projected round, they form two full arches, requiring a central pillar which is most unusual for a church. It is, in fact, more characteristic of the Roman Gateway which this building replaced.

Built by St Cedd as a monastery, it survived as a chapel to the nearby Bradwell Parish Church, before being used as a barn. It was restored in 1920.

The remains of the arches can also be seen inside. Both this and the above pictures show the in-filled holes created for doors in both long walls for it's use as a barn. The alter is modern and has three embedded stones, from Iona, Lastingham and Lindisfarne.

Cedd was educated at Lindisfarne. He was invited by Sigbert, King of the East Saxons, on an evangelizing mission. He sailed from Lindisfarne to Bradwell and founded his monastery there. His mission was so successful that he was made Bishop of the East Saxons. The chapel would then have been the first Cathedral in Essex.

Cedd had three brothers; Caelin, Cynebil and Chad. Caelin became chaplin to Ethelwald, king of Northumbria, who asked Cedd to found a monastery for his brother at Lastingham. Cedd was also present at the Synod of Whitby in 664 as a translator, as he was fluent in both Celtic and Latin. Like Wilfred, he took the side of Rome.

Later in 664 he contracted the plague. Thirty monks from Bradwell went to see him as he died at Lastingham. All of them caught the plague, except for one young boy who returned to Bradwell. 

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Sources; St Cedd of Bradwell, available from the site, 40p

Photographs by the author.