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Memories of England: The ancient Chapel of St Peter on the wall at Bradwell-on-sea, Essex, England

11/01/2015

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On 28 August 2004, I participated in the “St Peter’s Way,” a walk of 45 miles in one day from Chipping Ongar, Essex to the ancient Chapel of St Peter on the wall at Bradwell-on-sea, a distance of 45 miles. I was awestruck! There at the edge of the world, the land is flat, the wind races over the Essex fields and the marshes echo with haunting bird cries. A long stretch of Roman road leads east from the village, becomes a track and then a path. At the end of this path, where the sea meets the sky, is the oldest church in England. The Chapel was built to mark the spot where St Cedd landed in 654, on his mission from Lindisfarne to lighten the Dark Ages of the heathen East Angles.

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Using bricks and stone from the ruined Roman fort of Othona, the Saxons created what was almost a cathedral, 50 ft. (15.2m) long, 22 ft. (6.7m) wide and 25 ft. (7.6m) high. The people of Essex worshipped there for 600 years or more, but, so remote was this spot, that congregations dwindled and the chapel eventually passed out of knowledge, which probably explains how it has survived. In 1920, a passing rambler noticed the noble proportions. He began to excavate and soon realised that he was looking at sacred ground. So St Peter’s Chapel was restored as a place for peace and reflection. This is without doubt England’s most sacred site, and it’s little known and that’s amazing. I yearn to return there.

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