A simple-looking church, the Chapel of St. Peter ad Murum (on the wall) is located in Bradwell-on-Sea (Bradwell-juxta-Mare), on the Dengie Peninsula of Essex, UK. “ad Murum” seems especially fitting as when you visit this chapel you have a real sense that you’re on the edge of the world. However, the name was given because St. Peter’s sat on the wall of an abandoned Roman fort, Othona.
The chapel is thought to have been built by Bishop Cedd (St. Cedd) in 654 at the behest of the King of the East Saxons, Sigeberht the Good. Roman bricks and stones were used in its construction, and the sturdy walls are more than two feet thick.
After Cedd died of the plague, St Peter’s became part of the Diocese of London and disappeared from church records until the 1400s! In its long history it has survived fire, the Tudors’ dissolution of the monasteries, use as a cow shed and heavy bombing in the area during World War Two.
In the 1920s, this special chapel was restored and reconsecrated. In the 1950s it became a Grade I Listed building, gaining the protection it so rightly deserves.
Even today, it is used for church services and as a pilgrimage site. It is often visited by pilgrims and ramblers who make the 45-mile journey from Chipping Ongar to it along St. Peter’s Way. I have walked a large part of this journey, and one day intend to complete the entire walk. It’s a beautiful journey surrounded by wild places and steeped in history.
I’m not a particularly religious person, but St. Peter’s felt special to me from the moment I visited, and was a place I gravitated towards when I lived in Essex. It amazes me that this historic and ancient building has survived wars, the ravages of weather and the North Sea and religious reformation and still just sits, quietly, unlocked, at the edge of the world.
After my Dad passed away I had a very meaningful encounter at the Chapel of St. Peter with a woman from the nearby Othona Community. St. Peter’s is first on my mind when I think about what I miss in Essex.
If you’re in Essex and you enjoy history and nature, I encourage you to visit this special place. It’s beautiful at any time of year, but be prepared for wind.