Sir Henry Bate Dudley

b. 28 August 1745 d.1 February 1824 - Author, Rector, Magistrate and Squire

Sir Henry combined the roles of Rector and Squire of Bradwell on Sea from his home at Bradwell Lodge.

Sir Thomas Bate Dudley painted by Gainsborough

He was the second child in a family of 12 born to Rev Henry Bate who was the incumbent at North Fambridge parish church although his family hailed from Worcestershire.

Henry was educated at Queen's College, Oxford and ordained by the Bishop of London in 1772 serving his curacy at Leatherhead and then Hendon. While he was at Hendon he met David Garrick,  Bonnel Thornton,George Selwyn , Colman Cumberland, William Hogarth , William Shields and Thomas Gainsborough. When his father died in 1775 Henry has inducted to the living at North Fambridge. He does not appear to have played a large role in the life at North Fambridge using the income to support his brothers and  sisters.

He remained in London becoming editor of the Morning Post which became famous for its daring approach to social and political matters. After falling out with the backers of the Morning Post Henry worked for several  other newspapers. In 1780 he continued to cement his place in society by marrying Miss Mary White whose sister was the famous actress Mrs Hartley.

Lady Mary Bate Dudley as painted by Gainsborough

Three portraits of Sir Henry and one of his wife Mary by his friend Thomas Gainsborough passed through several hands before they were bought for the nation and now hang in the National Gallery.


He earned the nickname ' the fighting parson' by taking part in two duels. The first duel was settled with pistols following a Morning Post article about the Countess of Strathmore. The second followed remarks made by Henry at two Dragoon Officers concerning remarks made about Mrs Hartley. The duel was eventually completed with fists which saw Henry triumphing one again to add further notoriety to is name.

Henry then made a mistake by publishing an article concerning the Duke of Richmond who was at the time a Minister of Ordnance stating that he  opposed the strengthening of England's Defences. The Duke of Richmond took legal action and Henry was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.

Once Henry was released he opted for a quieter life and moved to The rectory at Bradwell on Sea as curate in 1781 and his name appeared on the Marriage Register for the first time in 1782 .The Rector of Bradwell was George Pawson but like many Rectors of his time he visited Bradwell very rarely being content to take the income but leave the work to his curate.. Henry purchased the advoson in 1784 which gave him the right to nominate the Rector of Bradwell .

An etching of Bradwell Lodge made in 1793 after the renovation was complete

Henry made some major improvement to the run down church. He secured the churchyard by driving out the pigs that frequented the area  and he brought the church up to acceptable standards. He added a large extension to the Rectory in the belief that the Prince Regent may visit. The Rectory later became known as Bradwell Lodge to mark its new grandeur. In the surrounding area he reclaimed 250 acres of land from the sea, drained the marshy Glebe land and spent £28,000 which was a large sum of money to improve local cultivation. By 1797 he owned Delamers , Great Millets, Little Millets and rented East Hall, Munkens, Hidemans , Pierce Lorkings and Jordans farms. He lived as much like a squire as a parson and became very popular in the village.

 Henry was then put in charge of the roads in the Dengie 100 and took action to compel the Parish Councils to put their roads in order. Most complied but  the following fines were levied on Parishes that had failed to make the required improvements.  1783 Latchingdon £120 -Purleigh £100   1784 Mayland £80 - Mundon £250 - Purleigh £300.

During the Napoleonic War, Henry was also put in charge of the defence of the Coastline. A roll was taken of all who could serve and a Militia raised by ballot . Some reluctant residents selected in the ballot to be members of the Militia chose to pay the wife of another resident to serve in their place.

In 1784 he was left a considerable amount of money in a will with the condition that he added Dudley to his name and this he became Henry Bate Dudley.

Sir Henry was also a keen master of foxhounds.  His most famous chase ended at Creeksea Church where the fox scrambled onto an ivy covered buttress on the Church Roof. The fox was followed onto the roof by Sir Henry and 6 foxhounds to make the kill on the roof of the chancel. Witty as ever he told the tale to friends with the remark that the fox died without he benefit of Clergy.

On the death of Rev Pawson Henry presented himself to the Bishop who would not accept Henry's legitimacy as amongst other things he farmed the Glebe before induction. Henry tried to argue his case and was supported by national heavyweights such as Lord St Vincent but to no avail. The case dragged on and so a new Rector was appointed by the crown who was to hold the post for 11 years until his death when Henry as presented his brother in law Richard Birch and became the new Rector.

Between 1775 and 1811 Henry wrote a number of plays and comic operas most of which were performed on the Theatre Royal in London. Titles include Henry and Emma , the Rival Candidates, The Blackamoor Washed White, The Fitch of Bacon, The Dramatic Puffers , the Magic Picture ,The Woodham and The Travellers in Switzerland.  The phrase 'Wonders will never cease'  is attributed to Sir Henry in a letter to his friend David Garrick who subsequently used it in his plays.

In 1804 Henry was offered the benefice of Kilscoran , Chancellor of the Ferms and Rector of Kilglas in Ireland and moved to Ireland until 1812 when he returned to England to become Rector of Willingham , Cambridgeshire.

In 1813 The Prince Regent conferred a Baronetcy on Henry making him Sir Henry Bate Dudley.

Henry was not to enjoy a quiet life as Rector. In 1816 riots broke out in East Anglia mainly caused by poverty increased by the return of soldiers at the end of the 21 years of Napoleonic Wars. The situation was especially bad in the town of Littleport. Henry rode for the town with two armed detachments led by Colonel Methuen and Captain Wortham to Littleport where they found the me barricaded inside the George and Dragon Public House. Henry approached the men and asked them to surrender . They refused by opening fire from the upper windows. There was an exchange of fire when ended with the rioters being captured at the scene or in nearly marshes. Following the Littlebrook Riots a total of 18 people were arrested for charges ranging from theft to robbery.

At the subsequent trial 5 men were sentenced to death, 9 to transportation and the rest to one year in prison. Sir Henry was thanked by the Jury , presented with a gold cup by his Bishop and the inhabitants of Cambridge subscribed to purchase a silver plate to mark his 'very spirited and firm conduct during the riots'

Shortly after the riots he retired and moved to Cheltenham where he died aged 79 years.

Postcard of Bradwell Lodge  taken about 1910 during the tenure of Rev Owen

Bradwell Lodge is a former Tudor house that had been part of Henry 8th  divorce settlement from Anne of Cleves.

 It was extensively extended for Bate Dudley by the well known architect John Johnson. The Tudor northern half consists of oak framing resting on a plinth of brickwork. The newer southern portion is of late classical design fashionable in the 18th century. There are several beautiful fireplaces that were the work of designer Angelica Kaufmann and the overall design of plaster work is believed to have been the work of Robert Adam who was considered the foremost expert of his day. The building is topped by a spacious belvedere that proved one on Gainsborough's favourite painting studios.

To this day Sir Henry is remembered by the naming of a road in Bradwell on Sea as Bate Dudley Drive.