HISTORY OF BRADWELL ON SEA

Bradwell on Sea is a quiet village on the northern edge of the Dengie peninsula sited where the River Blackwater meets the North Sea.

This key location has earmarked Bradwell as a special place from Roman times to the present day.

ROMANS
The Romans invaded Britain in AD43 and established many settlements in Essex. These settlements made rich pickings for Saxon and Frankish Raiders who arrived by longboat to plunder coastal areas. To combat this threat the Romans established 9 sea forts on the east coast including a fort at Bradwell  to guard the approaches to the Colne and Blackwater. This fort was called Othona and continued to operate for 200 years.

The fort was square with 12 feet thick walls with a moat constructed around the fort and manned by a force of auxiliaries called the Fortenses who would use camouflaged scout boats to watch the shore and keep in touch with the force headquarters at Richborough and Bolougne.

Sadly little remains of the Roman fort although the area is still identifiable. The sister fort at Porchester fortunately remains in good repair.

to read more about the roman fort of Othona

ST PETERS CHAPEL and  ST CEDD
St Cedd was a missionary to Ireland before the fall of Rome . After the Romans left Britain the Saxons colonised the Country and Anglo Saxon Britain emerged. The Country was controlled by many Kings ruling over small areas and paganism took a hold on the country.
In 653 AD St Cedd was sent by Pope Gregory to carry out missionary work with the Anglo-Saxons in Eastern England.
No doubt attracted by the efficient roman road linking Othona to the rest of the Country St Cedd landed at Bradwell . By this time Othona was ruined and provided building material to construct a Cathedral which St Cedd named Ythancaestir. The missionary work spread to churches at Prittlewell, Mersea, Tilbury and a monastery at Lastingham in Yorkshire. The Cathedral continued to thrive until St Cedd succumbed to the plague on
a visit to Lastingham in 664 .

The Church survived until Danish raiders exposed its isolated coastal situation.
 A Parish Church was built in the centre of the Bradwell in the 1300's to cater for the new population centre leaving St Peter's main use as a navigational aid.
By The 17th Century the church was de consecrated and used as a barn by the local farmer.
In 1920 the building was re-consecrated and restored although by that time the chancel, apse and tower had been demolished.
The historic connection is recognised by an annual interdenominational pilgrimage which attracts Christian from a wide area.
to learn more about St Peters Chapel

BRADWELL QUAY

In the 13th century a new quay at Bradwell waterside had been established to export the thriving sheep market not only with London and the cities but with the continent.

Records exist as far back as 1478 of a local vessel called the Christopher carrying loads of wool to Calais, France for distribution in Europe.

 

SIR HENRY BATE DUDLEY

Sir Henry  ( b1745 d.1842)combined the roles of Rector and Squire of Bradwell on Sea from his home at Bradwell Lodge. On a national scale he was editor for 'the Morning Post newspaper'.
Bradwell Lodge was extensively extended by the well known architect John Johnson.
He was a well known character including Thomas Gainsborough, David Garrick, William Hogarth and Mrs Sarah Siddons amongst his friends. Bradwell Lodge was the scene of lavish dinner parties attracting many well known socialites
He spent 28,000 of his personal fortune in draining the marshland around Bradwell and eventually reclaimed over 250 acres from the sea.
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.
To this day Sir Henry is remembered by the naming of a road in Bradwell on Sea as Bate Dudley Drive.

to learn more about Sir Henry Bate-Dudley

WILD FOWLING
The estuary attracted innumerable wildfowl attracted by the rich waters. Brent geese, Mallard, widgeon all abounded and thousands of wild fowl were sent to the markets of London each day.  Bradwell was the base for these wild fowlers whose popular form of transport was a punt which was about 10 feet in length fitted with an punt gun which sprayed shot over a wide area. The punt gunners would lay in the craft and quietly paddle into the middle of a flock of ducks. With one discharge of the punt gun they could kill 50 birds.
The most famous of the punt gunners was Walter Linnet who lived in a small cottage next to Othona .
Another famous punt gunner was Cliff Claydon who is pictured in action in the interesting book ' Blackwater men' ( See bibliography for details).

for more details of Walter Linnet

BRADWELL BAY AIRFIELD

In 1930 a small airfield was established to service aircraft using the offshore sandbanks for target practice.
In 1939 the coast was again threatened by foreign raiders and Bradwell was placed in the front line of defence.
In 1941 Bradwell Bay was enlarged into a full airfield and was used as a fighter base for the remainder of he war.
The first squadron to use the airfield was 418 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force. During the war Bradwell was home to 25 different squadrons flying Boston's , Mosquito's, Beaufighters, Typhoons, Tempests, Hurricanes, Spitfires, Mustang, Warwick and Walrus aircraft.
The Bradwell pubs echoed to the voices of Canadians, Australians and Czechs who all came to know this quiet corner of Essex.
At the end of the ward Bradwell Bay was closed and returned to agriculture . To this day visitors can seethe main runways , the old control tower and a mosquito monument erected in the memory of those who gave their lives at Bradwell Bay.

 

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