Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Colin's Little Known Facts: Spy Novel and Bradwell-juxta-Mare

One of the very first spy stories was written at Bradwell-juxta-Mare in Essex.

This is the village where the astonishingly ancient church of St. Peter-ad-Murum, built by St. Cedd in about 650, still stands by the North Sea.

Further inland, though, is the present day village, with its mediaeval parish church of St. Thomas, and the big house known as Bradwell Lodge.

Bradwell Lodge is a Tudor house, the former Rectory, modernised in the late 18thcentury by John Johnson, the Leicester architect who became County Architect of Essex. Among its 20th century occupants was Tom Driberg M. P.

In 1903, Erskine Childers, an Anglo-Irish novelist and keen yachtsman, came to live at Bradwell Lodge, and while there he wrote “The Riddle of the Sands”, possibly the first spy story. It concerns the plans for a German invasion of Britain.

Childers served with distinction in the First World War, being awarded the DSC.

In 1921, he became a Sinn Fein M.P. in the Irish Parliament, and helped Eammon de Valera organise the IRA rebellion against the Irish Free State. He was executed by firing squad for possession of a firearm.