Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Colin's Little Known Facts: St. Cedd and Essex

St. Cedd is one of the most important people in the history of the development of Christianity in early England, and he has considerable links with Essex.

Cedd was born in Northumbria, one of four brothers. The others were Cynibill, Caelin and Chad. All four became priests, having been educated under St. Aidan at Lindisfarne.

The best known of the brothers was St. Chad, who briefly replaced St. Wilfrid as Bishop of York before being sent to Mercia as Bishop. He founded the cathedral at Lichfield, where he is buried.

Cedd, meanwhile, had worked in Mercia with the recently converted King Peada, before Sigebert of the East Saxons requested that he be sent to Essex. His missionary work there was so successful that Finan of Lindisfarne appointed him Bishop.

It was St. Cedd who built the astonishing little church which survives on the edge of the North Sea at Bradwell-juxta-Mare. St. Peter-ad-Murum was built on top of the Roman fort of Othona in around 650AD. For centuries it was used as a barn, and was not until the early 20th century that its true significance was realised. It is certainly one of the oldest churches in England, and could reasonably be termed the country’s oldest cathedral.

St. Peter-ad-Murum is consecrated as a church again. It is open at all reasonable times, and is the object of an annual pilgrimage. I feature a visit to the church in my Maldon and the Dengie Hundred Coach Trip.

Cedd also built a church at Tilbury, as well as one at Prittlewell, the mother village of Southend. This church has a Saxon window opening, which is probably a survival from Cedd’s church.

It was at Prittlewell that the magnificent Royal burial was found, within sight of the church.

Another of Cedd’s important duties was at the Synod of Whitby, at which it was decided that the English church would follow Roman, rather than Celtic, traditions. Cedd acted as interpreter.

Towards the end of his life, he retired to the abbey which he had founded at Lastingham, near Pickering in North Yorkshire, and it was here that he died of the plague in 664. He is buried at Lastingham.