14 2 mins 11 yrs

IF you drive east toward the coast through the Dengie Peninsula in Essex, park up in the last village you find, carry on by walking out of the village on a lonely road, continue on when it becomes an ancient track and walk as far as you can go, you’ll eventually arrive at a place, with just one building overlooking the sea, called ‘Othona’. Othona was a 3rd-Century Roman fort, part of the Saxon Shore series of fortresses, built to defend against Saxon raids which were then beginning.

St Cedd arrived at this place by boat in 654 AD, long after the Romans had left, tasked with converting the pagan East Saxons to Christianity, since they were now making themselves comfortable around here. He must have been a persuasive chap because the following year he was appointed Bishop to the East Saxons. He then built a church where he had landed, dedicated to St Peter, on the gatehouse of Othona, using the stones of the fort. That’s it on the left, the oldest church in England, still standing where St Cedd arrived (click the pic).

It’s always open and, apart from a few running repairs, it’s as St Cedd made it nearly 1350 years ago, flecked red with Roman roof tile in the walls. It’s very simple, just a rectangular barn-like structure with no embellishments, a simple alter and wooden benches inside. To me it’s also one of the most beautiful buildings in the land, a great place to put a few miles under your feet when you need to stretch your legs.

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14 thoughts on “ENGLAND TODAY

  1. Its easy to forget, or never know, that most of England is as beautiful as ever and Essex though huge chunks are urbanised, still has many lovely and historical places to enjoy. Good post.

  2. There’s a saxon church a few miles from where I live.

    I don’t know much about the correct architectural phrases but there is a kind of tidy, functional simplicity about saxon buildings.

  3. “I am an Englishman” and this is who made England. (of course, I’m not an Englishman)

    This is what England needs now because all that has gone before is being betrayed.

  4. Ross –

    In a way, that Brixworth church survived is something of a miracle. Through the 9th and 10th centuries that part of Mercia was frontier land between Saxon strongholds and Danish/Norse raiders.

    From memory, the Norse lords Guthrum and Ivar the Boneless led armies across that way, and they loved to burn a church.

  5. Great post Pete. I would love to see hat old church.

    What a shame that there is no god and no afterlife. As most of us here know full well, even if we choose not to admit it.

  6. Great post and thread.

    I never knew the Saxons were such builders.
    It’s also really hard to imagine how those churches survived so long in such good shape. Pete’s church is brilliant, and has all the austerity that helped Christianity grow and survive. But Allan’s church is a masterpiece – stout and graceful at the same time, and it would be ancient even in Italy.

    What film is that scene from, Allan?

  7. Peter –

    Maybe so, but in a way, when a building has been there for so long it becomes a cultural statement simply because of its age as much as for its purpose.

    Stones are just stones, but that these were worked by Roman and Saxon hands, to someone like me, make them special whether you believe in God or not.

  8. If you click on Pete’s photo, you enlarge it and can see, as you look at it, what used to be a hole/opening of some kind that has been bricked over.

    Do you know what that opening was?

  9. Pete Moore


    Me and her were in the Dorsee museum in Paris two weeks ago to see the impresionist paintings. The last time we saw them was 1994. I cried at the beauty of them.

    Anyone who hasn’t been there, go see!

  10. Phantom –

    The opening came about because a farmer in the 17th-Century decided that the oldest church in England would make a splendid barn and that his animals couldn’t easily be herded through the doorway.

    Some might regard it as inappropriate, others might say God’s house should be open to all.

    Welcome to Essex.

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