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4 Annotations

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Brentwood was established in the 12th century as a clearing within the great forest of Essex, which covered much of the area. Wood was burnt here (hence ‘burnt wood’) and people settled in the vicinity, attracted initially by the old Roman road from London to Colchester.

The fledgling medieval town became popular with pilgrims travelling from the north and east of England on their quest to worship at the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. At that time Brentwood’s parish church was in South Weald, some distance away. Consequently, a small chapel in the High Street was built in the early 13th century as a chapel-of-ease to the parish’s church in South Weald and dedicated to St. Thomas à Becket. The High Street’s chapel was used until the 1830s when a new parish church to serve the town of Brentwood was built close-by on land that had once been a nursery garden. The ruins of the Brentwood’s old chapel are still present on the High Street.

Royalty passed through Brentwood in the 1390s when Richard II and his entourage made their pilgrimage through the town on his way to worship at Canterbury Cathedral. He rested at an inn in the High Street and his personal emblem, the white hart, became the name for that inn.

Another inn, originally known as the Gun, now the Swan, has been rebuilt several times over the centuries. According to local legend, Marian Protestant martyr William Hunter stayed at the inn the night before his execution. He was burnt as a heretic on March 27, 1555 and an elm tree grew in the same location as his martyrdom shortly afterwards.

Brentwood has witnessed a fast pace of change, in its population, its buildings and its infrastructure. Nevertheless, when you scrape away the layers of progress and redevelopment, underneath it, the old Brentwood is still there (just) to be enjoyed by modern-day residents and visitors.

You can read more about the towns and villages of Brentwood, Warley, Shenfield and Hutton, and their journeys through time in "Brentwood and Around Through Time," by Kate J. Cole and published by Amberley Publishing. Kate also writes about aspects of Essex local history on her blog, and on her Facebook page @KateJCole.

Kate gives regular talks to clubs and societies around Essex on the Witches of Elizabethan Essex and Great Dunmow, and Henry VIII’s Reformation

Highlights taken from…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

After the Reformation, Roman Catholic worship was maintained in south-west Essex by a few staunch families, notably the Petres of Ingatestone and of Thorndon Hall, West Horndon. [That’s the same Lady Elizabeth Petre who stiffed Anthony Joyce.)

In the later 16th and the earlier 17th century there were frequent prosecutions of local recusants, including Mary, wife of John Wright of Brook Street (1589), and Ann, wife of John Wright of South Weald (1639).

A return of South Weald papists in 1706 included Sir Thomas Manby's household, 14 in number, Joan Wright with her two sons and a kinsman, and George Pomfrett's family, with 14 others.

In the 18th century the leading Catholic families in South Weald parish were Manby of Bawds Hall, and Wright of Wealdside.

For more info, see…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

In 1221 St. Osyth's priory, owner of Costed manor, was licensed to build a chapel at Brentwood, dedicated to St. Thomas the Martyr. The chapel was to be subject to the mother church of South Weald, the rights of which were safeguarded. The advowson of the chapel passed with Costed until 1544, when it was granted by the Crown to William Sackville.

It was later acquired by Sir Antony Browne, whose reversionary grant of Costed in 1553 stipulated that he should pay the chaplain's salary. Thereafter it passed, like Costed, with the manor of South Weald.

In 1440 the inhabitants of Brentwood complained to the pope that South Weald church was so far away that in bad weather they were deprived of divine services. The pope ordered the abbot of St. Osyth to inquire into the matter, and to allow the Brentwood chaplain to administer the sacraments in emergencies.

By the early 16th century the chapel was an occasional meeting-place for clergy of Chafford deanery. Wistan Browne, who succeeded to the manor in 1575, closed the chapel and planned to pull it down. That caused a riot at Brentwood in 1577, when about 30 women, armed with hot spits and other weapons, assaulted a schoolmaster and locked themselves in the chapel.

Other local inhabitants petitioned in Chancery against Wistan Browne. Browne, then sheriff of Essex, was summoned before the Privy Council, which considered him mainly to blame for the trouble, ordered the Essex magistrates to deal gently with the rioters, and referred the case to the High Commission. The chapel was saved,

but there was further trouble in 1616 and 1617, when the townsmen sued another lord of the manor, Sir Anthony Browne (d. 1623), in the Exchequer for failing to provide a chaplain, and for misappropriating the chaplain's house. Browne was ordered to appoint a new chaplain within the year, but the court ordered the townsmen to pay half the cost of repairing the chaplain's house. The disputes probably reflected the Puritan sympathies of the town ...

In 1650 it was proposed that Brentwood chapel should be made a parish church.

The Restoration ended such plans, but from the later 17th century the chapel gradually became more independent. Its first surviving records date from 1694.

In 1708, after a complaint by the vicar of South Weald, the chaplain of Brentwood admitted that he had no right to baptize children, but seven years later the inhabitants of Brentwood successfully petitioned the bishop for leave to set up a font in the chapel.


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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


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