The Browne family have been Lords of the Manor around Brentwood for generations:
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.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.