|It was at a spot only three miles across the Backwater Estuary at
Bradwell-on-Sea that St. Cedd founded his little monastery
circa 654, built the historic St. Peter's Chapel out of the
remains of the Roman fort of Othona, and from there he
evangelised Essex, the kingdom of the East Saxons. It is probable that Cedd and his monks came across to establish the first church at
West Mersea, also dedicated to St. Peter.
In the 10th century, the Saxon Ealdorman Aelfgar and his daughters, Aethelflaed (widow of King Edmund of
England) and Aelffaed (widow of Ealdorman
Brythnoth) by their wills, left properties
in Mersea, Peldon and Fingringhoe to St. Peter's Church
at Mersea, described as a 'Minster', i.e. a church serving
the wider area.
By 1042 the Mersea estates had reverted to the Crown,
and by charter of 1046 King Edward the Confessor granted
them to the Abbey of St. Ouen at Rouen in Normandy. The
Abbey founded a small Benedictine Priory here. The monks,
no doubt using the Church and the Abbey, became Lords of the Manor.
The historic 11th century tower may well date from that
time, and if so, it is Saxo-Norman. There is considerable
use of Roman tiles and brick in it, from the Roman villa
which stood near the site (of which pavements were found
in the 18th century). Two small round-headed windows and the
tower arch of that time remain. The belfry louvres and west
window are later. The heavily beamed floors inside the tower
have been dated as early as the tower itself with very early
examples of joinery.
The nave and chancel were probably built in the 14th century
and a south aisle added, later extended east in the 15th
century to form a south chapel. Note the 15th century brickwork.
In 1415, King Henry V suppressed alien religious houses,
including the Priory, and granted its properties of West
Mersea, the Peet and Fingringhoe to Henry Chichele, Archbishop
of Canterbury who endowed them on the College of Higham Ferrers,
which he was founding at his birthplace. About this time the
north porch was built or rebuilt, and the 14th century niche reset.
The timber roof of the chancel with arched and moulded trusses
is early 16th century (Tudor).
In 1833, the south porch was rebuilt as a porch and vestry, the
north wall of the nave heightened in brick, buttressed and
embattled, and the flat Georgian ceiling formed. Also the
south arcade was rebuilt in brick and plaster. A west
gallery had been erected in 1812, but removed in 1882
with other changes.
A photo of the church circa 1898 shows two north chancel
windows of three lights in pointed style, but early in
the 20th century all the windows in the chancel were
replaced with perpendicular style stone frames, including
a new east window at a new level.
In 1925 the south aisle roof was rebuilt, the wall plaster
all removed, and the niche for a piscina uncovered.
In 1971 a Church Hall was built adjoining the south vestry.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s the choir stalls, pulpit
and old painted pews were replaced, as thank offerings, in,
attractive light wood. Colourful kneelers were worked by
members of the congregation, with individual and local designs.
The pipe organ was updated in 2002 and 27 new digital stops added.
The new memorial window was installed in the south aisle
in August 2005. This is to commemorate the Fishermen and
Oystermen of Mersea Island.
This history is from a leaflet on West Mersea Parish Church by T.B. Millatt.