Stanford Rivers: Roman catholicism

Page 218

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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In the 17th century and the first half of the 18th Roman Catholic worship was carried on by the Petres at Bellhouse (see above). This was one of the places served by the secret Jesuit mission in eastern England which was founded about 1633 and largely financed by the Petres. (fn. 1) The first William Petre of Bellhouse was a servant of Charles I and in 1639 the king personally intervented to prevent him from being prosecuted for recusancy. (fn. 2) In 1676 there was an unusually large number of papists in Stanford Rivers. (fn. 3) There was probably a private chapel at Bellhouse, (fn. 4) and Roman Catholic worship continued there until after the death of William Petre in 1745. (fn. 5) The date when it finally ceased is not certain, but it is unlikely to have continued for long after the death of John Petre in 1762.

The Petres also contributed generously to the support of Roman Catholicism elsewhere. During the reign of Charles II an annuity of £40 out of the manor of Stanford Rivers was being paid to each of two members of the family, Richard and Robert Petre, who had become Jesuits. (fn. 6) In 1678, however, these revenues were seized by the government. (fn. 7) William Petre (d. 1728) made settlements on at least five of his daughters who became nuns. (fn. 8) His son Robert (1700- 66) became a Jesuit. (fn. 9)


  • 1. H. Foley, Recs. of Eng. Province of Soc. of Jesus, v, 536.
  • 2. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1638-9, 607; ibid. 1639, 427.
  • 3. See below, p. 311.
  • 4. R.C. Parish of Brentwood, MS. Book (Letter of J. F. Wright, 1854).
  • 5. See above, Manor of Stanford Rivers.
  • 6. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1689-90, 359, 434; ibid. 1690-1, 451. For the identity of Ricd. and Robt. Petre see Foley, Recs. of Eng. Province of Soc. of Jesus, ii, 585.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. See above, Manor of Stanford Rivers.
  • 9. Foley, Recs. of Eng. Province of Soc. of Jesus, ii, 585.