A Legend of Norfolk : the Catholic Truth Society film c1937

This synopsis of the film appeared in the Eastern Evening News in January 1938:

I hope there will be a chance of seeing again a little film at the Electric Theatre last week.


H M Gillett (always known as Martin Gillett) was a local historian and archaeologist, the author of several books about Walsingham and pilgrimage; he was one of the founders of The Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He would have been the natural choice of the Catholic Truth Society to prepare such a film at this time.

 

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In twenty minutes it gave a first-rate short history of Walsingham and its shrine. The photography was superb and the spoken comment was accurate and well informed.

It was called “A Legend of Norfolk,” and began with a map of the county, to show how all roads in the county as well as those from further away once led to Walsingham. The possible route of a medieval pilgrim from London was traced through Green Lane, in North London, to Bishop’s Stortford and Saffron Walden, and from there northwards there was the desolation of the great heaths until one reached the peaceful havens of pilgrims’ chapels at Hilborough or Weasenham.

Ruined Archway

Arriving at the district of Walsingham itself, the camera made good use of the great ruined archway in the grounds of Walsingham Abbey as a symbol of the magnificence of its past, and good use, too, of the old conduit and cresset.

There were scenes by one of Walsingham’s fords to illustrate the story of the Lady Richeldis, founder of the shrine in the eleventh century. Her house, it is said, stood near the river, and for lack of remains of the shrine itself to be photographed some views of the work of Alan of Walsingham at Ely were inserted to give an idea of what it may have looked like.

There were beautiful scenes at the twin wells in the Abbey grounds, and the camera toured the ancient walls of the Priory and the still very antique streets of the town, making use of every relic of history that could be photographed to fill out the story.

Desecration of Shrine

The desecration of the shrine in the reign of Henry the Eighth was dramatically done, with a series of shots of images smashed, books burned, hurrying feet, and ruined walls.

The stars of the film were the ruins. There were wonderful pictures of them. The Friary came in for some good camera work and one could forgive the supplementation of the strictly local scenes with some good views of similar desolation at Castleacre.

The figure of a bearded friar, easily recognisable as a friar now in residence at Walsingham, was cleverly used for some of the more dramatic moments.

Finally we reached modern times and had our attention impartially divided between the two modern shrines and their streams of supporters pouring in by train, car and cycle.

In the course of the film there were some interesting studies of the interior of East Barsham Hall, where King Henry stayed when he visited Walsingham.

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