the seal of the medieval priory
Fr Patten's own writings about the
Medieval Foundations

from the Dereham & Fakenham Times 3 March 1938

REMAINS OF ANCIENT SHRINE?
Discoveries at Walsingham Described
Rev. A. Hope Patten’s Statement

Are foundations recently discovered on the site of the Anglo-Catholic Holy House and its extensions at Little Walsingham those of the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham which was erected during the 11th century? That question has been asked during the erection of the extensions.

It has been understood for many years that the ancient shrine stood in the grounds of Walsingham Abbey (or Priory), which was destroyed about 1538. Details of the discoveries made during the work of erecting the extensions to the Holy House have been given to our Fakenham representative by the Rev. A. Hope Patten (the vicar of Walsingham and Administrator of the Sanctuary). In doing so he stated, “It seems to us that they are most like the foundations which correspond with the old description. There are many people who believe these are the original foundations. We believe that these foundations are most like the original because they are much more, it seems, like the descriptions given than were those found in 1853.”

In 1853 Mr Lee Warner and Mr H Harrod, F.S.A, uncovered the site of the Priory. When it was decided that there should be the present extensions to the Holy House arrangements were made for a careful examination of the whole of the site. Seven years ago the shrine was built, and at that time footings, consisting of parts of two walls, and a well were discovered. One wall was going south and the other to the west, and at the angle of the walls was a small rectangular foundation. Built upon four trunks of trees, the well was constructed of flint. The well, which was considered to be either late Saxon or Norman work, was found to be filled with clay. When the clay was removed a number of leather soles of shoes was found at the bottom of the well, and also in the well were an old knife and a brown earthenware jug. Authorities at South Kensington Museum examined the soles of the shoes, and stated that they believed them to be of early 16th century date. The jug had a fluted base, and it was thought that the workmanship was Rhenish and the date early 16th century.

It was claimed, following the discovery of patches of cobbles, that there had been a cobbled yard surrounding the well and the foundations. Those patches were uncovered about four feet below ground level.

Bases of Small Turrets

Those 1931 discoveries were borne in mind when the extensions to the Holy House were planned. The west wall was opened up. Following it to its limit in the northerly direction, it was found that it joined a similar wall running in an easterly direction. The east end which runs parallel with the west wall, was uncovered. The south wall, which corresponded with the north wall, was also uncovered. Foundations discovered at the angles of the walls were believed to be the bases of small turrets or towers.

It is believed that the foundations which have been recently unearthed are those of a narrow, rectangular church or chapel. The total interior length was 56 feet 3 inches, and it was divided into two parts, which were probably separated by a 3 feet thick wall, of which less that 3 feet remains. The first part measures 48 feet in length and 18 feet 8 inches in width. The second part, which is at the east end, is 8 feet 3 inches by 18 feet 8 inches. Walls at the east end are 2 feet 7 inches to 3 feet wide. Those in the body of the building are not so wide, varying from 1 foot 6 inches to 1 foot 8 inches. The eastern pair of the remains of what are considered to be turrets are somewhat larger than the other two. It has been suggested that the east end was added later, because to the south were found remains of what might have been a well, enclosed by walls.

Keys and Pieces of Pottery

To the west of the centre of the north wall were found remains of what was considered to be the footings of a porch. On the inside of the west wall about a yard of plaster remained on the flint work, while on the outside of the north wall there was about 2 feet of plaster.

A thin layer of black wood and twigs was found upon the soil between the walls. It has been suggested that the wood had been used to carry some small wooden building, which might have been a chapel. A large rounded flint was discovered, near where that building might have stood. Pieces of burnt wood were also found. About 18 inches below the level of the “raft” water was found, and at South Kensington Museum it was stated that that wood’s discolouration was due to damp.

Ten feet from the south-west turret another discovery was made. There a solid mass of flintwork was covered. The measurements were 6 feet by 5 feet, and in the centre was socket. It was claimed that it was the base of a cross.

Within the walls an iron ring, fittings and two keys were picked up. At South Kensington Museum it was stated that so far as could be judged in their corroded state they appeared to be of the 15th or possible 16th century date. Inside the foundations pieces of glazed tiles were discovered. Outside the walls pieces of pottery – believed to be pieces of 15th century jugs – and wavy feet of two jugs – believed to have belonged to Rhenish wine jugs – were found.

Dereham & Fakenham Times
3 March 1938

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1934 booklet

The Site of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham
The Site of The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham

click image to link to scanned copy

 

 


1938 much larger booklet with illustrations

An Account of some recent discoveries ...

An Account of some recent discoveries on the site of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham Norfolk

 

 


click image to link to scanned copy


 

link here to his Chronicle
of references to the history
of medieval Walsingham
published with
Our Lady's Mirror
between 1936 and 1939



link here to his 1948 essay on
The Friary