1922

“Everyone knows” that 1931 and 1938 are the two most important and iconic dates in the Shrine’s history - 1931 when the image of Our Lady of Walsingham was translated from St Mary’s Church to the newly-built Holy House, and 1938 when the Shrine Church was enlarged and opened. But “Everyone” forgets 1922, without which the above would not have happened. On 6 July 1922 the newly-commissioned image was brought to St Mary’s Church and set up on a pillar in the Guilds Chapel as the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, where it remained until 15 October 1931. Last January we observed the centenary of Fr Patten’s arrival and next July we will be observing the centenary of the setting-up of the Shrine. We can see from that comparatively short interval how quickly Fr Patten must have pressed ahead with his clear intention of reviving the medieval pilgrimage, alongside his work as Walsingham’s new parish priest. Unlike as in 1931 and 1938 there are no photograph albums, and reminiscence from only Fr Patten of this great day in 1922 (part shown below), but we’re fortunate that Michael Yelton, in his biography of Fr Patten*, has pulled together what is recorded in various places. Our usual mine of information - Our Lady’s Mirror - was not created until 1926. Fr Patten looked back in 1954: this is part of another page of this website, and is reproduced here for the reader’s convenience. In 1947 he had written a longer history covering 1922 to 1947. It is a long piece and currently not on the OLM website, but will be uploaded to it and to this site next month. A summer's evening: on the evening of July 6th, 1922, the bells in the quiet old Norfolk village of Walsingham rang out in a merry peal as a small procession carrying an image of ancient design moved into the church from the south porch, where it had just been hallowed by that much loved priest of the Catholic revival, Father Alban Baverstock. A halt was made at the famous Seven Sacrament font, and the then Vicar of Holy Trinity, Reading, standing on the steps, delivered a stirring sermon on the significance of the event then taking place. At its conclusion the procession re-formed; girls carrying boughs of sweet-smelling syringa preceded the image and a small company of nine priests, followed by people of the village all singing happily in Our Lady's honour, accompanied by the still clashing bells and the pealing organ, proceeded to the Guilds' Chapel in the same church. And there, on a pillar, the statue was set up, looking towards the ruins of the old Augustinian Priory, to the north of which the original of the Holy House once stood. The Rosary was said, and Devotions to the Blessed Sacrament concluded the simple yet moving little ceremony. Our Lady of Walsingham had come back. * The following is from p 53 of Michael Yelton’s biography of Fr Patten (2006; revised edn in preparation), reproduced in full, with permission: Hope Patten wasted no time in putting into effect the restoration of the shrine. He was instituted to the parish on 19 January 1921 by the local Rural Dean, Canon Gordon Roe, brother of his former vicar, acting for the Bishop of Thetford. In July 1922 he used the occasion of one of the local conferences described above to incorporate the reestablishment of the devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham. Hope Patten had always had a theatrical streak which had earlier manifested itself in his involvement in amateur dramatics. He was now able to harness that talent to the organisation of events such as this, and, importantly, to involve the parishioners in what he was doing. On 6 July 1922 the image was set up in the Guilds, or north, chapel of the parish church. Father Alban Baverstock, who was in Walsingham for the priests’ conference, assisted by blessing the image, which had initially been placed on a litter near the font. It was then carried into the chapel accompanied by some of the village girls in white dresses and veils and carrying branches of syringa (mock orange) to the accompaniment of the church bells, and placed on a pillar, looking towards the ruins of the Priory from which its predecessor had been removed in 1538. The image was carried by two servers, Frederick Shepherd and George Howe. The sermon was preached by the Revd Archdale King, then curate of St. Saviour, Poplar and later vicar of Holy Trinity, Reading, who subsequently seceded to Rome and wrote a number of very learned books on liturgical matters. The following year Hope Patten started a local guild, which was later to be transformed into the nationwide Society of Our Lady of Walsingham.. Note there has recently been discussion about who actually carried the litter from the font to the Guilds Chapel. It’s known that many processions included village girls in white dresses, as described above, and when early photographs emerged showing the image actually being carried by two girls in processions, some thought that this might have happened on that day. Fr Patten’s descriptions of it are not exactly clear. However, it seems on the whole more likely that Michael’s description above is correct. (Comments and new information always welcome.) MISTAKES HAPPEN BUT ONCE THEY’RE IN PRINT IT’S HARD TO STOP THEM SPREADING. In Donald Hole’s much- loved 1939 book England’s Nazareth, which until 1970 (Fr Colin Stephenson’s Walsingham Way) was the only straight narrative of Fr Patten’s Restoration of the Shrine, he unfortunately gave this year of this important date as 1921. The book ran into eight editions, and although revised in parts it carried on in the same format - with the mistake amazingly uncorrected, even up to its last in 1990. In the early days this mistake was perpetuated and can still cause confusion for those reading old publications. (Details of the covers and make-up of the eight editions, but not the text, are on the Publications website.) top of page