In 1954 Fr Patten looked back, and here

describes the setting-up of the Shrine and

the very earliest pilgrimage programme

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. Ever since that evening, the Rosary has been said every day at 6. The next day an intercession book was placed at the foot of the column on which the image stood. For a year this shrine in the Parish Church continued to be a centre of prayer for the villagers, and, with growing devotion to Our Lady, grew loving visits also to Our Lord tabernacling in their midst, and all day almost continual watch was kept before before the altar and the shrine. The next year there commenced a trickle of pilgrims outside the parish. Requests for prayer were received both from them and through the post, and the stream of favours, spiritual and temporal, began to flow in response to Our Lady's intercession. Organised pilgrimages began, inaugurated by the then 'League of Our Lady' (now the 'Society of Mary'). Both sick and whole folk came. Thanksgivings were offered: plaques and votive gifts were set up. An organised pilgrimage: on the first night of an organised pilgrimage Vespers was sung and Benediction given, after which all made their confessions. On the following morning the Holy Sacrifice was offered at 7 o'clock and there was a general Communion, and the pilgrim-priests said private Masses. During the morning the Stations of the Cross were made, often special mementos being announced at each of the fourteen halts - "for pilgrims of the past" - "for the soul of the king through whom the shrines were overthrown" - "for the return of our country to the full faith" - "for the reunion of Christendom", and so on. And then there was a walk of about two and a half miles, out and uphill to S Giles', Houghton, where a Rosary was said for the parish from which the pilgrims came. After this, they proceeded to the Slipper Chapel, sometimes singing or saying litanies. This little chapel is one of a long series of similar halting places which used to line the roads from far and near, along which the mediaeval palmers came to "the Holy Land of Walsingham". Dedicated to S Catherine of Alexandria, once the abode of a succession of hermits, the Slipper Chapel is one of the most perfect buildings in the country. Outside this our pilgrims of the early 20th century were wont to make a halt, and after saying the Angelus prayed for all who had passed that way down the centuries and the return of the Ecclesia Anglicana to union with the Holy See - the ultimate aim of the Catholic revival in this land. Since these days in the twenties, and early thirties, this chapel has been converted into the Roman Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and has become the centre of a vast concourse of pilgrims. Leaving the Slipper Chapel, our pilgrims walked by the little stream, once a part of the navigable river Stiffkey, along what some now call "the holy Mile", into the village of Walsingham; and so to lunch. In the Parish Church during the afternoon public intercessions were offered for the sick, suffering, sorrowful, and all other kinds of petitions. A procession was then formed and, passing up the High Street, visited the site of the Priory. Stations were made at the high altar, at the place now venerated by the Roman Catholics as the site of the Holy House, and water was drunk from the wells. Then all went to the Vicarage garden for tea. During those years, at the Assumption and some other larger pilgrimages, Dr O'Rorke, Vicar of Blakeney, formerly Bishop of Accra, used to come and sing Pontifical Vespers, preside at a procession round the church and yard, and assist at Benediction; and later, presentations were made and a reception was held in what is now the Pilgrims' Refectory. Next morning there were early Masses and Holy Communion, and at 10 o'clock a final low Mass with music; then farewells. Happy days those! top of page return to Pilgrimages page In his Reminiscences Sir William Milner gave a detailed description of an early pilgrimage