Reviving the Walsingham pilgrim route from London

 

Walsingham was arguably Britain’s premier pilgrimage destination in medieval times, receiving eight times more in pilgrim offerings than Thomas Becket’s shrine in Canterbury.

 

Today, it is once again hugely significant, attracting 300,000 pilgrims a year to the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox Shrines, and to the ruins of Walsingham Priory.

 

Yet, despite all this, the main pilgrim route from London remains obscure and rarely walked.

 

That is largely due to the fact there is no waymarked route, as there are with many other significant pilgrim paths, and no comprehensive guidebook.

 

To remedy that, the Confraternity is working with Andy Bull, author of Pilgrim Pathways, to identify the old route and develop a modern pilgrim path that is as faithful to it as possible, while also giving a fulfilling walking experience.

 

Walsingham Priory is the site of the Holy House, an 11th century replica of the Holy family’s home. It was built after a local noblewoman experienced a vision in which the Virgin Mary transported her soul to Nazareth, showed her the house and instructed her to build a replica in Walsingham.

 

Kings from Henry III to Henry VIII and queens including Catherine of Aragon came here on pilgrimage. From the 1930s, with the Catholic shrine re-established, and an Anglican one founded, Walsingham again became the country’s most important purely-pilgrim destination.

 

Andy said: ‘It would be wonderful to see what is arguably England’s most important pilgrim route re-established, with a comprehensive guidebook, pilgrim stamps in churches along the way, and perhaps ultimately a waymarked route.

 

‘I would very much like to have input from CSJ members, those who have walked from London to Walsingham, and anyone who lives on the general line of the path.

 

 ‘The main original route went through Waltham Abbey, Ware, Barkway, Royston, Babraham, Newmarket, Brandon, South Pickenham, Castle Acre and Fakenham.

 

However, many pilgrims diverged from this route to take in Bury St Edmunds, proceeding from there via Thetford.

 

‘Identifying the very best walking route at each point, and offering a good alternative route via Bury St Edmunds, will be key to the success of the project.

 

‘It would also be wonderful to include routes from the other key starting points for medieval Walsingham pilgrims: Ely, Kings Lynn and Norwich.

 

‘That way we could offer a really comprehensive guide to all of the Walsingham Caminos.’

 

 Email us if you think you can help or would like to know more!