St Mary and All Saints’ Church, Little Walsingham

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Things to do


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February, 2017

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“Walsingham Priory”: was an important place of pilgrimage before the Reformation and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Medieval church of St Mary and All Saints next to the now ruined Priory reflects this importance. It is an impressive flint building dating from the C14th, surrounded by its graveyard on the edge of the village. The rather spindly looking spire was rebuilt in the 1920s as the original had become distorted.

The church was originally dedicated as All Saints’ but in 1921, Alfred Hope-Patten became vicar here and was a strong Anglo Catholic and transformed the fortunes of Walsingham when he placed a carved statue of Mary with Jesus in a side chapel in the church, and the church became St Mary and All Saints’. He purchased land on the opposite side of the Priory and raised money to build an “Anglican Shrine”: around the Holy House of Nazareth as seen in the vision of Richeldis de Faverches. The statue was moved from St Mary’s Church and placed above the altar in the new shrine. Pilgrimage had returned to Walsingham.

St Mary’s Church suffered a devastating fire in 1961 which gutted the church. Only the tower, external walls and south porch survived, along with the font, some brasses and the Sidney memorial. The church was rebuilt by Laurence King, a notable Church architect in the traditional C14th style. The roof was replaced with copper. The main entrance was moved back to the west door rather than the later south porch.

Although the architecture is traditional, the church has a very modern feel to it and is full of light streaming in through the plain glass windows. It is a very strongly Anglo Catholic church with statues and the use of incense during services.

A rood cross is suspended from the chancel arch and the door and stairs to the original rood loft can still be seen.

The lovely “east window”: tells the history of Walsingham with the image of the Virgin and Child in the centre, taken from the medieval seal of the Priory.

At the end of the short south transept is the very simple St Catherine’s Chapel. In the north transept is the Guilds’ Chapel, as there was a chapel here in the C16th built by three local guilds. It has a lovely Bodley reredos above the altar. In one of the windows is a C16 roundel of stained glass which is one of the few pieces to survive the fire. It shows the arms of Richard Vowell, the last Prior of Walsingham before the Dissolution.

The splendid C14th seven sacrament font stands at the back of the church. These are more common in East Anglia than elsewhere in the country and this is considered to be one of the best, although some of the faces were defaced during the Reformation. The pink colour of the stone is the result of the heat of the fire. Around the bases are carvings of the four evangelists and the four Latin Doctors of the church. The seven panels around the bowl depict Baptism, Ordination, Matrimony, The Crucifixion, Last Rites, Confession and Mass. The cover dates from after the fire and was designed to replicate the original.

Tucked away and feeling rather forgotten at the back of the church is the tomb of Sir Henry Sidney (1612) and his wife (1638), moved here from the north chapel. Below is his coat of arms.

The church is open 8-4. Parking is very limited around the church which is reached down a narrow street. The post code is NR22 6BL and the grid reference is
TF 935365.

The church is definitely worth visiting if in the area. There are more pictures “here.”:


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