Walsingham Priory

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Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

February, 2017

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Travelled with

On your own

Reasons for trip

Richeldis de Faverches was a Saxon noblewoman who had a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1061. She was instructed to build a replica of the house in Nazareth where Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to announce the birth of Jesus. It was to contain a statue of the enthroned Virgin with the child Jesus on her lap.

It was a simple wooden structure, but her son Geoffrey left instructions for the building of a Priory in Walsingham which passed into the care of Augustinian canons sometime between 1146-1174. Over the next four centuries Walsingham became a major centre of pilgrimage, rivalling Rome and Santiago del Compostella, and was visited by every reigning monarch from Henry III in 1226 to Henry VIII, just a few years before he ordered destruction of the entire monastery in 1538. The Prior and canons were pensioned off. The site was sold to Thomas Sidney for £90 pounds and he built a mansion on it, which was referred to as ‘The Abbey’. This is still privately owned although the surrounding grounds with the ruins of the priory are open to the public.

Entry to the grounds is either through the C14 gatehouse on High Street, which was the original entry to the Priory or the “Shirehall Museum”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/presocialhistory/socialhistory/social/social/walsingham_shirehall/index.html on Common Place where there is a small shop.

There is little left of the priory, just the window arch of the great east window standing surrounded by lawns. To the west is a small Norman arch moved here in the C19th, next to the well garden, with two healing wells where the sick were brought to be healed. Nothing is left of the shrine which is marked by a small stone cross in the ground.

The priory is set in over 20 acres of woodland. In February, snowdrops carpet the ground, and it is a popular place for day visits. Snowdrops were probably introduced into Britain by the Romans and became fashionable in the C17th. They are commonly found growing at former abbeys and priories. The start to bloom at the start of February around Candlemas, which commemorates the ritual purification of the Virgin Mary 40 days after the birth of Christ and is also the day the baby Jesus was presented to the Temple at Jerusalem.

The pack horse bridge across the River Stiffkey is an example of a early C19th interpretation of what a medieval bridge would be like. The Dell Gate is also a C19th addition over the sunken road leading to the wooded area known as the Dell.

The abbey grounds are open daily 10-4 during February for the snowdrops. Entry is through the gatehouse, leaving by the Shirehall Museum. During the rest of the year, entry is through the Shirehall Museum which is open daily from 11-4 (closed 1-2pm during the week in March). The museum is closed between November to the end of January although there is access to the grounds through the Estate Office at 10 Common Place.

Although there isn’t much of the Priory left, the estate is very pleasant to walk round, especially when the snowdrops are in flower. Conditions underfoot can be muddy, so wear sturdy shoes.

There is car parking in the Old Mill Car Park off Cokers Hill. The nearest post code is NR22 6BP and the grid reference is TF 935368.

There are more pictures “here”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/ruined_abbeys/midlands_south/walsingham_priory/index.html and “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/gardens/england/south/walsingham/index.html


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