Skip over Navigation | Jump to Page Menu

The National Pilgrimage

Click here for Useful Information on the National Pilgrimage

2016 National Pilgrimage

Monday, 30th May - 12 noon

Walsingham Abbey Grounds

Concelebrated Mass - 12 noon

Principal Celebrant: The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield

Sermon, Procession & Benediction - 2.30 pm

Preacher: The Revd Andrew Mitcham - Vicar/Rector of the Benefice of Walsingham, Houghton St Giles and the Barshams & Guardian of the Shrine

2014 National Pilgrimage
Monday, 26th May

Report and Photographs below


Bishop Lindsay Urwin OGS writes:

If much of the rest of England, and even some of Norfolk, was overshadowed by clouds and rain on the second May Bank Holiday Monday, Walsingham was bathed in sunshine. It was perfect weather for the well over 2000 pilgrims who gathered for the outdoor National Pilgrimage Mass in the grounds of the ancient Priory Church, where before the destruction of the Shrine, Augustinian monks sang the praises of God and cared for the original Holy House.
One group of pilgrims from the south-west had set off at 3 a.m. to ensure their arrival before Noon, and there were many groups from the north as well as from London, the South and the Midlands. A group from St Alban’s diocese brought their diocesan icon, currently touring Hertfordshire, which was carried during the afternoon procession. Groups brought their picnic lunches, some simple sandwiches, others more exotic - even a Fortnum’s hamper - while in some corners of the grounds there was the  distinct aroma of West Indian fare!  It was great to see such a gathering of all ages, numbers of twenty-somethings, plenty of children and families and, of course, many who have made this journey to England’s Nazareth for years.

The principal Celebrant at the Mass, joined by over fifteen bishops and two hundred priests with a dozen deacons assisting, was Bishop John Goddard who will retire as Bishop of Burnley in July. In his welcome, Bishop Lindsay thanked him for his evident commitment and sacrificial witness especially in matters relating to social justice. An outspoken critic of any vestige of racism in our society, he has been a great force for good in a part of the country where there has been considerable racial tension.
Music at the Mass was a delightful mix of ancient and modern, and was led by the chamber choir of Hurstpierpoint in West Sussex, who spent the weekend at the Shrine and sang at the Saturday pilgrimage mass, at the parish church on Sunday morning, and at Evensong and Benediction - in a packed Shrine Church - which now marks the beginning of the National Pilgrimage celebrations.  Like Ardingly College and Trinity School, Lewisham who made up the serving team and torch bearers that escort the Image throughout the day, it is part of the Woodard family of schools.

This year, for the first time, young army cadets from Walsingham provided the guard of honour, which would surely have rejoiced the heart of Father Hope Patten, the restorer of the Shrine, committed as he was to the young people of the village.
In the afternoon, the sermon was preached by Mother Mary Luke from the Community of the Holy Cross at Costock, a contemplative Benedictine Community. What she preached - on the theme of taking Mary to our home - was clear and deep. The text will appear as time goes by on this website and will appear in the Assumptiontide Walsingham Review.
The reflective Litany of Our Lady was sung as the procession of witness was marshalled, and then made its way along the sunken road, past the parish church and up the High Street singing the much-loved pilgrim hymn, and praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.  In the midst of today’s pilgrims, the image of Our Lady of Walsingham was borne by deacons and escorted by the Guardians of the Shrine, reminding us of the great Company to which we belong, which no person can number and calling us to recognise that we are simply the lower fringe of the Church and to unite our praises with the saints and heavenly host.
Our connection with pilgrims from the past is called to mind in a very moving way as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is offered in the site of the original Holy House that was so much the centre of devotion and prayer before the destruction of the Shrine in 1538.
After the celebrations pilgrims lingered in the Abbey and Shrine grounds or in the Common Place, nearby to The Bull public house - another abiding pilgrimage tradition! It seemed as if they didn’t want to leave, but of course they did, as pilgrims should, returning to their daily round much renewed.

Next year the National Pilgrimage will take place on Bank Holiday Monday 25th May




In 1938 the Whitsun weekend saw a huge influx of pilgrims to Walsingham to witness the blessing of the much enlarged Shrine Church.  As had become customary, there was a great procession from the Parish Church to the Shrine . It was estimated that the procession took "one hour less three minutes" to pass the Common Place and that 6,000 pilgrims passed through the Holy House. In the report of the weekend in the 1938 Our Lady's Mirror (the forerunner of the present Walsingham Review) the intention was announced to hold a similar day pilgrimage "as an annual event every Whit Monday."

This indeed happened in 1939 and 1940, but then, for the remainder of World War II, the pilgrimage went into abeyance. 1946 saw its highly successful revival - but pouring rain meant the procession had to be cancelled! The Whit Monday great pilgrimage became known as the "National" in 1959 - after one of the guardians, the present Earl of Lauderdale, had written to The Church Times urging people to join the Whit Monday pilgrimage, describing it as "the first National Pilgrimage in the history of the Church of England to the Shrine of the Incarnation at Walsingham."

In 1971 the Whit Monday bank holiday was moved to the last Monday in May and the National Pilgrimage moved from Whitsuntide to this date. The only cancellation since 1946 was in 2001 because of the Foot and Mouth epidemic.

The Walsingham Archive pages contain fascinating accounts and much more information on the history of the National. Did you know, for example, that there were not enough cows in Walsingham to supply the milk needed for the pilgrims' tea on Whit Monday 1938? Or that 106 pilgrims had breakfast at The Clock Restaurant in Welwyn Garden City on their way to Walsingham and between them, left 4d (four pence) in tips! Go to the Archive home page, enter the Archives and find "Whit Monday Pilgrimages".

Since 2004, when the programme of the National Pilgrimage was recast to include a lunch-break, the practice of formal picnicking in The Abbey grounds has grown. Last year, there was a wonderful sense of togetherness as pilgrims from all over the country produced hampers, tables and chairs  - and the Walsingham National Pilgrimage lunch party began! If you are coming to this year's event, do think about bringing a picnic - of course the sun will shine and the grass be dry!

The Procession in Common Place in 2009

Our Lady of Walsingham and Our Lady of Lourdes 2009


Useful information about the National

The weather - (dare one say it) the National is remarkably blessed with good weather. Washouts, fortunately, are very rare. In 2006 whilst the rest of Britain had torrential rain, this little bit of north Norfolk remained sunny and dry until the evening (see picture opposite). But do come prepared. 2007 saw the worst weather for the National since 1983. You never can tell! 2008 - 2014 was mainly dry and sunny; just the occasional bit of drizzle.

The two services (12 noon Mass and 2.30 pm Sermon, Procession and Benediction) take place in the grounds of The Abbey - the gardens of the house which was created from the ruins of the original Walsingham Priory. Pilgrims are welcome to picnic in the gardens during the lunch interval (1.00 pm - 2.30 pm). Since the lunch interval was created in 2004 there has been steady increase in the numbers choosing to bring their own picnic, tables and chairs, often meeting up with friends for an enjoyable meal. (See below for information on obtaining refreshments.)

There are car parks (cost: 3.50) for pilgrims (in addition to the permanent one west of the Common Place) in Church Street (by the farm entrance on the sunken road) and in Wells Road (just north of the war memorial)

Coaches should approach Walsingham on what is now the B1155 from Fakenham  to Wells-next-the-Sea (the so-called "dry road"). A right-hand turn at Egmere and then travelling a mile along the Egmere Road,  gives easy access to the Coach Park - members of the Shrine National Pilgrimage Stewarding team will be on duty all day at the Coach Park.

The main High Street and part of Holt Road will be closed to traffic from approximately 11.00 am until after Benediction. Please follow the alternative directions given by the police to get around the village.

Many pilgrims come to Walsingham for the day; others prefer to stay for the weekend. The Shrine accommodation is always fully booked a year in advance - as is that of the RC Pilgrim Bureau - but there are opportunities to rent local cottages for the weekend or the week (school half-term). For further information about Bed and Breakfast establishments and cottage hire contact the local Tourist Board in Walsingham - tel: 01328 820510.

The National Pilgrimage Programme & Handbook (cost 3.50 - schoolchildren free) contains both information and the services for the day. Do make sure you buy one - it all also serves as your admission pass to The Abbey. They are available from various points in the Shrine and at the entrances to The Abbey - both the High Street archway and the drive gates on the sunken road. There is a charge of 2 per child for the children's activity tent.

Entering The Abbey grounds - please use the main Abbey archway in the High Street when entering and leaving the grounds. Use of the small Knight's Gate opposite the Shrine Church is restricted to pass-holders.

All Priests Associate of the Holy House are invited to concelebrate the Mass. They should be in the Shrine Church by 11.20 am with an alb and a white stole. (See Membership - Priests Associate for details of becoming a Priest Associate)

Seats are not provided for the congregation. Please bring a collapsible chair if you would prefer not to sit on the grass. Bring a rug or ground sheet in case of damp weather if sitting on the grass.

There are public lavatories by The Abbey archway and inside the grounds. In the Shrine grounds facilities are available in the refectory/Norton Room.

Pilgrims in wheelchairs have a special area reserved for them near the altar. Stewards will give directions.

BSL Interpretation - the worship is signed and a special area is reserved near the altar for those who wish to take advantage of this. Stewards will give directions.

Changing and feeding facilities for babies are available. Please ask a steward for directions.

First Aid - a paramedic and members of the St John's Ambulance Brigade will be on duty. In an emergency please get assistance from one of the Stewards.

Refreshments - in case you forget your picnic - are available in the Norton Room (situated below the Pilgrim Refectory in the Shrine Grounds.) After the procession and Benediction, tea will be served in the main refectory. There are also several tea shops in Walsingham High Street, the Walsingham Farms Shop in Guild Street and the Norfolk Riddle Restaurant (plus fish and chip shop) across the road by the war memorial.

The Shrine Church will be locked at 11.00 am and will remain locked until after the Mass. It will be locked again between 2.20 pm and the end of Benediction.



Brightly dawns the 2006 National day! - early arrivals await the procession from the Shrine (above) - the organist gets organised (below)

The procession to Mass leaving the Shrine Church in 2005 - the Shrine's famous "Maltese" lanterns to the fore (above); the return procession passes the Common Place (below)



  The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Walsingham, Norfolk NR22 6BP | Tel: 01328 820255 | Fax: 01328 824206