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The National Pilgrimage

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2013 National Pilgrimage
Monday, 27th May

Report and Photographs below


Bishop Lindsay Urwin OGS writes:

A large crowd of all ages and from all over the country gathered in the Abbey grounds under blue skies on Bank Holiday Monday to celebrate the 2013 National Pilgrimage. To the strains of ‘All Hail the Power of Jesu’s Name’ the image came in to view from the High Street, held aloft by four deacons and escorted by four young people bearing torches from Trinity School in Lewisham South London.

The traditional introit hymn, ‘Joy to thee Queen of England’s ancient dowry’ which has become something of a catholic anthem in these days, even sung at the consecration of bishops, was given full voice by the crowd as the concelebrating priests and bishops made their way to reverence the altar and take their places, while the bishops of Norwich and Ely were given thrones next to that of the visiting preacher, the Archbishop of York.

The participation of young people in the offering of the liturgy included the Chamber Choir of Hurstpierpoint College, in Walsingham for their third ‘national’ leading the singing, and the serving team came from another Woodard school, Ardingly College.

The Master of the Guardians, Bishop Martin Warner presided at the Mass and intercessions were offered by members of the Order of our Lady of Walsingham.

After the mass, pilgrims picnicked in the Abbey grounds or made their way to the Shrine gardens enjoying the sunshine, a rare treat during a National Pilgrimage! Long queues received the water from the Well, or sought the laying on of hands and anointing in the midst of the relaxed lunchtime atmosphere.

Meanwhile, in the College garden, Archbishop Sentamu rededicated the newly refurbished St Augustine’s, now libraries and six en suite study bedrooms set aside for the use of leaders wanting to come to Walsingham for rest, retreat and study. Bishop Lindsay, the Administrator of the Shrine introduced the rededication by giving thanks for the excellent work of the architects, builders, our own project manager, John Ebdon, and all those who contributed to the appeal launched last year to raise the necessary funds. He also paid tribute to two great Anglo Catholics, Charles, Second Lord Halifax and one of the first guardians of the Shrine, and Bishop Eric Kemp, a former bishop of Chichester, in whose memory the two libraries have been named.

At 2.30 p.m. the Abbey grounds were again full for the sermon, an edited text of which will eventually appear in the next Walsingham Review and on this website. The Archbishop was in good form! In great revival style, at the end of his homily, he invited the congregation to stand and renew their resolve to follow the Lord! That we have since heard that he was facing surgery for cancer just a couple of days later makes his contribution to our day all the more beautiful. No one present could have guessed the uncertainty which overshadowed him.

After his sermon, as has been the tradition from the earliest days, pilgrims made a long procession with the image of Our Lady borne in their midst through the streets of Walsingham singing the pilgrim hymn while Mother Teresa from the Convent of the Sisters of St Margaret led the rosary.  The procession made its way back in to the abbey grounds past a small group of protestors who regularly attend the event. There was a certain irony in the fact that as they sang Anglican Henry Francis Lyte’s hymn, ‘Praise my soul the King of heaven’, Anglican pilgrims sang the Moody bible institute revival hymn, ‘There’s power in the Blood’!

For the past two years Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament which concludes the pilgrimage has been given from the mound in the abbey grounds, the site of the original and sadly, long destroyed Holy House built by Richeldis. As 2000+ pilgrims knelt in silence focused on the monstrance and the Ancient Beauty contained therein, with the image of Our Lady of Walsingham symbolically facing the Sacrament, who could not marvel at the great gift which is the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ, or the gift of this ‘Food for the Journey’, or marvel at the wonder of knowing the love and prayers of Mary and all the saints?

Needless to say, fellowship and joy continued for numbers of pilgrims who found further refreshment in Norton’s Café or outside the Bull in the Common Place before wending their way back home.

Next year, the National Pilgrimage will be held on Monday 26th May.

It’s not too early to book accommodation, contact the Hospitality Department on 01328 820255; email

Visit the Shrine's Photo Gallery for a full selection of photographs taken on the day.




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. Last year (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. STOP PRESS: 2007 saw the worst weather for the National since 1983. You never can tell!

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