A new vacancy for a Sacristan, Archivist & Librarian

History of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham

The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham has been a place of pilgrimage since the year 1061.

1061 – The Vision

In that year, a devout Saxon noblewoman and young widow, Lady Richeldis de Faverches, received a vision of Mary the Mother of Jesus. In the vision, Richeldis was taken by Mary to be shown the house in Nazareth where the Angel Gabriel had announced the news of the birth of Jesus. Mary asked her to build an exact replica of that house in Walsingham. This is how Walsingham became known as England’s Nazareth.

The vision was repeated three times, according to legend, and retold through a fifteenth century ballad. The materials given by Richeldis were finally constructed miraculously one night into the Holy House, while she kept a vigil of prayer.

Walsingham Priory

Richeldis’ only son, Geoffrey de Faverches, passing on his guardianship of the Holy House, left instructions for the building of a Priory in Walsingham. The Priory passed into the care of the Augustinian Canons sometime between 1146 and 1174.

It was this Priory, housing the simple wooden structure Richeldis had been asked to build, which became the focus of pilgrimage to Walsingham. Royal patronage helped the Shrine to grow in wealth and popularity, receiving visits from Henry III, Edward II, Edward III, Henry IV, Henry VII and Henry VIII, who finally brought about its destruction in 1538.

The Shrine Restored

After nearly 400 years, the 20th Century saw the restoration of pilgrimage to Walsingham as a regular feature of Christian life in this land, and indeed beyond. In 1897, there was a Roman Catholic pilgrimage to the restored 14th Century Slipper Chapel, now at the centre of the Roman Catholic National Shrine.

Fr Hope Patten, appointed as Vicar of Walsingham in 1921, ignited Anglican interest in the pre-Reformation pilgrimage. It was his idea to base a new statue of Our Lady of Walsingham on the image depicted on the seal of the medieval Priory. In 1922, this statue was set up in the Parish Church of  S. Mary and regular pilgrimage devotion followed. From the first night that the statue was placed there, people gathered around it to pray, asking Mary to join her powerful prayer with theirs. This work of intercession continues to this day.

Pilgrim Accommodation and Shrine Church

Throughout the 1920’s, the trickle of pilgrims became a flood of large numbers, for whom eventually a group of buildings were adapted to accommodate them. In 1931 a new Holy House encased in a small pilgrimage church was dedicated and the statue translated there with great solemnity. In 1938 that church was enlarged to form the Anglican Shrine, more or less as we know it now.

As pilgrim numbers continued to grow, so did the needs of those who came. St Joseph’s House was opened for pilgrims with special needs and Richeldis House opened in 1991 to provide yet more accommodation.

The Millennium

During the build up to the millennium celebrations of 2000, a new refectory was planned. HRH Princess Alexandra opened it in 2001 during a year when the statue of Our Lady visited five Cathedrals in Britain for a series of regional Festivals. 2004 saw Our Lady of Walsingham visiting a wide variety of different venues – a hospital, a prison, an airport, an army barracks, an Oxford college and a school. The two months culminated in a wonderful celebration in York Minster.

In 2005 the Shrine Gardens were re-designed and replanted, followed by the reworking of the west front entrance piazza of the Shrine Church and the building of a new outdoor Altar of the Mysteries of Light in the Shrine Grounds. In June 2007 work began on the Milner Wing, containing a Welcome Centre, a new Reception area and a range of en-suite bedrooms. Pilgrims and friends helped raise £2 million towards the cost of this major project. The new building was handed over in October 2008.

In recent years restoration work has been carried out on the College buildings which provide accommodation and facilities for clergy. St. Augustine’s House was extensively rebuilt and restored and its Library beautifully refurbished. 2016 saw the opening of similarly restored College residences, blessed by the Archbishop of York.

Pilgrimage today

Today the Shrine welcomes around 10,500 pilgrims a year from all over the country who stay at the Shrine for weekend or midweek pilgrimages from February to November. Many others come on day pilgrimages or as visitors. The Shrine regularly welcomes school groups and organises a number of special pilgrimages throughout the year, including pilgrimages for Children, Families, Youth and young adults. In 2018, an appointment to a new full-time post of Schools and Young Pilgrims’ Officer was made.

Pilgrims also come to Walsingham from overseas from countries such as Australia, Sweden and the United States of America.

As  a place of pilgrimage the Shrine provides the opportunity for prayer and reflection, for renewal and healing, for education and encouragement, centred on the Christian Gospel and the great mystery of the Incarnation when in the womb of Mary, Jesus “the Word of God” was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Shrine Governance & Management

The Shrine is governed by twenty priests and laity (including the Priest Administrator) who form the College of Guardians and are the legal trustees of the Shrine. The Guardians elect one of their number (who must be a priest) to serve as Master. The Guardians meet twice a year in Chapter to oversee the affairs of the Shrine.

Responsibility for the ministry and day to day running of the Shrine is entrusted to the Priest Administrator. He is supported by the Shrine’s Senior Management Team. The Priest Administrator is assisted in his ministry by a full time Shrine Priest and a number of retired clergy who live in Walsingham.

Around 60 people are employed at the Shrine and 50 volunteers assist in the welcome and care of pilgrims and visitors.

How to apply for this vacancy

Please download and complete the application form by clicking here.  Your application will be assessed according to your fit against the person specification. Remember that you can include not only experience gained in paid employment or self-employment, but also relevant experience and skills gained in voluntary work, domestic/family duties, etc.  We cannot consider a CV as an application, although supporting materials can be accepted.

We actively encourage submission of this application by email.  If you are completing the application form on paper, please use black ink to help us photocopy it, and add whatever supplementary forms you see fit.

If you are completing the form electronically, please take whatever space is necessary for your replies; you can add any supplementary files as attachments.  Please save files as RTF (Rich Text Format).

We hope to receive an application by Friday 25th June 2021.   Applications should be addressed to Mrs Venetia Davies, The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, The College, Walsingham, NR22 6EF; email: v.davies@olw-shrine.org.uk

Interviews will be held on Tuesday 6th July 2021 at the Shrine