Building Facade - Common Place

Towards a History of Walsingham

August dates from “Towards a History of Walsingham” by the late Howard Fears.

Howard Fears M. Phil, MA, Walsingham’s resident historian died on 13th April 2020, aged 91. He was a stalwart member and instigator of the village history society, and has left a large number of files of his research to the society.

This is the first instalment of a series: beginning with August, some significant dates in Walsingham History.

1328. (August 21) Edward III was in Walsingham on at least eight occasions between 1328 and 1336, as in 1331 (June 26 to 28, for his chancery), and again on August 21.

1497. (August 6)Privy Purse expenses of Henry VII, including those incurred at Walsingham, 13s. 4d.

(August 23)   Henry VII was again at Walsingham, when he paid “one Cotts £3 5s. for brooches (Pilgrim Badges)”.

1514. (August 31) Following the resignation of Lowthe as prior , his successor Vowell as replacement had the task of bringing into line the wayward community. Dissension was rife amongst the brethren, as in the case of the prior’s attendance at a general chapter of Augustinian canons, called by Wolsey in 1519, and also the consistory court at Norwich.  Some brethren refused to accept new statutes, but with authority on his side any refractory canons were ordered to submit to Vowell and seek pardon for their offences. After gaining his doctorate in theology Vowell had spent five years as prior of Leighs (Essex) Augustinian priory, remembered for restoring good order and discipline.

1538. (August 4). In the priory chapter house, before the royal Commissioner, Sir William Petre, the prior and canons of Walsingham Priory signed the deed surrendering their church, buildings and possessions to the king. They probably failed to visualise that as the inmates went out by one door, those employed to dismantle … entered by another.  The stalls were rudely torn down, the painted windows demolished, shrines were rifled, tombs thrown open.  Brasses were rent from the stones, gold and jewels torn from the skeletons.  The surrender document has not survived; it is, therefore, unknown whether any canons failed to sign.

Richard Ingworth, an ex-prior and sometime Bishop Suffragen of Croydon, received the surrender of the Friary.  He wrote to the Lord Privy Seal that “most of the substance, plate, etc. at the friary was disposed of before my coming”; little was left of lead or of plate or implements although it was enjoined that these should come to light.  Following the surrender of the friary to the Commissioners, Thomas Sydney, Master of the Lazar, appointed collector of the rents of the properties recently owned by the friars.

           (August 12).  Prior Vowell writing as “Prest” asked Cromwell for various favours including the parsonage and living of Walsingham.

(August 16).  Sir Richard Gresham wrote to Cromwell on Prior Vowell’s behalf, urging that as he was “both impotent and lame … (and) was very discrete, learned, of good name and can set forth the Word of God very well, whereof the town (Walsingham) has great need” he should be given its Anglican living.  This was not granted, but he was appointed vicar of North Creake and given an annuity of £100.  Other canons were appointed to Anglican livings or received pensions varying between £4 and £6 per annum.

1555   (August 12). William Allen A labouring man, who refused to follow in a procession after a cross, avowed that even if he saw the king, queen and all others kneel to the cross, he would not do so.  Following interrogation by bishop Bonner he was condemned to death. There is no evidence that Allen was a Walsingham man; little is known, even of his religious background, other than that he was a labourer.  In September the same year, he was burned at the stake in Walsingham.  Despite protracted bodily agonies induced by inhuman tormentors at the instigation of “Bloody Mary”, in her attempt to stamp out Protestantism, his conduct under torture impressed by its upright and godly sincerity. Because of his impressive conduct he was allowed to go to the stake without bonds, simply being fastened with a chain.  As the flames rose he “stood quietly and without shrinking until his body had been burned to ashes”.  The location of the funeral pyre was probably the site in Martyrs Field in which two Catholics had been put to death less than twenty years earlier.  Many public spectacles centred on Friday Market, where celebratory bonfires have been held on numerous occasions, and it has been suggested that if the stake was erected in the Market Place, it was to impress the people with the queen’s intentions.

1601. (August 1). In a paternity examination before magistrate Nathaniel Bacon, Elizabeth Hall confessed herself to be with child, claiming that John Worship, baker, of Little Walsingham, was the father: “A monethe and odde daies before Christmas last upon a Monday the said Worship did last lye with her and at that tyme shee was gotton with childe.” Worship was bound over to appear at the next Sessions for North Greenhoe. When he died in 1612 he left a widow named Mary, suggesting that unless Elizabeth had died in the meantime he had not married her. His Will contains no mention of an obligation to maintain a child.  It may be that a husband was found for Elizabeth, willing to accept her pregnant condition.

1638. (August 21). John Snell and Richard Williams, both of Walsingham and both Imbroyderers given permission (needed because of proclamation by Charles I on July 21, 1635 forbidding “Our Subjects … to depart out of this Realme”) to travel from Great Yarmouth to Holland. The proclamation was aimed at the discovery and repression of recusants.

1762. (August 25). John Lilly, butcher, of Little Walsingham, applied to the manorial court to be admitted as tenant of “the Hawke, now or late called the Greyhound”. Situated on the east side of Knight Street, the property and land was between that of the late John Bond, gentleman, to the north and of Edward Johnson to the south. The Hawke had previously belonged to spinsters of Norwich, Ann and Elizabeth Gillman.  Ratification was confirmed at the General Court Baron in a document dated May 30, 1763. As an inn the Hawke/Greyhound may have dated from 1400s. Its original name suggests a connection with Henry VII after he had fought and killed Richard III at the battle of Bosworth. 

1798. (August). A Walsingham naval participant took part in the Battle of the Nile.

Four Walsingham Army and navy pensioners from the Napoleonic wars recorded in the village 1841 and 1851 census returns.  It is calculated that forty to fifty local young men had served in those wars.(

1826 (August 23). Turnpike trustees agreed on toll charges on the Wells to Fakenham road – for every horse, or beast of draught drawing a coach, wagon, wain,  cart or other wheeled carriage  3d.. – for every mule or ass, laden or not  1d.. – oxen or cattle per score (and in proportion) 10d..- calves, sheep, lambs, swine per score (and in proportion)  5d

1832 (August 8). Continuing the campaign against cholera Walsingham Vestry Minutes Book recorded the decision that ; “a Committee of Parish Officers shall inspect the Dwellings of the Poor Inhabitants of the Parish and shall decide upon the best means, by white-washing or otherwise, of purifying the land and that such means be used under the direction of the Committee”. The Vestry further directed that “proper ventilation” should be provided for any victim, and a poor person dying should “as soon as possible be laid in a coffin pitched (i.e. lined with pitch) within and without and that the funeral of any such person to take place as soon after death as possible, the corpse being conveyed directly to the grave”.

1834 (August 18). Turnpike gates and tolls hired out to individuals included the Fakenham main gate with several side gates from Little Walsingham to Houghton.  This hiring process dated from the 1830s.  However the existing Walsingham gate was to be removed and a main tollgate to be erected across the Turnpike road from Wells to Fakenham by Little Walsingham against or near a certain enclosure of land in Little Walsingham on the west side of the road belonging to H. Lee Warner and now in the occupation or late in occupation of the Revd. James Lee Warner and the land on the east side belonging to H. Lee Warner.

A vociferous criticism of the tolls led to a substantial reduction for the inhabitants of Little Walsingham, Houghton and North Barsham at the Walsingham Gate, thereafter for them to be at half the previous rate. (4/200).

1862 (August 7). Wells and Fakenham Railway amalgamated with the Great Eastern Railway, primarily leaving the local line as a feeder for the major routes. Lord Leicester, a substantial investor in the original line, had hoped to develop Wells harbour, and in conjunction with his intended reclamation of 20,000 acres between Wells and Holkham spent £10,000 on raising a bank against the sea’s incursion.  But with only 2,000 acres reclaimed and the impossibility of avoiding silting-up at the harbour, the anticipated success of his ventures and of the railway line proved unobtainable.

1875 (August 7). Reeve Adcock, Gentleman of Walsingham, found by magistrates to have been drunk and disorderly in Common Place and fined 14s. 9d. including costs.

1897 (August 20) The first modern Roman Catholic pilgrimage to Walsingham occurred.  Forty to fifty pilgrims arrived by train from King’s Lynn.  The previous day the Shrine had been re-founded in King’s Lynn by rescript of Pope Leo XIII. After walking out to the Slipper Chapel for prayers, the pilgrim group had lunch at the Black Lion and returned to King’s Lynn.  Walsingham was part of the King’s Lynn Mission at the time.

1872 (August 8). Following three weeks of successive heavy thunderstorms, the rain on August 7 fell like “vast sheets of water”, and the bursting of a tempest on August 8 culminated in a flooding, “the like of which has not been known in living memory”.  Meadows looked like lakes and at about 5 p.m. East Barsham was flooded.  As water poured into Walsingham the sluice near the old watermill was raised but was “quite unequal to the sudden rush”.  Waters poured in at both “front and back doors” of houses in the town’s lower parts eventually to a depth of at least three feet. As many of the houses in Church Street and nearby were very old “fears began to be entertained for the safety of the buildings”.  The Lee Warners placed a large boat at the disposal of volunteers who “hastened to the rescue of the imprisoned families”.  The Black Lion and the King’s Head each provided a horse and cart, resulting in the rescue of about forty women and children, being “brought down by ladders from the upper window or carried in the arms of their rescuers to boat or cart”. As waters rose to five feet above ordinary levels, permission was given to break holes through the walls enclosing the Abbey grounds, leading to danger of the Abbey’s inundation.  Twenty two houses had been inundated, requiring a lengthy period of drying out and the need for disinfecting fluids, supplied by Walsingham residents viasubscriptions initiated by Revd. W. Martin and his wife.

1911 (August) Abnormally dry, reaching its then highest known temperature of 93.5 degrees in the shade.

1912. (August 26). After four days of continuous monsoon-like rainfall, flooding which ensued damaged bridges (near the Slipper Chapel it washed the railway bridge away), highways, crops, houses, etc. Church Street was flooded, water reaching a foot higher than the notorious 1872 flood. The train service was suspended until the bridge and line was restored, requiring the establishment of an omnibus service between Walsingham and Fakenham and Wells.  The abbey grounds were covered in water, which entered Abbey house.  August 1912 was the coldest in England since 1817.

1932. (August 15-27). Excavation carried out at the site of the Friary. But the post-dissolution use of the buildings for farm purposes made difficult any attempt at dating the individual buildings. (1/81).

1934   (August 14). New furnishings blessed at the re-furbished Slipper Chapel, including “a magnificent  reredos of hand-carved wood” created by James and Lillian Dagless. (Their studio was in what is now called “Sheilds”)  This was followed by celebration of Mass in the chapel for the first time since the Reformation.  After its purchase by Miss Charlotte Boyd for £400, and following her conversion to Catholicism in 1894, she offered the chapel to the Northampton diocese, including Norfolk, in 1903, but on the diocesan bishop’s refusal it was accepted by the Benedictines of Downside.  It remained unused, however, until after 1930 when it was restored to the diocese.

    (August 19). First national Roman Catholic pilgrimage to Walsingham; with 12,000 participants; for many in the village, it was their first acquaintance with ‘char-a-bancs’ in quantity.

1941   (August) James and Lilian Dagless premises’ at 21 and 23 High Street leased for fourteen years to Burns Oates and Washbourne Ltd. of Birmingham at a rent of £55 10s. per annum.  An option to purchase was taken up in August 1946.  The Pilgrim Shop itself closed in autumn 1944.

1944   (August 26).  Henry Philip Lee Warner killed in action over Germany.  A member of the R.A.F.V.R. he was an acting Squadron Leader, the only son of Philip Henry and Mary King Lee Warner. (6/21)

1964  (August 8). Re-consecration of St. Mary’s parish church, following the 1961 fire and the reconstruction between 1962 and 1964 under architect Laurence King.  The new east window, made by John Hayward, was a memorial to Revd. Hope Patten. (6/8).

1966. (December 6).Two members of the Orthodox Brotherhood of Saint Seraphim of Sarov moved to Walsingham, eventually converting the old railway station into an Orthodox church, which was blessed on August 1, 1967, by Vladika Nikoden.















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