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Little Walsingham

Little Walsingham lies approximately 5 miles south of Wells-Next-The-Sea.

In 1061, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Lady Richeldis de Fauvraches in Walsingham and instructed her to build a house in the village - modelled on the Holy House in Nazareth.

Refectory Window

Walsingham Abbey: refectory window

Lady Richeldis de Fauvraches constructed a wooden hut close to the location of her vision and this soon became one of the most important pilgrimage centres during the Middle Ages. A number of English kings visited the village - including Henry VIII who walked the last mile barefoot.

During the 12th Century an Augustinian abbey was built on the banks of the River Stiffkey nearby. Today, all that remains of the abbey is the east wall with its high Gothic window, parts of the refectory and a picturesque packhorse bridge across the river. The priory was destroyed during the Reformation.

Little Walsingham features in a number of poems - the oldest being Piers Plowman by William Langland (c.1330 - c.1386):

Heremytes on an heep with hoked staves
Wenten to Walsyngham, and their wenches after,
Grete lobies and longe that lothe were to swynke;
Clothed hem in copes, to be knowen from othere;
And shopen hem heremytes, their ese to have.

East Window, Walsingham Abbey

Packhorse Bridge, Walsingham Abbey

Another poem - attributed to Saint Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel (1557-1595) - laments the destruction of the abbey.
On Walsingham

In the wrackes of Walsingham
     Whom should I chuse
But the Queen of Walsingham
     To be guide to my muse?

Then thou Prince of Walsingham
     Grant me to frame
Bitter plaintes to rewe they wrong
     Bitter wo for my name.

Bitter was it oh to see
     The seely sheepe
Murdered by the raveninge wolves
     While the sheephards did sleep.

Read complete poem

A further poem - this time attributed  to Sir Walter Ralegh - features the village and is called Walsingham.

A modern poem by the American poet Robert Lowell (1917-1977) also captures the religious significance of the place.

Our Lady of Walsingham

There once the penitents took off their shoes
And then walked barefoot the remaining mile;
And the small trees, a stream and hedgerows file
Slowly along the munching English lane,
Like cows to the old shrine, until you lose
Track of your dragging pain.
The stream flows down under the druid tree,
Shiloah’s whirlpools gurgle and make glad
The castle of God. Sailor, you were glad
And whistled Sion by that stream. But see: 

Our Lady, too small for her canopy,
Sits near the altar. There’s no comeliness
At all or charm in that expressionless
Face with its heavy eyelids. As before,
This face, for centuries a memory,
Non est species, neque decor
Expressionless, expresses God: it goes
Past castled Sion. She knows what God knows,
Not Calvary’s Cross nor crib at Bethlehem
Now, and the world shall come to Walsingham.

 More photographs of Little Walsingham





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