the seal of the medieval priory
Medieval Walsingham

Although the archives of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham hold no original records at all of the medieval priory and shrine, Fr Patten needed to explore all that was then known of the period in order to undertake his vision of a restoration. What was available to him at that time? What work has been done since?

For the purposes of the website we are dividing the material broadly into four sections: history, documents, archaeology and Fr Patten's own writings about the foundations. There will of course be much overlapping between them. Links to each of these four sections are at the foot of this page.

John Dickinson Underpinning all is the scholarship of John Dickinson, pictured left, who needs no introduction to any student of medieval Walsingham. A priest and academic, fellow and chaplain of Pembroke College, Oxford, he published The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in 1956 (reprinted 2011). We are indebted to his family for allowing us to reproduce the text on this site.

Another distinguished scholar interested in Walsingham's medieval history is Professor Christopher Harper-Bill, Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia. He contributed a paper on the foundation and later history of the medieval shrine at the Centenary Historical Conference of the Roman Catholic National Shrine in March 1998. (see Bibliography page for details)

The HISTORY section at present includes the Walsingham extract from Edmund Waterton's much longer Pietas Mariana Britannica (1879). It also includes the Walsingham extract from Blomefield's 18th century History of Norfolk. The Pilgrim Way heading on the drop-down menu leads to two well-known fairly modern accounts of the probable route of the 'Walsingham Way' by Fr Ibbott (1969) and Leonard Whatmore (1973).

DOCUMENTS gives four so far of core medieval manuscripts, in the original Latin with English translation; ARCHAEOLOGY lists many of the excavation reports from the nineteenth century onwards - and these will be given in full where possible. There are new papers by Doreen Agutter, summing up and assessing what has gone before, and by J B Wells, detailing his personal research on the possible location of the Priory's northern precinct wall. These, and FR PATTEN's writings, include details of the various wells and their likely origins, still a source of debate.

Fr Patten had a great interest in history and archaeology. He collected a mass of material for a history of the mediæval priory in Walsingham, but he only managed to produce a sketchy Chronicle which appeared in instalments in Our Lady’s Mirror between 1936 and 1939. This contained in chronological sequence every reference to medieval Walsingham that he had found over the years, coupled with other events recorded in the old documents and books that had attracted his antiquarian attention.

These instalments are bound up with one of the sets of Our Lady's Mirror now kept in the archives. The series - having reached the year 1471 - ended in 1939 because of the War and was not continued thereafter.

Here also are the texts of the medieval ballads, and a photograph of the sixteenth-century deed (a Priory grant of land) that was presented to Fr Patten in 1932.

If you are interested in the medieval history, revisit this section from time to time. It is being compiled in parallel with the main work on the archives, so should have a steady flow of uploaded publications, documents and photographs.


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