These accounts illuminating everyday life in the early days of the village and Shrine come from many varied sources and give fascinating detail, some poignant, some very amusing. They speak straight from the past and we have glimpses of life there of the sort that one does not find in the formal publications of the time. We also see a more domestic side of Fr Patten and of some of the other well-known residents. We are always pleased to add more reminiscences to these.
From those still living, or relatives of those who have died, we have permission to publish them: some retain their anonymity. A few are in the public domain already. Except where otherwise indicated the photographs are all from the Shrine archives or the public domain.
Winifred Bennett remembers the village from before Fr Patten's coming in 1921: her father owned The Beeches, the house that was later bought for the hospice (now Stella Maris House), and she continued to live on elsewhere in the village.
from a former boat boy who was present at Fr Patten's induction
from Mrs J A Alderson who was one of the first babies baptised by Fr Patten
from someone who visited Walsingham soon after the statue was erected in the parish church, and later attended the Translation and then the blessing of the extension of the Shrine church
from George Back, a choirboy at the time, who remembers the first pilgrimage
from Bridget Monahan, whose family started visiting the Shrine in 1926
H B Ewart, a churchwarden at St Mary's, Bourne Street, was present at the Translation in 1931 and his description of the day written for the parish Quarterly Review is a beautifully-observed record, with many touches that the formal records do not reflect
Fr Colin Stephenson, Fr Patten's successor as Administrator, remembered the first foot pilgrimage in 1935
the diary of Frank Wain, a young deacon who stayed in Walsingham for a week in 1938
from Dick Crowe, one of the original party of orphans sent in 1939 by Fr Walke in St Hilary in Cornwall to form the Walsingham Children's Home, the forerunner of "St Hilary's"; he reminisces before he returns to Walsingham in May 2008 for the first time, and then afterwards describes his visit and the impact it had on him
a lettercard from a resident sent from Walsingham during the war
a long memoir from Michael Farrer, about his time as a pupil at the Sanctuary School
Enid Chadwick who lived in Walsingham from1934 until her death in
1987, and recalls the Thirties;
from Paul Lewis, a later pupil at the Sanctuary School
from the ten-year-old grandson of a Guardian who was present on the night that Fr Patten died
from Kathleen Blayney, a Dame of the Order of Our Lady of Walsingham (died 1994) who describes eloquently and entertainingly what pilgrimage was like from her first visits in 1932
Sir William Milner, the greatest benefactor of the Shrine, contributed his reminiscences to the Memorial number of Our Lady's Mirror after Fr Patten's death
A little anecdote about an earlier pilgrim: a blind lady came annually on a parish pilgrimage bringing her guide dog (named Stella). She was accustomed to staying in Room 4 in the 1950s part of Stella Maris (now replaced by the Milner Wing). One year she was allocated Room 3. On arrival Stella was taken to Room 3 and refused to enter. She lay down across the door and refused to allow her owner to cross the threshold: her duty was clearly to look after her owner in Room 4, and no other. The Room allocation was of course speedily changed!
In the British Library sound archives collection its Millennium Memory Bank includes an interview in 1999 with a Walsingham resident, Rose Howell, who was born in 1909. Go to the Sound Archives page of this site to see how to access this; we are told by locals that her memories are not entirely accurate, but nevertheless an interesting transcript.