Winifred Bennett

Fifty years ago [1921] Walsingham was still a little medieval town. On arrival you stood at the station, and looked across the meadows to see a twisted spire amongst the tree tops. Of the church you saw but little, but the spire was famous — except for Chesterfield the most crooked spire in England. Medieval also in her ways was Walsingham. If you were lucky you had your own well and water supply. If you were not so blessed you shared a well with the rest of "the yard". There was no indoor sanitation, except a cart which went round two nights a week to "empty the buckets". There was no light for streets or houses except oil lamps. A "big bath" was rare, there were only two in the parish: the Abbey and the Black Lion. We were only in one way more modern than today : we had arrived by train, having left Liverpool Street Station at 5.15 p.m. and got out at Walsingham itself at 9.10 p.m., our coach having been shunted on to a local train at a tiny station en route. Walsingham was also better off in the matter of shops than it is today. Its two markets having been long done away with, good little shops where you could buy useful things had taken their place. The Black Lion was there, as it had been for several hundred years and there were some eight other inns as well, which have been closed down one by one till only three remain. The saddest loss to Walsingham was the old fair — a real one, kept at the beginning of our local Holy Day which was in Walsingham Corpus Christi. I once asked the old gipsy who was in charge how they knew when to come to Walsingham as the feast had no fixed date. His reply was : "Well, it's not the Thursday after Whit-Monday, it's the Thursday after that". I, like all the small children, loved the fair and deeply regretted its passing. Though they did not realise it was so, it was the last old link between the secular life of the town and the days when the Church's calendar guided their lives in all civic as well as secular matters. 
Winifred Bennett remembers the village from before Fr Patten's coming in 1921