Fr Colin Stephenson

Fr Patten’s successor as Master and Administrator

On a Saturday evening at the beginning of September, 1935, a small party of three priests and two laymen, who had set out from London six days before, walked down the High Street of Walsingham with bare feet. I was one of the laymen and I was very glad to have removed my shoes as my feet were badly blistered. It was my first visit to Walsingham and I did not quite know what to expect, but the Abbey Gateway and the Pump in the Common Place, surrounded by ancient houses, seemed the right background to the medieval gesture we were making. Outside the Shrine, which was only a small chapel, a young priest was waiting to welcome us — occupying his time by saying his Office. It was Father Derrick Lingwood. The Holy House seemed a fitting end to the 130 miles walk we had accomplished for it was dark and mysterious and full of an atmosphere which I had never before experienced. After supper we were taken to the Vicarage and met Fr. Hope Patten who wanted to hear about every detail of our journey. He gave us whisky to drink and while the priests talked of the tiresomeness of bishops and the way to circumvent their machinations my youthful eyes devoured all the pious adornments of Fr. Patten's room, including a big statue of St. Hugh of Lincoln which I later discovered started life as St. Philip Neri; the painted-out beard gave him a very odd chin. I went to bed that evening tired but very happy. I was staying in the Market Place with Mr. and Mrs. Fred Shepherd. They had a small boy who, when his mother found a rosary in my bed said "what a funny man to play with beads". He grew up and became Father John Shepherd.