Dickinson 1

Chapter 1  The Origins of the Shrine

  IT is not easy for the modern reader to appreciate how dark was the glass through which medieval man viewed his history. The information at his disposal was frequently scanty and unreliable, with the inevitable result that the picture he saw as he peered into an obscure past differed notably from that lit up by the light of modern research. One might have expected that historical accuracy could at least have been found at such seats of learning as the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, yet by the end of the Middle Ages both of them had antedated their own foundation by centuries, maintaining a connexion with the mythical Prince Cantaber, the semi-mythical Prince Arthur, and with King Alfred and the Emperor Charlemagne, both of whom had been dead three hundred years before there was the slightest sign of university life in England.1 Similarly, we find the kings of England had long claimed descent from the mythical King Brutus.2 From this historical disability ecclesiastical institutions were by no means immune. The abbey of Glastonbury, with a more venerable history than that of any other English monastery, developed a quite baseless tradition linking its early years with St Joseph of Arimathaea himself.3 In such an atmosphere it was not surprising that the   1 H. Rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages (ed. F. M. Powicke and A. B. Emden, 3 vols., 1936), III, 5-6, 276. 2 T. D. Kendrick, British Antiquity (1950), 4-7. 3 J. Armitage Robinson, Two Glastonbury Legends (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1926).     Page 4  famous house of Our Lady of Walsingham had, by the time of the Reformation, somewhat distorted the story of its own beginnings.  In a Book of Hours now in the University Library, Cambridge, a note claims that the original chapel at Walsingham was founded in 1061,1 and this is elaborated in a ballad on the house, published by Richard Pynson in or soon after 1496.2 But this very late evidence is squarely contradicted by earlier and much more reliable material, which shows that the origins of the shrine belong to the early half of the twelfth century. The very fine cartulary of Walsingham Priory now in the British Museum3 furnishes a list of priors, giving both their names and the length of their periods of office which establishes that the priory at Walsingham began in or about 1153,4 and this is attested by other evidence. The Pynson ballad tells us that the priory at Walsingham was preceded by a chapel built in honour of Our Lady by one Richelde of Fervaques5 whose son, Geoffrey, converted the place into a priory. This is confirmed by Geoffrey’s foundation charter6   1 University Library, Cambridge, MS. Ii. vi. 2, fo. 71r; ‘anno domini m° sexagesimo primo capella beate marie de Walsyngham in comitatu Norff. fuit fundata et incepta’. The book belongs to the early fifteenth century but this note is rather later. Cf. J. Leland, Collectanea (ed. T. Hearne, 1770) IV, 29: ‘Walsingham Sacellum D. Mariae inchoatum tempore Edwardi Confessoris. Deinde tempore Gulielmi Nothi inducti sunt canonici.’ Cf. ibid. I, 59, ‘Galfridus Faverchesse miles fundator.’ 2 For the text of this see Appendix I (below, 124-30); from verse 14 it appears that the ballad belongs to the late fifteenth century. 3 Cotton MS. Nero E. VII; two folios of deeds in the same hand are in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS. Top. Norfolk b. I. 4 Ibid. fo. 157v; see Appendix 22 (below, 131-4). 5 The early form of the name ‘de Favarches’ (Mon. 73) is perhaps to be identified with Fervaques (dep. Aisne) in Vermandois, or Fervaques (dep. Calvados, arr. Lisieux); Fervaches (dep. Manches) is also possible. 6 Cartulary fo. 8r = Mon. 73: ‘Notum sit vobis me dedisse et concessisse Deo et S. Mariae et Edwino clerico meo, ad ordinem religionis, quem ipse providerit instituendum, capellam quam mater mea fundauit in Walsingham in honore perpetuae Virginis Mariae, una cum possessione ecclesiae Omnium Sanctorum ejusdem villae . . . .’     Page 5 THE EARLY CHAPEL and may be taken as certain. His deed cannot be closely dated but is the earliest in the cartulary. A confirmation of it1 is addressed to William, bishop of Norwich (1146-75) by Roger, earl of Clare (1152-73). As Roger was recognized as earl of Hereford by 11562 and is not styled by this title in this charter,3 it seems likely that the latter was drawn up between 1152 and 1156.  Of Richelde little is known, but we have in the Pipe Roll of 1130-1* an invaluable note which suggests that she was a widow in this year. This tells us that one William de Hocton (probably Houghton) rendered account for ten golden marks for the right to have the wife of Geoffrey Fervaques as his wife, with her land, and to have the wardship of her son until the latter could become a knight, and afterwards the son was to hold the land from William.4 It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Geoffrey here mentioned was the father of the founder of Walsingham Priory and the widow mentioned was Richelde, who built the chapel there. This Geoffrey is mentioned in 1108 along with William de Houghton5 and he also witnesses the foundation charter of Binham Priory (1101-12).6 A little later, Binham recovered a moiety of Walsingham   1 Ibid. no. 3. 2 Complete Peerage, III, 244; cf. ibid. VI, 500.      3 Mon. 73, no. 3. 4  ‘Willelmus de Hoctona reddit Compotum de x marcas auri pro uxore Gaufridi de Fauarc. habere in uxorem cum terra sua, et filium suum habere in custodia donec possit esse miles et postea idem filius tenere terram de eodem Willelmo’, Pipe Roll 31 Henry I (Pipe Roll Soc. 1929), P. 94. The largeness of the sum that William was prepared to pay together with Geoffrey’s possession of the patronage of the parish church (mentioned in his charter) suggests that the latter was the main landowner of the parish. 5 Mon. 111, 348. 6 B.M., Cott. MS. Claud. D. XIII, fo. 2r. * In his own copy of this book the author has pencilled in: ?1129-30     Page 6 against Geoffrey and his priest Warin,1 and Geoffrey witnessed a gift to Castle Acre before 1130.2 But the Pipe Roll shows conclusively that he was dead by 1131, so it is quite clear that it was a namesake of his who founded the priory at Walsingham in or about 1153.  This namesake is almost certainly the son of Geoffrey mentioned in the Pipe Roll of 1130-1 as being then under age. This entry implies that Geoffrey II could not have been born before about 1100 at the very earliest, a fact which tells very strongly against 1061 as the date of the foundation of the chapel at Walsingham by Richelde. For if we were to accept this latter date as accurate, we are bound to believe that Richelde was born some twenty years before 1061 (as a child could not found a chapel) and she would therefore be some seventy or eighty years of age when her son Geoffrey was born. It is worth noting that there is no authority for this date of 1061 earlier than the late fifteenth century, and that by this time it was by no means uncommon for some considerable misunderstanding to exist as to the circumstances under which, several centuries earlier, a monastery came into being. The unreliability of Leland on the foundation of Walsingham is shown by his remark that canons were introduced there under William the Conqueror, a statement that is, almost certainly, quite false. Finally, it is to be noted that there is no evidence of Richelde or any of the Fervaques owning land in Walsingham in the period covered by Domesday Book (1066-86).3  If we are to accept the evidence of the Pynson ballad that the chapel at Walsingham was founded by Richelde   1 B.M., Cott. MS. Claud. D. XIII, fo. 41r. 2 Mon. v, 50. 3 Domesday Book, fos. 233, 254.      Page 7 THE HOLY HOUSE when she was a widow, we must date the event late in her life, unless we presume an earlier marriage than the one to Geoffrey. As we have not the slightest evidence for this, and since it is all but certain that she was a widow in 1130-1, it seems natural to conclude that the first chapel at Walsingham was founded somewhere about this latter date. It should be noted that, if the chapel had existed for any long period as a place of pilgrimage, before it was given over to regular canons, it would almost inevitably have acquired considerable property which one would expect to find mentioned in the cartulary; of this there is little trace.  It is not impossible that the foundation of the priory at Walsingham took place only a very short time after that of the chapel. For Richelde’s erection of the Holy House may have been inspired by her son’s visit to the Holy Land (which is mentioned in his foundation charter). When this journey took place is not known, but as Geoffrey was under age in 1131 it may well have been as late as the forties of the century, possibly at the time of the Second Crusade (1147-8). In the present state of the evidence all that can safely be said is that the priory of Walsingham was certainly founded by Geoffrey de Fervaques II in or very near 1153 and that the date of the foundation of the chapel by his mother probably lay in the preceding quarter of a century.1 A connexion with Geoffrey’s visit to the Holy Land is perhaps borne out by the almost certain fact that Richelde’s chapel was no ordinary one, but was planned as a reproduction of the House of Nazareth where Our  1 A popular guide-book has connected with Walsingham, ‘Balduinus filius Gaufridi et Ricolda mater eius’ mentioned in a Bury St Edmunds charter of 1151-4 (Feudal Documents from the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, ed. D. C. Douglas, 1932, no. 78, p. 91); but there seem no grounds for so doing.     Page 8 Lady had been greeted with the news of her part in the Incarnation by the Archangel Gabriel. This origin of the chapel is very clearly stated in the Pynson ballad1 which may well be accurate enough here, if not on other details. Such a view receives very strong support from the remarkable fact that this early chapel at Walsingham was regarded with such tremendous veneration that it was preserved intact till the Reformation.2 In general, medieval folk had very little respect for the buildings of their forefathers, rebuilding them on a larger and, as it seemed to them, a better scale whenever financial resources permitted. As we shall see, so wealthy a priory as Walsingham could very easily have afforded to rebuild Our Lady’s chapel in a most sumptuous way and the fact that it was retained and surrounded by a larger building of considerable splendour is a sure sign that it was regarded as a place of exceptional significance.3 A deliberate imitation of the original Holy House, as we shall see, would provide a very comprehensible explanation of this, and, indeed, is almost the only one which can safely be invoked to explain the facts as we have them. Some little support is given to the theory advanced above by signs of the early importance attached to a statue of St Gabriel. The earliest detailed reference to the places of pilgrimage at Walsingham encountered by the writer—in the Household Accounts for 18 Edward I—makes mention of the statue of St Gabriel4 which was then apparently in the little chapel. Such an image would have been an almost inevitable accompaniment of a   1 Below, 125-6. The twelfth-century guides to the Holy Land make it clear that no building claimed to be the original one at this time, though what was thought to have been the site of the latter was venerated. 2 Below, 102-4.      3 Ibid. 4 Below, 39.    top of page Page 9 THE STATUE OF OUR LADY replica of the House of Nazareth. If it was later moved elsewhere, this would be natural enough once the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham had reached such eminence as completely to eclipse in interest the chapel itself, which certainly seems to have quickly come to be regarded as largely a setting for the statue.  The statue which made Walsingham famous was one of Our Lady and the Holy Child. It was burnt at the time of the Reformation1 but what is almost certainly a representation of it is preserved on a seal of the priory2 and on certain pilgrim badges.3 There can be no doubt that the statue was of mid- or late twelfth-century date and it is a curious fact, hitherto unnoted, that it bears a close resemblance to that of Our Lady of Rocamadour.4 It is not certain that this statue was in the original chapel before the foundation of the priory. Not only may it be rather later in date than the chapel, but it does not seem probable that a chapel commemorating the Annunciation would be provided with a statue of Our Lady showing her seated on a throne with the infant Christ on her arm.  However this may be, there can be no doubt that the shrine of Walsingham began as nothing more than a place of private devotion erected by the great lady of the parish probably in the second quarter of the twelfth century. It was not intended as a centre of public worship, the parishioners’ spiritual needs being very adequately met at this time by the three churches, All Saints’, Little Walsingham, and St Peter’s and All Saints’, of Great Walsingham. Equally certain is it that, in or about 1153, a small priory of Austin canons was   1 Below, 65. 2 On the seals of the house see below, 108 ff.  3 Below, 113-4. 4 Below, 112.     Page 10 established at Walsingham and given charge of the chapel.1 It is curious that, whereas Geoffrey de Fervaques’s foundation charter envisages the regular life being initiated by ‘my clerk Edwy’,2 the confirmation by Earl Roger (which is presumably only a little later in date) speaks of ‘my clerks of Walsingham, Ralph and Geoffrey’ instituting the new order there. It is possible that Edwy had died in the meantime. The Ralph here mentioned is evidently the one of that name who occurs as the first prior of Walsingham.3  There are two possible explanations of this alteration in status of the chapel at Walsingham. It may have been principally due to the very profound veneration for the monastic life prevalent at this time. The reign which saw the foundation of the priory of Walsingham saw, in less than twenty years, the establishment of more religious houses than had been founded in the previous century, and the number of monasteries in England increased fourfold between 1100 and 1216. To sensitive minds the cloister offered a power and joy hardly to be found in the world outside, whilst the intercession of religious was highly prized by the great section of society which continued to live in the world. It was evidently this veneration for monasticism that had led to the foundation of the neighbouring priories of West Acre and Coxford,4 and it probably inspired the introduction of the monastic life at Walsingham.  On the other hand, another explanation is just possible. Once a local church had become a place of pilgrimage, there were obvious advantages in transferring to the hands of religious who could satisfy the complex demands of such a centre and provide the   1 Above, 4-5. 2 Mon. 73. 3 Below, 133. 4 J. C. Dickinson, The Origin of the Austin Canons (1950), 149.      Page 11 THE FOUNDATION OF THE PRIORY edifying example so specially appropriate there. Thus early in the century the priest in charge of the historic church of Hexham gave it to Austin canons, and other brethren of the order guarded the relics of St Wulfad at Stone and St Eadburgh at Bicester,1 just as their continental brethren are found at this time in charge of the churches of Sainte-Geneviève of Paris, San Frediano of Lucca and Santiago of Compostella. If the chapel of Walsingham rapidly became at least a local place of pilgrimage, it would have been very natural to entrust it to the care of a community of Austin canons. Whether we take this view or not depends principally on the difficult question of the date at which Walsingham became a centre of public devotion. As we shall see, however, it is to be admitted that there is no clear sign of pilgrimages to the shrine for some decades after the foundation of the priory.  To those acquainted with the nature of medieval historical evidence it will come as no surprise that the story of Walsingham as a pilgrimage centre cannot be written in anything more than outline, partly because the necessary evidence on the question has been destroyed, but more especially because much of it never existed in permanent form. If the library and archives of the priory had survived the Reformation, if we were still able to consult such works as the ‘Annals of the chapel of Walsingham’, seen by the fifteenth-century chronicler John Capgrave2 we should be in a much happier condition. As it is, we are driven to rely on the extensive but not very helpful material contained in the cartulary, eked out by isolated references in a variety of other sources of varying degrees of reliability.   1 Ibid. 148-9. 2 Below, 38-9.     Page 12  There are three factors which may lie behind the rise to fame of Our Lady’s Chapel at Walsingham. First, of course, is the attraction which the shrine may have exerted as a copy of the Holy House about the time the mellifluous voice of Saint Bernard was stirring up popular devotion to the Holy Land by his preaching for the Second Crusade. It is not difficult to sense the effect on medieval Norfolk of the establishment, within its bounds, of so clear-cut a connexion with the Holy Land in general, and in particular with the Blessed Virgin whose praises were so often on St Bernard’s lips and whose name was borne by all the great Cistercian abbeys now springing up in such numbers all over the Latin world.  To this it is just possible that we ought to add the attraction of the wells which adjoined the original chapel of Our Lady of Walsingham. As is almost inevitable, medieval historical evidence being what it is, their history is very ill documented, and it is not certain whether the absence of early evidence of their popularity means that this never existed or merely that proof of it has not survived. The first reference to them found by the writer occurs in a list of canons of the house given in the cartulary1 where we are told that Thomas Gatele, a fifteenth-century subprior of Walsingham, as a boy fell into ‘the well of Blessed Mary’ and, after being taken out as dead, was restored to life by a miracle of Our Lady.2 It is a matter of opinion whether this is to be interpreted as implying general public access to the well or as merely one more example of the perennial tendency of small boys to turn up in unexpected places. The well is, presumably, one of the ‘tweyne wells’ mentioned in the Pynson ballad, still to be seen some   1 Below, Appendix iii (135-40). 2 Below, 136. top of page  Page 13 THE WELLS hundred and sixty feet east of the church. The ballad makes it quite clear that healing was one of the phenomena associated with the shrine,1 but does not, like Erasmus,2 specifically connect this with the wells. Evidence being so thin, it would clearly be unwise to base any important conclusion on it, and it is likely enough that it was the statue of Our Lady that was the original attraction.3 It is at least curious that the site at Nazareth by which the house at Walsingham is believed to have been inspired was also connected with a well. The medieval pilgrims’ reports mostly mention it. The account of the Russian abbot, Daniel,4 tells us that ‘the holy Virgin received the first announcement from the Archangel at the well of the first Annunciation . . . a good bowshot from the town’ ; the well is described as ‘very deep . . . with very cold water’ and had, at that time, built over it a round church dedicated to the Archangel Gabriel. Mention of this well probably derives ultimately from the apocryphal Book of James.5  Almost certainly much the most important factor in the rise of Walsingham to popularity was the growing devotion to the statue of Our Lady there. Almost every church at this time had such a statue, and this work is not concerned with the difficult problem of why some of them became so much more venerated than others.   1 Below, 128. 2 Below, 92. 3 See below, 14-18. A well, whose supply may be connected with that of the wells in the priory grounds, was found when remains of a building overlapping the site of the present Anglican shrine were partially excavated. It is quite likely that it is the ‘well called Cabbokeswell’ mentioned in a deed of 1387. (Cartulary fo. 27, imperfectly printed in Arch. Journ. XIII (1856), 131.) From the medieval notes on this deed which follow, it seems very likely that at some period the priory had constructed an almonry near the well which may have been the building whose foundations were discovered when the modern shrine was built. 4 Palestine Pilgrims’ Text Soc. IV (2), 71. 5 The Apocryphal New Testament, trs. M. R. James (1924), 43.     Page 14 Of this as a fact there can be no doubt. Sometimes such popularity was of unexpectedly rapid growth, as when, in 1310, at Bridlington Priory’s chapel at Fraisthorpe by reason of devotion to ‘a certain new image of the Virgin’ there ‘suddenly and unexpectedly’ arose new offerings on what was evidently a fairly considerable scale.’ But in general, achievement of popularity seems to have been a gradual process. It is certain that the statue of Our Lady at Walsingham was incomparably the most important shrine of its kind in medieval England, but it is difficult to get any very clear idea as to how it attained this ascendancy.  So ordinary an event as a pilgrimage to a shrine attracted no considerable attention in chronicles or records, in just the same way as the audience at a cricket match or concert today leaves little written trace of itself to delight the future social historian. When such unpublished sources as the Household and Wardrobe Accounts have been fully ransacked, it will be possible to add some few details of the later pilgrimages to Walsingham so far as the royal household was concerned, but folk of lesser degree have left only the scantiest traces of the thousands of visits they undoubtedly made to the shrine of Our Lady there. For knowledge of the important first hundred years of the priory’s history we are largely dependent on evidence from the cartulary. Valuable as are its early deeds, they throw very little light on many aspects of the house’s life, and the fact that they have not yet found an editor further diminishes their present value.  One point, however, is perfectly clear—the very small financial importance of Walsingham up to the   1 Chartulary of Bridlington Priory, ed. W. T. Lancaster (Leeds, 1912), 448-9.     Page 15 THE POVERTY OF THE EARLY PRIORY middle of the thirteenth century. Had it been a major pilgrimage centre from its early days, the house would certainly have acquired considerable property by this time, but the evidence shows quite clearly that it had not succeeded in doing this. According to a late note in the cartulary, Geoffrey of Fervaques ‘fowndyth the chyrche off the seyd priory and he gaffe it to the chapel off owr Lady with al the grownd with inne the seyte off the seyd place, wyth the chyrch off the seyde ton qwych than was taxid cs. be yer. And with viii acr. dim. off land with xxs. of yerly rent to be payd owte of hys maner in the seyd Walsyngham. The yeri [sic] valwe of alle this seyd fundacion, except the offeryng of the seyd chapel of our lady, passyd not x marcs.’1 This tradition of the lack of estates in the priory’s early years is fully supported by the detailed specification of the house’s possessions drawn up by Prior William in 1250.2 Apart from the priory and its precinct the main possessions there enumerated were the church of All Saints, Little Walsingham, 20s. yearly from a mill in the village, 82 acres in Snoring with its pasture, the church of All Saints, Great Walsingham,3 and 40d. of land in Walsingham given by William, brother of King Henry (d. 1164), to which are added a dozen gifts of land (the largest of which was only six acres) and one or two small rents.  The only effective clue, located by the writer, to the relative income of the house at this time is provided by the assessment for the feudal aid of 1235-6,4 which gives the same impression of mediocrity. Of the local houses   1 Mon. 70= Cartul. fo. 5v. 2 Bod. Lib. Oxf., Norfolk Charters, 554. 3 The original deed of gift of this by Rowland ‘de Terra Vasta’ is now B.M., Charters, Topham 42. Very few deeds of the priory are known to have survived. 4 Book of Fees, 566. Bromholm was assessed at £5.     Page 16 of Austin canons, Butley easily headed the list with £13. 6s. 8d., followed by Coxford and West Acre assessed at £5, whilst Walsingham, with St Peter’s (Ipswich), Pentney and Blythburgh, was rated at £3. 6s. 8d., Bricett at £2 and Wormgay at £11. 6s. 8d. This is in striking contrast to the situation shown in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 where Walsingham figures as easily the richest house of the order in Norfolk. It is, of course, true that we cannot dismiss the possibility that there were quite considerable gifts in these early years which were spent in ways that have left no trace in our records. Thus casual offerings at this period may well have been devoted to increasing the number of brethren in the house or to building operations on a considerable scale. Unhappily we have no clear evidence on this sort of expenditure, though building operations were certainly in progress in the late twelfth century, and the cartulary shows the convent enlarging its precinct in the time of Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hereford (1230-62) and his son William.1 But this is not necessarily of any great significance and, as we shall see, at the end of the century, though Walsingham has certainly improved its position, it is far from being a place of great wealth.  Equally fragile is the evidence of the hospital of Beck which was founded in 1224, it is said for the reception of pilgrims visiting Walsingham,2 though no evidence has been produced to show that this was its original purpose. The only people whose movements at this time can be regularly ascertained are the kings of England,   1 Cartul., fos. 12v—14v. Hubert de Burgh gave the church of Oulton ‘pro anima Aleysie matris nostre in ecclesia de Walsingham quiescentis’, ibid. fo. 91r. 2 V.C.H., Norfolk, II, 438; the statement may be based on a misreading of T. Tanner, Notitia Monastica (ed. J. Nasmith, 1787), Norfolk, IV.     Page 17 HENRY III AND WALSINGHAM who, in the matter of pilgrimage, may or may not have resembled their subjects. The rather sketchy itinerary of Henry II (d. 1189) shows no trace of his having visited Walsingham,1 and it is certain that Richard I (d. 1199)2 and John (d. 1216)3 were never there. It can, of course, be argued that such negative evidence amounts to little, that Henry and Richard were busy kings who spent much of their time abroad and John was little given to visiting shrines. To which it may be replied that, as Henry III and Edward I were to show, in this as in other matters, where there was the will there was the way.  There seems little doubt that Walsingham’s rise to national fame was due more to Henry III than to anyone else. Whatever the king’s faults, distaste for devotional exercises was not among them, and it was not surprising that he took an early opportunity to venerate the relic of the Holy Cross owned by Bromholm Priory which lay some twenty-six miles east of Walsingham. The relic had been acquired about 1220 and within the next few years the fame it attracted was sufficient to be a subject of comment in one or two of the leading chronicles of the age.4 Henry is first found at Bromholm on 5 and 6 April 1226 and on the latter day he granted the priory a fair, to be held on the vigil, day and morrow of the feast of the Holy Cross.5 The two previous days the King had spent at Walsingham6 and on 4 April he had granted the priory the right to hold a weekly market at Walsingham7 and also a fair on the   1 R. W. Eyton, Court, Household and Itinerary of Henry II (1878), passim. 2 Itinerary of Richard I, Pipe Roll Soc. (n.s.), XIII (1935). 3 Rotuli Litterarum Patentium (Rec. Corn.), Introduction. 4 F. Wormald, ‘ The Rood of Bromholm’, Journ. Warburg Inst. I, 31-45. 5 Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum, II, 105. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid.     Page 18 vigil and day of the Holy Cross.1  These grants suggest that Walsingham was of only secondary importance to Bromholm. Walsingham’s fair was only for two days and was to be held on the same day as that of Bromholm, not on a feast of Our Lady as was later the case and as might have been expected had the shrine already been important. Yet this visit was but the first of many paid by a king, and was made by one who seems to have fallen in love with the place.  We find Henry next at Walsingham on 5 August 12292 and again on 3 July 1232 when he gave the prior forty oak trees for the work of the Church,3 and letters of protection.4 Two years later Henry gave the priory twenty oak trees ‘to make a certain building’ (camera)5 and in 1235 he was at Walsingham again.6 On 6 June 1238 he came yet once more, ‘having spent the previous night at Bromholm, and in 1242 was at Walsingham from 24 to 26 March after a visit to Bromholm two days earlier.8 Henry gave the canons a yearly grant of 40s. mentioned in 1229,9 and various gifts of wax and tapers in 1239, 1240,1241, 1242 and 1244.10 Several of the latter were considerable; that of 1241 gave no less than 3000 tapers to be offered in the chapel of St Mary at Walsingham on the feast of the Assumption. In 1242 the Pipe Rolls show that he had given substantial gifts of wax to Bury St Edmunds, Norwich and Bromholm, but the largest share went to Walsingham -— 100 pounds of wax and 500 tapers valued at 118s. 8d.11  In March 1245 the   1 Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum, II, 105. 2 C.C.R. (1227-31), 999. 3 Ibid. (1231-4), 82. 4 C.P.R. (1225-32), 488. 5 C.C.R. (1231-4), 379.  6 Ibid. (1234-7), 59 7 Ibid. (1237-42), 58. 8 Ibid. 407 345- 9 Cal. Liberate Rolls (1226-40), 118, 149. 10 Ibid. (1226-40), 398; (1240-45), 9, 66, 114, 143, 245. 11 The Pipe Roll of 26 Henry III (1241-2), ed. H. L. Cannon, 190.     Page 19 HENRY III AND THE SHRINE king was at Bromholm and Walsingham yet again1 as he was in 1248.2 In 1246 had come the interesting and generous gift of 20 marks to make a golden crown and place it on the image of St Mary of Walsingham.3 On 13 March 1251 the king ordered a certain embroidered chasuble to be sent quickly to him at Walsingham4 and he is found there on the 25th (Lady Day) when he granted the priory a great fair to be held on the vigil and day of the feast of the Nativity of St Mary and six days after, a substantial favour in return for which the convent was to have a wax candle weighing two pounds, continually burning before the great altar of their church.5 March 17, 1256, saw Henry at Walsingham6 and three days later he was at Bromholm.7 On 16 March 1255, when at Thetford, he had issued a charter confirming a number of smallish benefactions to the priory8. After this remarkable series of visits it is a little surprising that the king is only found once more at Walsingham—in September 1272 when he may have stayed several days, as letters from there dated the 22nd and 29th of the month have survived.9 In some ways Henry’s most valuable benefaction to Walsingham was the deep devotion to the shrine implanted in his son Edward I (1272-1307).   1 C.P.R. (1242-7), 295. 2 Ibid. (1247-58), 10. 3 Cal. Liberate Rolls (1245-51), 18. 4 C.C.R. (1247-51), 423. Cf. Cal. Liberate Rolls (1245-51), 354; it had cost £13. 95s. 2d. 5 C.Ch.R., (1226-57), 354; he was there on Mar. 28, C.P.R. (1247-58), 91. 6 C.C.R. (1254-6), 286. 7 C.P.R.(1247-58), 466. 8 Mon. 73, no. 6. The acquisitions are minor and miscellaneous including small rents, a few villeins, three-quarters of the advowson of St Andrew’s, Burnham and some gifts of land of which the chief were of twenty-five and sixty acres. 9 C.P.R. (1266-72), 679; C.C.R. (1268-72), 527; C.Ch.R. II, 984.  top of page   Page 20  Edward’s attachment to Walsingham was of long standing. We are told by a reliable chronicler that, on one occasion during his youth, Edward was playing chess in a vaulted room when he suddenly moved away and immediately a large stone from the roof fell on the spot where he had been sitting ‘because of which miracle he ever afterwards most ardently honoured our Lady of Walsingham’, a decision which clearly implies previous knowledge of her cult.’ Gough’s magnificent Itinerary2 shows evident signs of the reality of the devotion to Walsingham, in later days, of a king who only twice visited Bromholm.3 Edward is found at Walsingham on no less than twelve occasions. He was there first as a king on Palm Sunday 1277 and again between 5 and 8 January 1281, thus including the feast of the Epiphany. On this occasion Edward confirmed the priory’s possessions, its ecclesiastical property being specified in detail.4 In 1289 the king and his queen, having returned to England from Gascony, went to pay a vow first at Bury St Edmunds and then, at Walsingham,5 where they are found on 24 September. It is tempting to speculate whether the king may not now have made a special vow to visit the shrine of Our Lady here, for from now on his visits are so frequent as to be almost annual.6   1 ‘Cum adhuc adolescens esset et cum quodam milite in camera testudinata ludo scaccarii occuparetur, subito, nulla occasione praestita, inter ludendum surgens discessit, et ecce! lapis immensae magnitudinis qui sedentem conquassasset, cecidit in eundum locum quo sederat; propter quod miraculum, Beatam Mariam apud Walsyngham semper postea propensius honorabat. Ei revera attribuebat quod periculum istud evasit.’ William Rishanger, Chronica (R.S. 79), II, 76-7= Thomas of Walsingham, Historia Anglorum (R.S. 79), I, 9. 2 H. Gough, Itinerary of King Edward the First (2 vols., Paisley, 2900), passim. 3 In 2277 and 1285 (op. cit.). 4 Mon. 74. 5 John of Oxenedes, Chron. (R.S. 13), 273. 6 See Gough, op. cit., passim.     Page 21 EDWARD I AND THE SHRINE  His chancery is found at Walsingham on 10-11 May 1292, from 26 February to 4 March 1294 (when he granted a licence to alienate in mortmain),1 and from 28 to 30 January 1296 when the king is known to have been on pilgrimage.2 A few days later, on the Feast of the Purification (2 February) representatives of the king and of the count of Flanders swore acceptance of a treaty in the chapel of Our Lady at Walsingham.3 This feast seems to have been the principal feast of Our Lady at Walsingham, and Edward assisted at its observance the next year (1297). Further visits followed on 13 May 1298, 20 January 1299, 14-15 May 1300 (when we have records of the king’s offerings, of one made on behalf of the queen,4 and ten days later those by the young prince, Edward).5 The king came again on 30 March 1302, and for the last time on 1 February 1305, staying on this occasion till the 3rd, thus again being present for the feast of the Purification.  The very restricted nature of thirteenth-century evidence sheds next to no light on visits of the less illustrious to Walsingham, and, though unexplored records may add a little to our knowledge, it is unlikely that we shall ever obtain more than occasional very fleeting glimpses of such pilgrims to the shrine at this time. Medieval records are largely concerned with privileges, property, disorders and royal finance. The first two are irrelevant to our purpose, and the last two concern it little. It is significant of the perversity of our sources, that mention of the first member of the general public known to have visited the shrine has survived purely because he   1 C.P.R.(1292-1301), 83. It concerns land in Burnham and Salle.  2 Barthol. Cotton, Hist. Angl. (R.S. 16), 316-17. 3 Annales monastici (R.S. 36) IV, 529. 4 Below, 39. 5 Ibid.     Page 22 became involved in legal proceedings. In 1261 John le Chaumpeneys and his mother were going on pilgrimage to Walsingham when John was attacked by his landlord at Bintree and in defence accidentally killed him.1 Had he not done so, he would have disappeared as completely from history’s page as the hundreds of his social contemporaries who made peaceful journeys to the shrine. So far as details of offerings are concerned, we have only the bare entries in a handful of medieval private accounts mostly of the aristocracy and mostly compiled in the last two centuries of Walsingham’s history. Thus for most of its history and particularly in its early stages the rise of the flood of pilgrims to Walsingham and the nature and extent of their benefactions can only be traced in the very barest of outlines.  An invaluable indication of the financial state of things is found in the particulars furnished by the Taxatio of Pope Nicholas (1291). It is clear from this that, although Walsingham was, even then, far from being a wealthy house, its position since the assessment of 1235-6 had improved. Its temporalities—almost all in Norfolk—were assessed at £78. 17s. 0¾d. being slightly more than those of Bromholm (£74. 17s. 7d.) ; whilst the ‘offerings in the chapel of Our Lady’ were rated at £20.2 Walsingham was now among the middle-sized houses of Austin canons, even if very far away from the enormously wealthy position it occupied at the time of its suppression, when it was the second richest monastery in Norfolk, surpassed only by the cathedral priory of Norwich.3   1 C.P.R.(1258-68), 182. 2 Taxatio Ecclesiastica (Rec. Com.), 108-9, 94-5, 93. I have not noted any estimate of offerings at Bromholm at this time, though at the Dissolution they had sunk to the very low figure of £5. 12s. 9d. 3 A. Savine, English Monasteries on the Eve of the Dissolution (1909), 278-9.     Page 23 GROWTH OF THE PRIORY  A possible further indication of the improved position of the house is provided by the architectural evidence, which suggests that in the latter half of the thirteenth century the refectory and cloister were probably rebuilt and a western tower added to the church about the end of the period.1 It was perhaps this architectural activity which led to the house being heavily in debt when Archbishop Pecham visited it in 1280.2   1 Below, 74ff. 2 Cartul. fo. I 2r. He allowed the priory to serve the Church of All Saints, Little Walsingham, by a suitable chaplain, ‘donec sitis a debitorum sarcina liberati, in quibus nuper domum vestram visitantes nos invenimus multipliciter gravatos et oppressos’.  

J C Dickinson, The Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham, 1956  Chapters 1-3 (‘Historical’)

Chapter 2    Chapter 3
Chapter 2     Chapter 3