Walsingham is a pretty little village set amongst the rolling hills of the North Norfolk countryside. Dating back to the Doomsday book, under the name Walsingham Parva, the modern village incorporates Great and Little Walsingham. Having been welcoming visitors since the mid-eleventh century, the architecture of the combined villages is well worth exploring.
Walsingham is most famous as the home of religious shrines in honour of the Virgin Mary. The combined villages are dominated by ecclesiastical buildings and fine medieval timber-framed jetted buildings. Some of the original foundations still remain there today.
If culture and history is your thing then Walsingham is rife with spots to visit and explore to get a feel of the history around you. The origins of the Pilgrimages, as well as the rich, fertile land providing crops and grazing, fascinate historians of all subjects as well as archaeologists.
Walsingham Abbey is famous for the spectacular remains of the mediaeval Priory and place of pilgrimage, destroyed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The 18 acres of Grounds are well known for snowdrops filling the woodland garden in February. Visitors come from all over the world, all year round.
The Abbey house sits in a classic English landscape, reminiscent of Repton, with garden features of the 1800s created from scattered medieval ruins.
Admission is at the Shirehall, for 200 years a courtroom, and in original 18th-century condition. Built as a pilgrim hostel, then a court, it is now a museum, where you can sit in the dock or the judge’s chair. Displays remind one of the harsh punishments in the past, together with the history of pilgrimage.
Our Lady of Walsingham is a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated by Catholics and Anglicans associated with the Marian apparitions to Richeldis de Faverches, a pious English noblewoman, in 1061 in the village of Walsingham in Norfolk. Lady Richeldis had a structure built named “The Holy House” in Walsingham which later became a shrine and place of pilgrimage.
In passing on his guardianship of the Holy House, Richeldis’s son Geoffrey left instructions for the building of a priory in Walsingham. The priory passed into the care of the Canons Regular of S Augustine, sometime between 1146 and 1174.
Pope Pius XII granted a canonical coronation to the Catholic image via the papal nuncio, Bishop Gerald O’Hara, on 15 August 1954 with a gold crown funded by her female devotees, now venerated in the Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham.
A shrine shop located on site sells everything from mugs, scarfs, ornaments to beauty products.
Norton’s cafe bar is great for quality, locally sourced food. You can choose from hot meals, salad bar, full English breakfast, cakes, coffee and wine.
Walsingham has a wealth of locally run stores and restaurants which again give you the feel of the local history within the villages.
The Bull Inn
The Bull Inn is a traditional country Norfolk pub located in the heart of the village. They have a wide range of beers, ales, wines and soft drinks. With a real fire, it’s the perfect place to warm up with a drink after a day of exploring.
The Farm Shop and Village Store are on hand for any day to day supplies that you may need during your visit.
Shirehall Museum and Bridewell Prison are definitely worth making a trip to see. With the original courtroom still intact, it was founded in the late 18th century and only closed in 1971. There are displays of the old local law, historic photos and artefacts to study. The Bridewell Prison takes only 5 minutes to walk about and has been left untouched since the last prisoners left. You can request a key at the ticket desk in the museum or you can study the prison via one of their guided tours.
Walsingham Abbey is one of many Historic Houses. If you are interested, nearby are Hindringham Hall, Holkham Hall, Raynham Hall, Silverstone Farm, Burnham Westgate Hall.
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