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England's Nazareth, hidden in the North Norfolk countryside

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Shrine of our Lady
Slipper Chapel
Priory Ruins
Walsingham Railway
In the year 1061AD, a woman called Lady Richeldis was the owner of Walsingham Manor. One night, the Virgin Mary appeared to her in a dream. The two of them went to Mary's house in Nazareth. This was the place where, all those years ago, the angel Gabriel informed Mary that she was carrying God's child. While they were there, the Lady Richeldis was told to memorise the layout and dimensions of the building. Her task was to build an exact replica of this house in Walsingham.

The Altar in the Shrine to our Lady
When she awoke, the Lady soon set about her task. Even during construction, strange things began to happen. Some of the workers reported seeing angels during the night, helping out with the building work. The site's reputation quickly grew, and other religious buildings were built here. At first, a huge priory was built around the holy house, to protect and honour it. Other churches soon followed.

Shrine of our Lady, Little Walsingham
Walsingham became one of the most important Christian sites in England and Europe. Devoted worshippers would make pilgrimages here. Even some of England's Kings made the journey, including Henry VIII.

The Sepulchre, a representation of the tomb where Christ was laid
Henry, though, was notoriously fickle. When he came here, he walked the last mile barefoot, as was the custom of the most religious of men. But only two years later, after he'd become the head of the Anglican Church, he made a drastic decision. In order to reinforce his newfound authority, he ordered the destruction of many of England's religious buildings. Walsingham's shrine was one of the unfortunate victims of this time.

Regular Outdoor Worship is held at the Shrine of our Lady
The priory lay in ruins, and for centuries the town was no longer a destination for pilgrims. But eventually, in the 20th century, it enjoyed a revival. Close by the to priory's ruins, a new site of worship was built called the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. It includes a church, a chapel and several other buildings. There's also a reconstructed version of Lady Richeldis' Holy House from all that time ago. Thanks to this new shrine, pilgrims once again began making the journey to Walsingham.

The ruined Priory and gardens - a great place for a walk

The Courtroom in the Shirehall Museum, at the entrance to the Priory Gardens
In the present day, the town here is known by the name "Little Walsingham". It's sister village, just a kilometre away, is called "Great Walsingham". Despite the name, it's actually by far the smaller of the two places. It has some pretty cottages and some nice scenery, but most of the area's attractions are back in Little Walsingham.

The 13th Century Gatehouse, leading to the Priory from the High Street

The centre of Little Walsingham
Just outside of town, there's another important church called the Slipper Chapel. It too was forgotten about following Henry VIII's religious reformation, and it too was restored in more recent times. Today it once again receives many pilgrims. Most people who come here are en-route to Little Walsingham. The most pious of these choose to remove their shoes and walk the last mile barefoot, just like the pilgrims of the past.

The Slipper Chapel

The Altar in the Slipper Chapel
In Little Walsingham's town centre, you can just feel that it's an important historic place. There are dozens and dozens of old buildings, which come in various different styles. The timber-framed, black and white Tudor houses are the most immediately eye-catching, but there are plenty of others. In the market square, you'll find an ancient-looking brick construction, which is an old pump house. It stands on top of a well and used to provide the town with water.

Little Walsingham's Pretty Streets
Surrounding the market square, you'll find all of Little Walsingham's shops. In many of these, you're able to buy various religious artefacts ranging from chalices to statues of the Virgin Mary. There aren't many places that'd sell items like that! This town, though, is different. Following its restoration, it has once again becomes one of the country's most important Christian sites - so much so, that's it's even known as "England's Nazareth".

Walsingham's Post Office in the High Street

The Black Lion Hotel

Did You Know?

On the outskirts of Little Walsingham you will find the terminus of the Wells & Walsingham Light Railway, which takes visitors on a 4 mile train ride from Walsingham to Wells, making it the longest 10ΒΌ" narrow gauge steam railway in the world.
Visitor Information
Walsingham Tourist Information Centre, Shirehall Museum, Common Place, Walsingham, NR22 6BP. Tel: 01328 820 510
Car-parking can be found close to the Wells & Walsingham Railway (paid).

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