Our Links with Walsingham
Perhaps you might have passed the church and seen on the notice board that we celebrate our links with Walsingham at a weekday service once a month. So what is the connection between Buxted and a little village in Norfolk?
The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was in medieval times a destination of pilgrimage as important as Canterbury, and home to a thriving religious order. Within it was a replica of the Holy House at Jerusalem, built by the Lady of the Manor in the 11th century. The dimensions are believed to have been revealed to her in a vision.
Henry VIII was himself a Walsingham pilgrim as a young man, which is ironic as it was at his hands that the Abbey and shrine were later destroyed as part of the Reformation.
When Fr Alfred Douglas Wagner built St Mary’s in 1887, he included within the church a Walsingham Chapel with the exact same dimensions, and the new Parish church became a place of pilgrimage. This tradition was very strong in the early decades of the 20th century and was certainly a feature of village life when Fr Alfred Hope Patten came as the new curate in 1919.
Hope Patten went on to secure the incumbency at Walsingham when it became vacant and went to Norfolk determined to restore the original shrine as part of his ministry. This needed great ‘sticking power’ but by 1938 his dream was realised when a newly designed Anglican shrine, incorporating the Holy House, was opened. The shrine has grown in strength from decade to decade, and has now been joined by both Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox special places of worship.
In view of the inspiration Hope Patten received while in the village, I think we can say that without St Mary’s Buxted, there would very likely be no restored Walsingham Shrine.
In 2019 we ‘tested the waters’ to see if there would be interest in a revival of the pilgrimage tradition to Buxted. There were indications of interest from 26 parishes both far and near, and we were able to host a day of pilgrimage that year for a group of West Sussex parishes, with a talk on the history of the church and concluding with Evensong & Benediction. Restrictions in place in 2020 and 2021put paid to any further developments, but I am pleased to say that we are now once again inviting pilgrims.
Church Grounds and Community Garden
The extensive grounds at St Mary’s are a challenge as regards upkeep, but also present opportunities for use and income generation. We are already planning the 2023 Open Day & Craft Fair, which takes place across the site in the Hall, the Car Park and the Community Garden. The event date is set for Saturday 20th May.
We also now host two local businesses who provide good quality food to take away. Twisted Toppings pizza are with us every other Wednesday from 5pm- 8pm, and their website gives details of the menu and booking arrangements.
We are also pleased to welcome brothers Harry and Howard, otherwise known as Field & Flame. After catering for a very successful summer event held by Buxted School, their van will be in the car park regularly on alternate Thursdays. Marketing is mainly via social media.