St Swithun’s Day 2019

St Swithun (15th-century)

Just as the Translation of St Thomas at Canterbury earlier this month fell on a weekend so St Swithun’s Day 15 July is a Monday.

The focus is now Winchester Cathedral where Saturday 13 July is the annual Friends of Winchester Cathedral Festival.

Saturday’s Festival Evensong at 4.30pm is followed by a procession to the shrine of St Swithun.

The St Swithun’s Eve Evensong is on Sunday afternoon at 3.30pm.

This First Evensong of St Swithun will also be the occasion for the installation of the new Bishop of Southampton Deborah Selling, a suffragan of Winchester.

Bishop Deborah was consecrated bishop at St Paul’s Cathedral on St Thomas Day 4 July.

On St Swithun’s Day Monday 15 July the Cathedral Chapter will be present at the 11am Choral Eucharist. The setting is Haydn Missa Sancti Joannes de Deo and the Dean will preach.

Monday’s Festal Evensong is at 5.30pm.

Those starting their pilgrimage from Winchester to Canterbury on St Swithun’s Day may be thinking about the weather.

St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.

At the moment the forecast is sunshine on Monday and for the rest of the week but not too hot for walking.

The Winchester to Canterbury walk or ride was once also a Swithun pilgrimage for his head used to be in Canterbury having been taken there by a Bishop of Winchester who became Archbishop of Canterbury. The skull is now in Évreux Cathed­ral in Normandy although not displayed.


Southwark Evensong on radio 3

Peter Wright

Choral Evensong at Southwark Cathedral this Wednesday 10 July will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

The cathedral  will be closed over lunchtime from 12.45pm to 2.30pm for rehearsals.

Those wishing to be present for the broadcast at 3.30pm should be seated by 3.10pm.

The broadcast marks the retirement of Peter Wright who has been Director of Music since 1989. 

Quality Street Fayre 2019

Quality Street at Merstham

If you are walking from Winchester to Canterbury today and are about to reach Merstham in Surrey you will find lunch available as you pass along the usually quiet Quality Street.

The annual Quality Street Fayre is today Saturday 6 July

There is a ‘food court’ and beer tent selling local ale. Also lots of stalls where you may have to resist buying temptations such as jam if you are walking on and uphill to Chaldon.

The fayre is the successor to a horse fair operating under a charter granted by Edward III. Today it is in aid of the 13th-century pilgrim church of St Katherine now marooned on the far side of a motorway but reached by a path and footbridge from Quality Street -part of the PW.

Quality Street is named after the 1902 stage play Quality Street which eventually gave rise to the Quality Street sweet tin.

Lavender in the Darenth Valley

Lavender by the path in the Darenth Valley

Lavender is beginning to appear in the fields of Castle Farm in the Darenth Valley.

The path from London to Canterbury runs past the lavender south of Lullingstone Castle near Shoreham.

The annual July purple spectacle has only been enjoyed in recent years as the lavender was planted at the beginning of this century.

Lavender and refreshments are on sale at the Castle Farm Hop Shop.

Honey is the next harvest
Lavender in the Hop Shop
More to come soon (Pictures: James Hatts)

Lesnes Abbey Procession 2019

Two people entering the chancel from the nave.

The annual Blessed Sacrament procession at Lesnes Abbey takes place on Sunday 30 June.

The tradition of a Corpus Christi procession here goes back to the beginning of the last century when the abbey was still being excavated. Then the procession included Bostall Woods.

Although the Corpus Christi feast day was last week it is always kept on a later date at Lesnes Abbey.

It is the occasion when you can see the outline of the 12th-century church being used again as a church.

The Lesnes Abbey Procession is at 3pm followed by Benediction.

The Abbey is on the second section of the Pilgrims’ Way out of London. Abbey Wood Station is nearby.

A reconstruction of the Lesnes Abbey church.

Becket weekend

St Dunstan’s at the entrance to the Canterbury city centre

The 2019 Translation of St Thomas Becket day falls at the 6/7 July weekend and marks the moving of the saint’s body from Canterbury Cathedral crypt to the shrine upstairs in 1220.

The main events and services in Canterbury are below:

Saturday 6 July, Eve of Translation

11.15am Pageant enters West Gate to pass along High Street.

12 noon Angelus at St Peter’s Church: Canterbury Gregorian Music Society.

3.15pm Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral.

7.30pm St Thomas More Service at St Dunstan’s Church
This annual ecumenical service marks the anniversary of More’s execution in 1535. The saint is a martyr in the tradition of Becket.

Address by Prof Jackie Eales, Director of Research for Canterbury Christ Church University’s Faculty of Arts & Humanities, on The education of Margaret More and the Humanist context of support for female education in the early 16th century.

Followed by refreshments  in hall.

Sunday 7 July, Translation of St Thomas

3.15pm Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral followed by procession to shine site.

7pm Roman Catholic Mass at Canterbury Cathedral.

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Translation of St Thomas’s body in 1220. Detail from early window at Canterbury


CeCilia Baker pilgrimages

A highlight of this month’s Canterbury Pilgrims Festival was hearing author and walker Cecilia Baker speak about how she became a pilgrim.

She told of arriving at Canterbury Welcome Centre having walked without any guidebook or even leaflet along the rough route of the Pilgrims’ Way.

“Are you a pilgrim?” asked the person on duty.

“Well, yes, I suppose I am,” replied Cecilia after a pause.

Since that life changing moment Cecilia has walked many more routes as she recounts in Walking with the Saints: Footsteps on ancient paths.

After hearing her considered and original answers to questions during the Pilgrims Festival workshop it was time to read the book.

Her description of walking the Pilgrims Way before the guidebook was available is especially interesting and even inspiring.

The St Swithun’s Way and North Downs were Cecilia’s guideline to follow the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury.

Her description of familiar places, how an early stretch was overgrown (not now), the beach experience near Guildford, flooded stepping stones, a deserted station, bad weather and relief at arriving at key stages will resonate with readers familiar with the way.

The book also includes following St Augustine in Kent and St Hilda in Yorkshire. A good starter pilgrimage is the very short but so rich in faith and heritage Walsingham pilgrim path involving an old railway line.

The final chapter takes us back to the Pilgrims’ Way to recognise that Southwark next to London Bridge to Otford via the delightful Darenth Valley is also the ancient road to Canterbury.

Cecilia is a trustee of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome.

St Dunstan’s has a stamp!

St Dunstan’s Church, the last church on the Pilgrims’ Way before Canterbury’s West Gate, now offers a pilgrim stamp.

This is a landmark church holding the head of St Thomas More who emulated Thomas Becket.

It was here, outside the porch, that Henry II removed his shoes to walk barefoot to St Thomas Becket’s temporary shrine in Canterbury Cathedral’s crypt.

St Dunstan’s will hold its annual Thomas More Commemoration Service on Saturday 6 July at 7.30pm when a wreath will be laid on the burial stone.

The address will be given by Prof Jackie Eales.

The day is the anniversary of Thomas More’s death and the eve of the Translation of St Thomas.

Pilgrims will find the stamp on the table to the right on entering the church.

Godmersham Park open again

Godmersham House, as on the £10 note, seen from the Pilgrims’ Way

If you are walking the Pilgrims’ Way through Godmersham this Sunday afternoon 16 June you can stop for tea in Godmersham Park.

Teas are being served in the Orangery in aid of the church which has a small sculpture which may have come from Canterbury’s Thomas Becket shrine.

The garden is open 1pm to 5pm; admission £5 (in aid of nursing charities).

TV Pilgrimage: Walk to Rome with Alison’s book

If you have been watching Pilgrimage: the Road to Rome on BBC2 you may be interested in reading the guide.

The Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome is the continuation of the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester or Southwark.

Alison Raju’s The Via Francigena Canterbury to Rome – Part 2 has the route being followed on television by Les Dennis, Dana, Lesley Joseph and their companions.

Like the Pilgrims’ Way guide, Alison’s book is published by Cicerone. This month there is a 20% discount here.

To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts