The William Blake exhibition opening at Tate Britain today has a reminder of the artist’s interest in the Pilgrims’ Way.
He started thinking about Chaucer’s characters in The Canterbury Tales in about 1806. However he was peeved when his friend Thomas Stothard allegedly stole his idea by signing deal with a publisher for a pilgrims’ painting.
Blake completed his own Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims painting in 1808 and issued it as a print in 1810.
Southwark’s Tabard Inn is depicted as having a gothic gateway. In the background there is the suggestion of St Dunstan-in-the-East towering above the other London city churches which would have been seen by Blake although not of course Chaucer.
The depiction of the characters can only have come from a close reading of the Tales.
Later Blake was to spend long periods at Shoreham in Kent which is on the Pilgrims’ Way out of London. He stayed with fellow artist Samuel Palmer who lived at Water House where the ancient pilgrim path passes the door.
Next year 2020 is the 850 anniversary of Archbishop Thomas Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral.
St Thomas was killed in his cathedral during Christmas week 1170.
Just two weeks earlier the Archbishop had visited Southwark Cathedral, then a priory, and spent the night next door at the Bishop of Winchester’s house.
Thomas already knew Southwark well having been born over the river in Cheapside and often crossed London Bridge for the road south.
Southwark Cathedral, where many today start their Canterbury pilgrimage, will begin its Becket 2020 programme in November this year with performances of Scena Mundi Theatre Company’s production of Murder in the Cathedral by TS Eliot.
The opening night is on Monday 4 November.
TS Eliot knew Southwark Cathedral which he visited in 1957 for the opening of the Shakespeare Festival.
How has the weather been this month on your walk to Canterbury?
St Bartholomew’s Day is Saturday 24 August which is forty days after St Swithun’s Day.
An old saying claims that if it rains on 15 July it will rain for 40 days but if it’s fine it will be dry for forty days.
You will find a St Bartholomew’s church at Hyde Abbey as the Pilgrims’ Way leaves Winchester and at Otford in Kent where the two branches of the Pilgrims’ Way come together.
St Bartholomew is one of the Apostles and his relics are on an island in Rome’s River Tiber. An arm was for a long time at Canterbury Cathedral having been given by Queen Emma whose own remains are in one of the newly restored chests in Winchester Cathedral.
This is the original ‘harvest festival’ dating from Anglo-Saxon times when thanks is given for the first fruits rather than just in the autumn when all is gathered in.
“It provides us with time to pause and reflect on our connection with the agricultural world and the source of our food,” says Southwark Cathedral which will mark the occasion at lunchtime this Thursday.
“We recognise bread as a central element in our worship – a staple of both altar and table. As we gather as a Eucharistic community and share the Lammas loaf, we give thanks to God, the giver of all good things.”
12:15pm Blessing of the first grain at Borough Market‘s Bread Ahead bakery opposite the Cathedral.
St James’s Day is Thursday 25 July when many pilgrims will be attempting to arrive at Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Some of those pilgrims start out from England on the Pilgrims’ Way to go via Canterbury.
St James the Great is the patron of pilgrims and his shell is a universal pilgrim logo seen a lot along the Pilgrims’ Way.
There will be a 10am Eucharist on St James’s Day at Shere parish church which is dedicated to James and has a stamp is available.
St James’s Church at Titsey is marking the day on the following Sunday 28 July with Evensong for the Feast of St James at 6.30pm.
It’s a chance to see inside the often locked JL Pearson church with the architect’s familiar Victorian floor tiles. The church stands on the Pilgrims’ Way and is the successor to a 13th-century building of the same dedication.
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.
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.
To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts