Guy Hart Dyke RIP

Lullingstone Church seen from the Castle gatehouse

Expect the flag to be at half mast today at Lullingstone Castle where the funeral of Guy Hart Dyke is being held at the church in the grounds.

He celebrated his 90th birthday a few days before a peaceful death on Monday 12 February.

The church is St Botolph’s, known as ‘the church on the lawn’, and funeral is at 12.30pm.

The family has requested no flowers and suggested donations to the church instead.

Guy Hart Dyke was living at the Castle in 1969 when he unexpectedly inherited the historic property after his brother Sir Derek Hart Dyke decided to remain in Canada after the death of their father.

The Pilgrims’ Way passes the Lullingstone Castle castle gatehouse which has been the home of the heir Tom.

Tom Hart Dyke is well-kown as a horticulturist and plant hunter who created Lullingstone’s World Garden of Plants. He devised the plan whilst being held hostage by guerrillas in South America.

Guy Hart Dyke is survived by his wife Sarah, son Tom and daughter Anya.

Muriel Spark centenary

Muriel Spark’s first novel

This year is the centenary of the Muriel Spark’s birth.

The novelist was born in Edinburgh on 1 February 1918.

She died in 2006.

Her complicated and at first stressful adult life saw her living at many addresses.

One was Aylesford Priory on the Pilgrims’ Way where she arrived in October 1954.

After a short time at the guest house, where pilgrims stay today, she moved to  cottage owned by the monastery at nearby Allington Castle.

By the middle of the following year she had completed five chapters of her first novel The Comforters which is loosely based on Aylesford.

She went to Aylesford at the suggestion of Graham Greene who she never met although he sent her money to help her recover from nervous collapse.

Aylesford Prior Fr Francis Kemsley recently wrote in The Tablet that Muriel Spark was captivated by his predecessor Fr Malachy Lynch.

In later years she often visited Aylesford when returning to England from her home in Italy.

Most centenary events are being held in Scotland where there is  special exhibition at the National Library.




Practical Pilgrimage in the 21st Century

Old Kent Road mural

Pilgrimage can be made in many ways, by luxury group travel, on foot or by bike. But it does not need to be expensive or painful.

A free one day event at Southwark Cathedral on Saturday 24 February will offer advice from experienced pilgrims on  how to prepare yourself physically and practically with suitable kit, how to pack a rucksack and how to prevent blisters.

Pilgrim routes to be discussed include the Camino de Santiago in France and Spain.

During the morning there will be a showing of the film The Way: Camino de Santiago.

An illustrated talk on the Winchester to Canterbury Pilgrims’ Way route, by Pilgrims’ Way author Leigh Hatts, follows the lunch break at 2pm.

Free places can be booked via the Southwark Cathedral website.

Royal Oak stamping passports

The Royal Oak in Tabard Street

The Royal Oak in Southwark will now stamp your Pilgrims’ Way passport.

The award-winning pub, on the corner of Tabard Street and Nebraska Street, is popular with real ale enthusiasts. Food is available every lunchtime.

The Pilgrims’ Way passes the Royal Oak main doorway as Tabard Street was the continuation of Old Kent Road.

Passports can be obtained from Southwark Cathedral shop.

**** Although the Royal Oak is a Victorian building it can be said to have an interesting connection with early pilgrims to Canterbury.

It is the only central London pub belonging to Harvey’s Brewery of Lewes in Sussex which is the successor to the Lewes Priory brewery.

The Priory owned a Southwark inn where London-Canterbury pilgrims could have spent their first night before setting  out foot or horse.

End of day 1: A Red Lion Shooters Hill stamp in a passport

St Thomas Becket Day at Canterbury: Friday 29 December

St Thomas A Becket pub sign, based on Canterbury window, at Rock Island  in Old Kent Road

On the fifth Day of Christmas 847 years ago Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral.

This Friday 29 December the anniversary will be kept with a special evensong at 3.15pm.

Becket died as Vespers was starting.

So during sung evensong at Canterbury Cathedral there is a procession to the Martyrdom where a few lines from TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral are read. Afterwards the procession continues to the crypt where Becket’s body was first laid.

His eventual shrine upstairs became the object of the great pilgrimage along the Pilgrims’ Way.

Vespers is sung in the crypt at 8pm by Canterbury’s Roman Catholic Church.

The day begins 12 hours earlier with an Anglican Eucharist for St Thomas Becket Day at the Altar of Sword’s Point on the martyrdom site in the north transept.

A chance to look at the Kelmscott Chaucer

In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay,
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To Canterbury

This appears on the first page of The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer published in 1896 by the Kelmscott Press.

The 87 wood-cut illustrations are by Edward Burne-Jones.

Folio Society facsimile edition is available for visitors to leaf through as part of the May Morris: Art & Life exhibition at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow.

May’s father William Morris founded the Kelmscott Press and his Kelmscott Chaucer was published just a year after Julia Cartwright’s book The Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester to Canterbury appeared.

Both were part of the rediscovery of Chaucer and the ancient road which gathered interest during the 20th century.

The exhibition at the William Morris Gallery (Forest Road, London E17 4PP) is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm; admission free.

Kelmscott Chaucer

Morning mini pilgrimage

Old Kent Road mural

With pilgrimage expert Marion Marples I shall be leading a Saturday morning mini pilgrimage from Southwark to the Old Kent Road on 21 October.

It will be a walk from Southwark Cathedral attempting to go in the steps of Geoffrey Chaucer, and many others, a couple of miles into Old Kent Road.

We shall look at the site of the Tabard Inn, call at St George the Martyr to get a pilgrim stamp and hear about its history, and then down to the Thomas A Becket pub for another stamp and a chance for refreshment for those who want it.

On the way we can think of links with places further down the route into Kent.

After the Thomas A Becket those still with energy can walk a little further to the old Civic Centre in Peckham to view the murals which includes medieval pilgrims on the same route.

The walk is on Saturday 21 October starting in Southwark Cathedral at 9.45am, after the 9.15am Eucharist.

Tickets £5 from Eventbrite and Cathedral Shop.

Cathedral Cottage b&b in Winchester

View from Cathedral Cottage garden

Needing overnight accommodation in Winchester for a quick visit I stayed at Cathedral Cottage where pilgrims sometimes spend a first night.

This bed and breakfast is in the Winchester city centre. The cathedral wall runs along the bottom of the garden from where there is a view of the cathedral.

A special attraction is an en-suite double room in the garden (£95). You can see the stars through the roof light.

The freshly cooked breakfast is taken at a large table back in the main house’s kitchen overlooking the garden or, in summer, on the terrace.

This is a non smoking and non credit card household. I was greeted by family member Richard who later served breakfast.

Cathedral Cottage, 19 Colebrook Street SO23 9LH; 01962 878975.

Red Lion joins pilgrim passport chain

The Red Lion is open all day

The Red Lion on Shooters Hill is at the end of your first day out of London.

It is almost certain to be open when you arrive. In  addition to real ale and food you can now ask for a stamp to be added to your pilgrim passport.

A Red Lion stamp on a passport

The milestone outside Christ Church opposite says that it’s 8 miles from London Bridge where you started in Southwark Cathedral.

There is  handy shop next to the Victorian pub which makes this spot on the western side of the hill the natural focus and finish.

If you want to end on top there is The Bull 400 yards further up for another drink.

  • Burgers at The Red Lion are served with healthy sweet potato chips. There is also a vegetarian version.
Last view of London from the Pilgrims’ Way outside The Red Lion

Thomas A’ Becket now stamping pilgrim passports

St Thomas pub sign

The Thomas A Becket in Old Kent Road from today has its own stamp for marking pilgrim passports.

The famous pub building, opposite Tesco, is now Rock Island at Thomas A Becket and is open 12 noon to 12 midnight.

After Southwark Cathedral, where you can obtain a pilgrim passport in the shop, this is the first main stop on the pilgrim route to Canterbury.

Here at the Old Kent Road crossroads known as St Thomas A Watering pilgrims on horseback used to pause to water their horse in the stream running across the road.

The pub sign is a reproduction of a 13th-century glass image of Thomas Becket in a Canterbury Cathedral window.

The Thomas A Becket pub was reopened earlier this year as Rock Island bar & grill serving burgers and pizzas from noon to midnight.

This was Geoffrey Chaucer’s first stop in his book The Canterbury Tales but some walkers also stop briefly first at St George the Martyr Church in Borough High Street where a stamp is also available.

Rock Island’s own stamp
Rock Island at Thomas A Becket in Old Kent Road

To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts