The Bull at Otford

The second, or Elizabethan, fireplace in The Bull at Otford

The Bull at Otford stands in the High Street close to the point where the two PW routes from London and Winchester come together.

The pub was built around 1512 by and for the builders and craftsmen working on the massive rebuild of Archbishop Warham’s Otford Palace. So in a way it has been a pub for a long time.

There are two fine Tudor fireplaces (early and late 15th-century), panelling and a tall oak seat known today as Becket’s Chair. It’s not but serves as a reminder that Thomas Becket spent much time at the old palace.

It’s the custom to sit in the chair and have  wish.

Another surprise is that the pub, which is open all day, is part of the Chef & Brewer chain.

This may be why the menu seems confusing with lots of seasonal offerings at different prices.

On  quiet weekday lunchtime we had to wait for our fish but when it arrived the dish was freshly cooked and felt filling after a morning outdoors on foot.

The village claims three tea shops but The Bull is a must when on a first lunchtime or evening visit to Otford.

St Oscar Romero: another Thomas Becket

Pope Paul VI and Oscar Romero who were canonised on the same day

This Saturday there will be a National Mass of Thanksgiving in St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark for the recent canonisation of St Oscar Romero.

On the day of the canonisation in Rome last month there were many references to St Thomas Becket.

Oscar Romero was, like Becket, murdered in church for making a stand against the government.

Archbishop Romero was shot dead in El Salvador on the eve of The Annunciation in 1980. The following day Archbishop Robert Runcie was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury and during the installation he went, with the assassination in mind, to the spot where Archbishop Becket had been martyred in 1170.

St George’s Cathedral holds relics of both Becket and Romero and in  Canterbury, at the end of the Pilgrims’ Way, you will find more relics of both in St Thomas of Canterbury Church.

**National Mass of Thanksgiving for Oscar Romero’s Canonisation is on Saturday 3 November at 12.30pm at St George’s Cathedral, Lambeth Road SE1 7HY (opposite Imperial War Museum).

St George’s Cathedral during an anniversary of St Oscar Romero’s murder

Pilgrims’ Way: London talk

Pilgrims’ Way guidebook

On Friday 16 November I shall be giving talk about walking the Pilgrims’ Way at The Royal Oak in Southwark.

The Royal Oak, in Southwark’s Tabard Street behind St George the Martyr Church, is the first pub on the ancient route after Borough High Street and can claim an interesting heritage.

The illustrated talk, Walking the Pilgrims’ Way from London, begins at 7pm and will be followed by refreshments.

The London to Canterbury route starting in Southwark is the one known to Geoffrey Chaucer.

The alternative route starts in Winchester and dovetails in Kent with the more famous London route.

We shall dwell on the interesting places in Borough and the Old Kent Road before the looking at the countryside beyond.

All are very welcome to the special evening which marks the publication of an updated version of the guide.

TALK: Friday 16 November, 6.30pm for 7pm, at The Royal Oak 44 Tabard Street, London SE1 4JU.

Admission is free but booking is essential:

The Royal Oak in Southwark’s Tabard Street

St Edith’s Day in Kemsing: a day of celebration

Flowers laid in the morning
More flowers by the afternoon

Flowers were laid on St Edith’s Well in Kemsing during the morning and afternoon on Sunday.

St Edith’s Day started with a procession from the parish church after the main morning service. The singing could be heard in the old Post Office (now Kemsing Italian Deli and Coffee Shop).

In the afternoon a Roman Catholic group mainly from Sevenoaks came for the annual devotions at the Well before processing to the church for a beautifully sung Vespers.

Anglican in the morning and Roman Catholic in the afternoon seems a little old fashioned but a warm welcome at the church for the Sevenoaks pilgrims (many had walked) by a churchwarden and an Anglican presence brought an ecumenical dimension.

Tea with lots of cake followed in The Bell.

** St Edith of Kemsing was born in the village but she is also known as St Edith of Wilton where she was Abbess.

Service sheet for afternoon devotions and Vespers

St Edith’s Day

Kemsing’s village sign features the well

This year St Edith’s Day falls on a Sunday so celebrations at Kemsing are on the actual day: 16 September.

Kemsing is by the Pilgrims’ Way just east of Otford so pilgrims from both London and Winchester pass the village.

Many stop to see the well, church and call at a pub.

Edith, born at Kemsing in 963,  was the daughter of King Edgar. Her mother was Wilfrida, an unmarried woman, from a Wilton Abbey.

The parents did not stay together although they remained on good terms when, shortly after Edith’s birth, mother and child went to live at Wilton.

Her brothers were Edward the Martyr who died at Corfe Castle and Ethelred the Unready.

As a  teenager Edith is said to have worn golden garments which led Eleanor Parker to headline her blog post on the saint ‘St Edith of Wilton: Nun, Fashionista, Artist, Zoo-keeper, Ruler of the Waves’.

Edith died at the age of 23 on 15 September, the day before her present feast day.

On Sunday 16 September there is a procession to St Edith’s Well in front of the post office from the church at the end of the 9.15am Sung Communion.

In the afternoon there are devotions at the  Well at 3pm before vespers in church.

Kemsing church has an ancient door pitted by knocks from pilgrim staves.

The day’s celebrations conclude at The Bell pub.

** Some pilgrims will be setting out on foot for Kemsing  from Holy Trinity  (RC) Church in Otford (on main street and just west of the river) at 1.30pm.

St Bartholomew: 40 days after St Swithun

Vicars of St Bartholomew’s at Hyde Abbey in Winchester

This Friday St Bartholomew’s Day 24 August is the fortieth day after St Swithun’s Day.

Swithun is the saint of forty days sun or rain fame.

We have had forty days of sun but it was a little out of kilter starting too early and ending too early.

In Suffolk there has been 51 days without any rain according to Paul Simons in The Times.

Winchester Cathedral, home of St Swithun’s shrine, has a festal evensong for St Bartholomew on Friday sung by the choir of Wallingford Parish Church.

St Bartholomew’s Church at Hyde Abbey, the first stop on the Pilgrims’ Way out of Winchester, is observing its patronal festival on Sunday morning 26 August at 9.30am.


Lammas loaf

As we approach Lammas it was appropriate to hear in church last Sunday the hymn For the Fruits of all Creation with the lovely line

silent growth while we are sleeping,

Wednesday 1 August is Lammas Day when the first wheat from the harvest is made into a loaf and presented at a  thanksgiving Mass.

At Southwark Cathedral there will be a Lammas Eucharist at 12.45pm following the blessing of the first grains at Borough Market‘s Bread Ahead bakery at 12.15pm.

Grain and bread will be carried in procession across the road from bakery to cathedral.

The Cathedral says: “The arrival of the bakery Bread Ahead opposite our gates and the constant smell of baking has given us the opportunity to make this a part of our keeping of the Christian year.”

Lammas comes from an Anglo Saxon word meaning loaf mass. The ancient custom at the start of harvest is recorded in the ninth century and therefore long predates the autumn harvest festival at the end of harvest.

All along the Pilgrims’ Way you will find that harvest has started so Lammas is not too early this year.

You might just catch the purple fields at Castle Farm near Lullingstone looking dazzling as the lavender is harvested.

The harvest will come  little later at Denbies below Box Hill, on the PW from Winchester, where “things are looking promising for a lovely harvest”.

The hymn was written by Methodist minister Fred Pratt Green (1900-2000).

For the fruits of all creation,
thanks be to God.
For his gifts to ev’ry nation,
thanks be to God.
For the ploughing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future needs in earth’s safe keeping,
thanks be to God.


St Swithun’s Day

Winchester Cathedral

St Swithun’s Day is 15 July and this year 2018 it falls on a Sunday.

The patronal festival of Winchester Cathedral will of course be observed on Sunday.

However, the procession to the shrine site at the end of evensong is on Saturday 14 July. The service begins at 4.30pm.

Many of the Cathedral Friends will be present following their AGM.

Sunday is the Translation of St Swithun with the Foundation Eucharist at 10am (setting: Rheinberger Missa Sanctae) and Festal Evensong for St Swithun at 3.30pm.

Translation refers to the moving of Swithun’s body which gave rise to the forty days of rain or sun after St Swithun’s Day claim. This year the weather is suddenly looking uncertain.

**If you are thinking of starting out on your pilgrimage to Canterbury this weekend be warned that St Swithun’s Church at Martyr Worthy celebrated last weekend because, being one of the four Itchen Valley Churches, has no service on 15 July.

St Swithun’s Church at Martyr Worthy seen from the Pilgrims’ Way

St Swithun’s Day weather forecast mystery

St Swithun shrine site in Winchester Cathedral

St Swithun’s Day may bring relief from the heat.

A column in The Times today has an interesting look at the weather possibilities on St Swithun’s Day this weekend.

In The Weather Eye feature, Paul Simons writes: “One thing for sure is that, after weeks of blazing sunshine, we are now entering a much more uncertain phase. Perhaps this should not come as a big surprise because Sunday is St Swithin’s Day, with its famous folklore prediction of 40 more days of sun or rain, depending on the weather on July 15.

“Even though St Swithin’s forecast isn’t supposed to be taken literally, it is fascinating because around this time in midsummer the weather tends to fix into a pattern for some time to come.”

Translation of St Thomas: Saturday 7 July 2018

Canterbury Cathedral

Many of those arriving in Canterbury on Saturday 7 July will be aware that it is  the Translation of St Thomas Becket Day,

This marks the day in 1220 when Thomas Becket’s body was moved upstairs from the Cathedral crypt to the new shrine in the Trinity Chapel behind the high altar.



If you arrive on Friday you could attend the annual St Thomas More Service & Lecture at St Dunstan’s which is the last church stop on the Pilgrims’ Way.

Friday is the anniversary of Thomas More’s execution at the Tower of London in 1535. He is often likened to Becket in standing up against the power of a king called Henry.

The speaker is author Dr Joanne Paul of the University of Sussex whose talk is called Utopia and Beyond; lessons from the pen of Thomas More.

The commemoration starts at 7.30pm and is followed by refreshments in the hall.



A Medieval Pageant featuring historical characters sets out from the city’s West Gate at 11am for St Thomas of Canterbury Church in Burgate where there are all day activities.

At Canterbury Cathedral:

12.30pm Festal Anglican Communion in Trinity Chapel

3.15pm Choral Evensong & procession to shrine 3.15pm

8pm Roman Catholic Mass; celebrant Bishop Nicholas Hudson; enter by south door.



The next day is a Sunday and it is interesting to recall that the Sunday after the Translation was also considered to be a pilgrimage day. It was called Relics Sunday.  Sung Eucharist is at 11am; Choral Evensong 3.15pm.


To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts