Pilgrim village name for Old Kent Road

Wouldham Court from Mina Road with Old Kent Road (right).

Southwark Council has named a new building on the Old Kent Road after a Pilgrims’ Way village.

The residential development, on the corner of Mina Road opposite The Dun Cow, is to be called Wouldham Court.

Canterbury-bound pilgrims, when walking along Tabard Street, already encounter buildings bearing the names of pilgrim villages they will later visit. The Old Kent Road is also part of the ancient trail.

Wouldham village in Kent faces Halling across the River Medway and was reached by ferry. Although pilgrims now use the nearby Peters Bridge they can still pass through Wouldham when visiting Rochester Cathedral.

Southwark Council’s Wouldham Court is providing 17 flats and four three-bedroom houses for local people as well as a new community hall and a commercial space.

St Bartholomew’s & Lock Hospital on PW

The Lock cup found in a cupboard at St Bartholomew-the-Great priory church

The Annunciation 2023, on Saturday 25 March, is the 900th anniversary of the founding in 1123 of Smithfield’s St Bartholomew priory dedicated to looking after the sick.

The church survived to feature in Four Weddings and a Funeral and its infirmary is now the famous Bart’s Hospital.

A silver chalice being used during this afternoon’s anniversary Eucharist, celebrated by the Bishop of London, was recently discovered at the back of a cupboard.

Engraved on it are the words ‘For the use of ye Lock in Kent Street Southwark’.

This cup recalls the Lock Hospital which stood by the Pilgrims’ Way from at least 1350, but probably the 1240s, until 1760.

The Lock, or Hospital of St Mary & St Leonard, stood on the right as you reach the end of Southwark’s Tabard Street (formerly Kent Street) where it merges with the Great Dover Street -created the 1750s just before the hospital closed.

Here the pilgrim would have passed its long wall and courtyard gateway before crossing the Lock stream flowing towards St Saviour’s Priory (now Bermondsey Square) and the Thames.

A milestone opposite the Lock indicated that the isolation hospital was safely a mile from London Bridge.

It appears that Henry VIII, who dissolved the Smithfield priory, did not also close this tiny leprosy and contagious diseases hospital. In 1549 the Lord Mayor of London and City aldermen, who three years earlier had reopened the monastic Bart’s Hospital, stepped in and placed Lock Hospital under Bart’s care.

Bartholomew Street at the junction (south side) recalls the Bart’s association.

Plan of the Lock Hospital, Southwark from the original plans in the Archives of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, to whom the copyright belongs.
Tabard Street as it joins Great Dover Street (right). Bartholomew Street is on the far right by St Saviour’s School. The trees and grass (right) are the successor to the hospital garden.

Thomas Becket canonisation anniversary

St Thomas Becket shared by the artist Alison Merry to mark the anniversary.

Today Shrove Tuesday 2023 is the 850th anniversary of Archbishop Thomas Becket’s canonisation.

In 1173 this day 21 February was Ash Wednesday.

St Thomas of Canterbury, as he is also known, was murdered on 29 December 1170 during Vespers in Canterbury Cathedral.

The news which had shocked England, including even Henry II, reached Pope Alexander III in February 1171.

Alexander had succeeded Adrian IV, the only English Pope, and canonised Edward the Confessor. The Pope was aware of Becket in his lifetime.

Much of the pressure for a quick Becket canonisation came from Europe and when miracles had been established Alexander, living at Segni thirty miles south-east of Rome, presided at the canonisation.

Just before mid-Lent letters announcing the event were sent out from Segni with the one for Canterbury ordering the translation of the body to a better tomb. This papal demand was eventually fulfilled in July 1220 but pilgrimage had already begun.

The illustration is available as a postcard (80p) from Alison Merry shop.

Feast of St Thomas of Canterbury at Canterbury Cathedral 2022

Arrangements for the feast of St Thomas Becket, or St Thomas of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral this Thursday 29 December have been announced:

8am Eucharist at Altar of the Swordspoint in the Martyrdom.

12.30pm Eucharist.

3pm Solemn Evensong & procession. The liturgy incudes passages from TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral and the hymn In Our Day of Thanksgiving.

8pm Roman Catholic Vespers in the Crypt.

At St Thomas of Canterbury RC Church in Burgate there will be Mass at 7.30am & 12 noon.

In 1899 Hilaire Belloc walked from Winchester starting on 22 December to reach Canterbury on 29 December but the winter festival day was never in Pre-Reformation years a crowded occasion.

John Jenkins reminds us about this in his The Customary of the Shrine of St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral published earlier this year.

Christmas was too cold for travel and more a time to stay at home and feast.

Estimates of visitors on each 29 December during the first 300 years following the martyrdom are sometimes as low as sixty. Those who made it, often locals, received bread, cheese and ale from the monks.

The bigger day, when crowds filled Canterbury, was and remains the Feast of the Translation on 7 July in the summer.

St Andrew’s in Canterbury & Return of St Thomas Day

St Andrew’s Church at the east end of the High Street.

Today Wednesday 30 November is St Andrew’s Day which was a very special day on the Pilgrims’ Way at Botley Abbey, where there was a relic, and at the very last church before Canterbury Cathedral.

Arriving on foot in Canterbury to visit Thomas Becket’s shine in the Cathedral before the Reformation you would not have missed the turning in the High Street.

Straddling the road immediately beyond the Mercery Lane left turn was St Andrew’s Church.

In 1794 it was pulled down and rebuilt a few yards south to open up the main road. In 1956 the 18th-century church made way for the NatWest Bank. You can see the entrance where the cash machines are now.

The original church marked the end of the High Street with the wide street continuing behind the church as the Parade.

The first St Andrew’s Church was a Norman building, served from St Augustine’s Abbey, and known to Thomas Becket. Look on Hotter shoes shopfront for a plaque.

Today there will be a said Eucharist in the Cathedral’s St Andrew’s Chapel at 12.30pm and Evening Prayer will be said in the Crypt at 5.30pm.

But St Andrew’s Day was never been one of Canterbury Cathedral’s principal feasts. On 30 November the Cathedral would have been looking forward to the next day, the Vigil of the Return of St Thomas. The second day of December is the anniversary of Archbishop Becket’s return from exile to his cathedral in 1170.

This year on Return of St Thomas Day Friday 2 December the cathedral will be open with free admission from 2pm until Choral Evensong at 5.30pm. This will also mark the removal of covers and scaffolding on the 500 year old Christ Church Gate where pilgrims enter from the street. Restored and vibrant repainted carvings to be revealed will include the arms of Archbishop Becket.

Old St Andrew’s just before demolition.
The sweetshop to the left at the Mercery Lane entrance is the Checker Of The Hope inn mentioned by Chaucer.
Pret A Manger, a 15th-century building on the corner of Mercery Lane and the Parade, was Boots. Mercers sold their cloth in Mercery Lane.
Hotter shoe shop with the plaque and former entrance to the replacement church (left).
The plaque on Hotter shoe shop building.
St Andrew’s was in front of Pret A Manger.

Southwark Cathedral pilgrims reach Canterbury

Southwark pilgrims reach Harbledown where Henry II dismounted to begin walking.

Southwark Cathedral has been strengthening and highlighting its links with Canterbury Cathedral to which it sends pilgrims.

Last Saturday the Friends of Southwark Cathedral completed their pilgrimage to Canterbury after a delay of two years.

Southwark Cathedral, being the starting point for many pilgrims, planned the walk for the Thomas Becket anniversary year 2020. But Covid forced postponement.

The pilgrimage has been undertaken in stages starting last winter.

On Saturday, after lunching at Harbledown, the group walked to St Dunstan’s, the last church before Canterbury.

Inside the pilgrims were able to obtain a stamp for their Pilgrims’ Way passport and view the burial place of St Thomas More’s head. The saint’s head was last seen displayed on the Southwark end of London Bridge in 1535.

The Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, joined the group for the entry into Canterbury at the West Gate.

On reaching Canterbury Cathedral there was a welcome from Canon Emma Pennington, who has responsibility for pilgrims, followed by tea and cakes served by the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral.

A talk on the cathedral’s history, with an emphasis on St Thomas, was given by Canon Howard Such who is both an honorary minister of Canterbury as well as an honorary canon of Southwark.

After attending choral evensong the group received a pilgrim blessing from Canterbury’s Canon Andrew Dodd who is a former Area Dean of Southwark.

The day ended with a visit to the site of the Shrine of St Thomas.

Earlier the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, had spoken about pilgrimage when being interviewed on BBC Radio 4.

‘Pilgrimage starts with somebody feeling compelled to set off towards a destination and that starts as an individual response. But the beauty of pilgrimage is what happens along the way. You have companions along the way and in that companionship…things are discovered about yourself, about others. There is an encounter and … you feel part of a community.’

He added: ‘Southwark is the home of pilgrimage.’

Arriving at St Dunstan’s Church for the last stamp in the pilgrim passport before Canterbury.
West Gate to Canterbury.
The Pilgrim Door marked with a shell in the Canterbury’s Christ Church Gate.
Canon Emma Pennington welcoming pilgrims at tea.
Canon Howard Such pointing to the site of St Thomas Becket’s shrine.

A new pilgrim route from London Bridge

Angels carrying the Holy House

London Bridge has long been the start of the pilgrimage to Canterbury.

This weekend it also becomes the start of the pilgrimage to Walsingham.

The Norfolk village holds the restored shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham which is a replica of her house in Nazareth.

Southwark Cathedral on London Bridge’s south end is the established setting out point for those walking the Pilgrims’ Way.

St Magnus the Martyr at the north of off the bridge will the setting out point for Walsingham.

The pavement of Old London Bridge ran under the porch of St Magnus. The chapel of St Thomas Becket in the middle of that crossing is depicted in a window at St Magnus.

Indeed Canterbury pilgrims may wish to visit St Magnus to see not only the window but the large scale model of Old London Bridge. It was its southern gateway, locked at curfew, which gave rise to pilgrims sleeping in Southwark inns in order to get en early start in the morning for Shooters Hill.

The first day’s objective for the Walsingham pilgrim will be Waltham Abbey.

The guidebook has been written by Andy Bull who, with help from the Confraternity of St James, is responsible for reviving the Walsingham walking route. At present there may be an increasing number of pilgrims to Walsingham but very few arrive on foot.

There are plans for a pilgrim passport with stamps available along the route which eventually will be waymarked.

London to Walsingham Camino by Andy Bull (Trailblazer, £17.99)

Southwark Cathedral

Pilgrim badges at Southwark Cathedral

This summer a small but fascinating display of medieval pilgrim badges can be found just inside Southwark Cathedral’s main entrance opposite the river.bc weather

Included are three 14th-century Thomas Becket badges, one being an ampulla, and a 15th-century example.

A rare find is a Boxley Abbey badge depicting its famous rood which had moving figures operated like puppets. Pilgrims from Southwark to Canterbury would have stopped at Boxley shortly after crossing the River Medway.

Today little remains of the abbey which is now a residence.

But the pilgrims still divert to an alternative lower route at Boxley as if still visiting the abbey which had accommodation. Now pilgrims walk through a vineyard above the monastic site to Boxley village which has an ancient church opposite a pub.

Also in the display are badges from Rocamador in France, Chester, Willesden and Windsor (for Henry VI who was nearly proclaimed as a saint.)

The badges are on loan from Colin Torode of Lionheart Replicas.

Admission to Southwark Cathedral is free.

The Boxley badge
The roof of the surviving Boxley Abbey barn
Pilgrims’ Way route though Boxley vineyard

Canterbury’s Franciscan Gardens in summer

The Wildflower meadow in front of Greyfriars Chapel in Canterbury

The hidden Franciscan Gardens in the centre of Canterbury is maturing year by year as its restoration continues.

An interesting feature is the meadow next to Greyfriars Chapel which straddles a braid of the River Stour. The grass remains uncut all summer allowing a cycle of flowers to appear.

A cornflower in the meadow.
Only the path to the chapel is mown.
The Stour flowing from under the chapel.
Bridge to Assisi Cottage.

To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts