What Henry II really said

New Pitkin book

John Butler’s book on Archbishops of Canterbury is now out.

This is a 112 page Pitkin paperback.

Professor Butler is a Canterbury Cathedral guide and the author of The Quest for Becket’s Bones so the chapter on Thomas Becket is especially interesting.

We know that Henry II probably did not say: “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?”

The author says that the King cursed his knights as “a nest of cowards and traitors who had allowed their lord to be treated with contempt by a low born priest”.

This was the outburst which triggered the unauthorised murder of the Archbishop.

The cover picture is a portrait in a medieval window now reproduced as the pub sign at the St Thomas A Becket pub in London’s Old Kent Road.

Another figure familiar to those on the Pilgrims’ Way is Archbishop William Warham. It’s the remnant of his great palace which we visit at Otford.

The book’s portrait of Warham is by Hans Holbein the Younger and is described as the first realistic representation of any Archbishop of Canterbury. His face is captured in 1527 showing the strain of dealing with Henry VIII’s divorce and the coming Reformation.

The Archbishops of Canterbury: A Tale of Church and State by John Butler (Pitkin 12.99).

Old Kent Road murals to be moved

Old Kent Road mural depicting Canterbury pilgrims

Murals in the Old Kent Road will be removed and put in storage if a demolition plan is approved.

The mosaics by Adam Kossowski (1905-1986) were completed in 1965 and  adorn the former North Peckham Civic Centre.

Depicted are people known to have travelled the Roman road to and from Canterbury.

Adam Kossowski’s work is also found at two more places on the Pilgrims’ Way outside the capital.

At Otford in Kent, where the path from Winchester joins the main London way, the stations of the cross inside Holy Trinity Church are by Kossowski.

His most famous murals are at Aylesford Priory  where he continued working on site until 1971 and is buried.

The plan for the Old Kent Road site is to replace the existing three storey building with a mixed use redevelopment

Only the large three panel ceramic mural, which wraps around the recessed ground floor frontage to Old Kent Road and Peckham Park Road, is listed.

This is Adam Kossowski’s only large secular work.

The planning application seeks to eventually install the murals at first floor level facing Old Kent Road in a high rise development. A present they can be viewed at ground level from the street.

Objections should be received by Thursday 15 November.

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: pilgrimsway.eventbrite.co.uk

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

To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts