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.


Old Kent Road’s lost river revealed

The importance of the Thomas A Becket pub in Old Kent Road is highlighted in a new book.

The historic pub closed suddenly last April leaving its future uncertain.

London’s Hidden Rivers by David Fathers shows the line of the stream which runs up against the pub’s wall in Albany Road before flowing across the main road into Humphrey Street.

It was this water which caused pilgrims to stop here.

The spot, known as St Thomas A Watering, was a place for the horses to drink.

It was the last stop out of London and the first into the capital. Here the Lord Mayor of London came to welcome visitors from abroad.

David Fathers’ books are always a delight for their thorough research and drawings.

He reminds us that another stream, the River Neckinger, crossed Tabard Street at its junction with Prioress Street.

Tabard Street is the line of the original  Kent road to Bricklayers Arms so pilgrims from Southwark would have crossed this water before encountering the second stream at St Thomas A Watering.

Lesnes procession

Lesnes Abbey’s church today

The ruins  of Lesnes Abbey church will be treated as a living church again on Sunday.

it will be the starting point for a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament. This is a Corpus Christi procession held two weeks late.

A Corpus Christi procession was an annual event in nearby Bostall Woods before the Second World War. The present custom of gathering at the Abbey each summer dates from 1970.

The Augustinian monastery was founded in reparation for the murder of St Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. It was closed by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525 for being too small.

But a decade later Henry VIII closed all monasteries.

The procession, organised by Roman Catholic parishes in Bexley and Greenwich, on Sunday 24 June starts at 3pm.

+Lesnes Abbey is on the PW route out of London and is usually reached on the second day. Pilgrims can obtain a stamp for their pilgrim passport at the cafe. 

The nearest station is Abbey Wood which has been rebuilt ready for being part of the Crossrail Elizabeth Line next year.

Lesnes Abbey’s church as it was

Thomas A Becket closed!

The sign is a replica window from Canterbury

The Thomas A Becket pub in London’s Old Kent Road is closed.

Bailiffs have repossessed the ground floor space.

The pub reopened with a fanfare on St Valentine’s Day last year calling itself Rock Island Grill at the Thomas A Becket.

The ribbon was cut by Frank Bruno in recognition of the pub’s boxing heritage. A blue plaque records Henry Cooper training in an upstairs room.

The pub, listed as an ‘asset of community value’, was built in 1898 on the site of an earlier inn which was the first stop on the pilgrimage to St Thomas Becket’s shrine at Canterbury.

A handy stream running across the road was used for watering the horses. Geoffrey Chaucer, in The Canterbury Tales, describes his characters pausing here to hear the first tale.

Passports: Pilgrim passports were stamped at the pub until its closure in April. Now walkers should obtain a last ‘London’ stamp at The Royal Oak in Tabard Street. The next stamps are available at Blackheath Church and The Red Lion on Shooters Hill.

Thomas A Becket in London’s Old Kent Road
The historic sign above the Rock Island branding

Art marks Southwark’s terror anniversary

Alison Clark in the cathedral

During the first weekend in June many in Southwark will be marking the first anniversary of the fatal terrorist attack on London Bridge and Borough Market.

Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral were closed for a week during a long and careful search of the area.

A total of eight innocent people died in the one night along with the three attackers.

Australian nurse Kirsty Boden from Guy’s Hospital died outside the cathedral.

Cathedral artist in residence Alison Clark has started work on a piece of art for the anniversary.

The theme is Broken Beauty taken from the Japanese art of Kintsugi where ceramics that have been damaged are repaired with gold.

The specially commissioned work, supported by Southwark Council, incorporates prints on taken from the sacristy door damaged in the attack aftermath together with prints from other parts of the Cathedral that show traces of the past.

Gold will be added to the piece as an echo of Kintsugi.

This installation of heavy cloth is to be hung in the retrochoir by Saturday 2 June and will remain until Thursday 14 June.

Pilgrims setting out from Southwark may see Alison at work this week.

Sacristry’s damaged door

Possible diversion near Denbies

Pilgrims from Winchester approaching Box Hill may find that there is diversion due to travellers having occupied and blocked the National Trust owned Steer’s Field.

Here, where the PW and North Downs Way coincide, the advice is to use the Pilgrims Way as shown on OS map and enter Denbies vineyard via Dorking:

Take the Pilgrims Way track at the bottom of the scarp passing Landbarn Farm, keeping right when the track forks. When the track meets the road keep right on the footpath by the school to pick up the Mole Gap Trail which takes you back to the North Downs Way by the Denbies Vineyard Visitor Centre.”

St George on the Pilgrims’ Way

Processional arch at St George’s Church at Wrotham

Monday 23 April is St George’s Day.

On the Pilgrims’ Way there is the oldest church dedicated to England’s patron saint. This is at Wrotham in Kent where there has been a St George’s Church since about 950.

The present building dates from about 1280.

Thomas Becket would have known the first one as he stayed next door on his last ride back to Canterbury.

Those setting out from London Bridge at Southwark pass the capital’s oldest St George church.

St George the Martyr in Borough High Street has foundations dating from at least 1122. The present above ground building is Georgian.

The London St George church is the focus for the annual St George in Southwark Festival held around St George’s Day.

Translation of St Thomas Becket 2018

A candle marks the site of Thomas Becket’s shrine in the Trinity Chapel

Details of events at Canterbury Cathedral on the Translation of St Thomas Becket, Saturday 7 July, are now available.

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

Saturday 7 July

11am Medieval Pageant featuring historical characters, mounted warrior , East Kent Giants , local schools and re-enactment groups sets out from the city’s West Gate.

12:30pm  Festal Anglican Communion in the cathedral’s Trinity Chapel.

3:15pm Choral Evensong in cathedral’s Quire.

6:30pm Cathedral Lodge Summer Party Night at The Canterbury Cathedral Lodge.

8pm Roman Catholic Mass in cathedral’s Quire.

Details of the annual St Thomas More lecture at St Dunstan’s Church on Friday evening 6 July have yet to be announced.

To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts