BY CHRISTINA FARRELL
CATI101 s and Anglicans have united to launch an appeal to save a historic pilgrimage house near the Marian shrine of Walsingham, Norfolk.
Martyrs House, opposite the ruins of the former Abbey of Walsingham, has been a hostelry for pilgrims to the shrine since the Middle Ages.
For the last 30 years it has been run by the charity Sue Ryder Care as a retreat and guesthouse but the historic building is now for sale.
Martyrs House was closed down on December 23 and the staff were made redundant.
Campaigners say that £800,000 is needed to purchase the property and preserve it for future generations.
Speaking at the launch of the appeal in London last week Fr Noel Wynn, director of the Catholic shrine, said it would be a great loss if the building was no longer used by pilgrims visiting both the Anglican and Catholic shrines.
"I wish every success to the current efforts to maintain it as a retreat centre and place of accommodation," he said.
, "It has much to offer Catholic life in Walsingham."
Greek Orthodox Bishop Stephen of York added: "No one ever leaves Walsingham as they came to it and the work of Martyrs House is, for so many people. a vital part of that spiritual experience.
"It is essential that such a place continues to welcome
those who come searching for the experience in Walsingham of God and His Mother."
On May 29,1537, Nicholas Mileham, the Catholic sub-prior of the Abbey and a layman, George Guisbomugh, were held overnight in the Martyrs House prior to being hanged, drawn and quartered in the nearby Martyrs Field.
They had been betrayed by the abbey's prior, Richard Vowel], who went on to secure a substantial pension and a wealthy parish for his efforts. The cell they were held in is now a chapel.
Campaign director Dr David Kinsley said he urged people to be generous. "We have such a short time to save this unique place," he said. "Please help in any way you can."
Walsingham was once one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Europe, rivalling the great shrine of St James at Santiago de Compostela. Royal patronage helped the shrine to grow in wealth and prosperity.
Following the Reformation the shrine fell into disuse the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was taken to Chelsea and burned and it was only in the 20th-century that it enjoyed a revival, largely through the efforts of an Anglican priest.
The Catholic shrine is centred on the Slipper Chapel where traditionally pilgrims would leave their shoes before walking the "holy mile" barefoot to the shrine in the village of Walsingham.