LITTLE WALSINGHAM is still known as "England's Nazareth". The village has been a place of pilgrimage since 1061 when the Lady of the Manor, Richeldis de Faverches, having had visions of Our Lady showing her the house in Nazareth where the Arminelation took place, built a replica here in Walsingham.
In 1153, the Augustine Canons established a Priory adjacent to the Holy House, the ruins of which are well worth a visit. In 1347 the Franciscan Friars built a friary on the edge of the village, now the finest domestic ruins of a Friary in East Anglia. During medieval times, pilgrims visited Walsingham from all over Britain and Europe from kings to paupers. The medieval timber-framed buildings which make up the centre of the village, clustered around the Priory were built to provide accommodation for the pilgrims.
Following the Dissolution of the Priory in 1538, Walsingham developed into a market town and legal centre. The Georgian Courthouse (now a museum), was used for the Quarter and Petty Sessions, and the "Howard Model" Prison, which was closed in 1861, give a different side to WalsIngham.
The modern pilgrimage revival began in the late 19th century. The Roman Catholic Slipper Chapel at Houghton St Giles, the last of the wayside chapels built in 1325, was re-established by Miss Charlotte Pearson Boyd in 1897 and designated the National Shrine of Our Lady in 1934. The Anglican shrine, in the village, was built in the 1930s by Fr Alfred Hope Patten. Since the 1930s pilgrims have been returning to Walsingham in their thousands, and once again the village is meeting their needs.
As well as the two shrines and the ruined Priory (now called the Abbey) and Friary, Walsingham has a very fine Parish church, Georgian Methodist Chapel and three Russian orthodox Chapels.
A guided tour of Walsingham makes a perfect introduction to this splendid village.
Scala Landale is a tour guide at Walsingham