Subfonds b - St Henry Walpole, Burnham Market

St Henry's / Catholic Church / Burnham Market [Parish History] Agreement: RCDEA & Salvatorian Fathers
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GB ARCHON 2913 PA47-b


St Henry Walpole, Burnham Market


  • 1959 (Creation)

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3 archive folders:
a. PA47-b-01-01
b. PA47-b-02-01
c. PA47-b-01-02; PA47-b-01-03; PA47-b-03-01; PA47-b-03-02; PA47-b-03-03

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1912: born
1976: First Parish Priest at Burnham Market
1983: Retreat Centre at Massingham St Mary
1986: Return to Burnham Market as PP

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The Church is dedicated to St Henry Walpole SJ, who was born at nearby Docking in 1558. His family later played an important part in English political life; they are still prominent local landowners. Henry Walpole was educated at Norwich School and Peterhouse, Cambridge. After witnessing the martyrdom of St Edmund Campion SJ., he went into exile, joining the Society of Jesus in 1584. After ordination to the priesthood, he set out for the English mission, hoping to follow a career as illustrious as that of his fellow Jesuit, John Gerard. But instead of landing in his native Norfolk as planned, the ship was driven off course, after landing Henry Walpole was arrested after only a few hours ashore. After being savagely tortured by the notorious Topcliffe in the Tower, he was sent back to Yorkshire for trial where he was condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered on April 7th 1595. St Henry Walpole, whose portrait hangs in the Church, to the left of the door, was canonised in October 1970, with the other English Martyrs.

In the 1920's, the nearest Catholic Church was twenty-five miles away in King's Lynn. Then churches were built in Fakenham, Wells and Walsingham where the Shrine of Our Lady was revived at the Slipper Chapel. However, this part of Norfolk remained a "mission area” and many Catholics were able to hear Mass only when the diocesan Travelling Missionary paid his annual visit, sometimes parking his mobile chapel on the Green, a few yards from the boat and car showroom which would one day be a church dedicated to St Henry Walpole. 

In 1958, the late Canon Gerard Hulme, priest-in-charge of the Shrine at Walsingham, and parish priest of the widely scattered parish which included Wells, Blakeney and the Burnhams, purchased the Burnham Market showroom and set up a Mass Centre dedicated to St Henry of Bavaria. When asked about this dedication, he replied that Henry Walpole was sure to be canonised one day, meanwhile, the Bavarian saint with a reputation for caring for new churches would look after it. The first Mass was said by Monsignor Anthony Reynolds, Parish Priest of The Most Precious Blood, Borough London on August 24th 1958. 

On December 20th 1970, St Henry's was solemnly dedicated by Bishop Alan Clark, bishop of East Anglia. in May of 1976, the Bishop made Burnham Market into a separate parish with Father Hugh Richmond, SDS, as its first parish priest. 

In the early years as a Mass Centre, St Henry's was served by priests from Walsingham. Then the offices next to the old showroom were converted into living accommodation, and in May 1961 Father Kane moved in to stay for two years. He was succeeded by Father J Doyle SDB. Father Hugh Richmond SDS of the Society of the Divine Saviour arrived. This year 1983, he has moved on to the Retreat Centre at Massingham St Mary and Father Victor Arthur, SDS., has come as parish priest. 

Before it became a car and boat showroom, the building which is now St Henry's had been a spectacle factory during the second World War. Earlier still, it had been a pair of cottages probably housing domestic staff from Burnham Westgate Hall or from one of the other large houses nearby. Since 1965, the appearance of the building has been gradually transformed, the emphasis always being on simplicity and quiet dignity. The large plate-glass window of the old show room has been replaced by more appropriate windows and a central porch; the large window above the altar with its distracting orange glass has been covered. A polished parquet floor (actually installed when the building was a factory) and plain white walls complete the effect.

The first altar in 1958 was a tall mahogany side-table. Bishop Parker gave an ornate altar from Manchester. The present altar, communion rails and sanctuary fittings were all made locally. The pulpit came from the church of Our Lady Star of the Sea at Wells, a church designed by Andrew Butler who lived at Overy Staithe. The Stations of the Cross were presented by Father R. McCormick, the last diocesan travelling Missionary. The statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was presented by the late Mr Eric Matthews. Mrs Sheppard gave the bronze memorial in memory of her brother, Stephen Balfour. Mrs Viola Schwedel made the mosaic cross. The church bell, formerly a ship's bell, was presented by Captain White in memory of his wife Pamela. “The Denial of St Peter” by Swaffham born artist William Carter was presented by Mrs Kim Matthews in memory of William Sanger. The brass candlesticks and other brass fittings were a gift from the congregation at the United States Air Force base, Sculthorpe which has been served by the priest from Burnham Market for many years.

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image from Parish History (PA47-b-03-03-1)
see (accessed 19-1-2019)

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