Fonds WSHR - Walsingham Shrine

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Walsingham Shrine


  • 1890-2010 (Creation)

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2 Archive boxes

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Biographical history

The Right Reverend Alan Charles Clark was born of convert parents in Bickley, Kent on 9th August 1919. When young he contracted polio and was taken to Lourdes. He made a recovery and set his sights on the priesthood. He studied at the Venerable English College in Rome and was ordained to the Priesthood for the Archdiocese of Southwark on 11 February 1945 (The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes). He was involved in the Second Vatican Council as a peritus and was later to become the Vice-Rector of his old seminary in Rome. From there he would return to his Diocese of Southwark where he became Parish Priest of Our Lady Help of Christian, Blackheath, Kent before being selected as the new Auxiliary Bishop of Northampton with the Titular See of Elmham.

Bishop Clark was named the Co-chairman of ARCIC (Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission). As the first bishop of the new diocese, he had to set up all the necessary instruments and commissions for the diocese. The diocesan offices and diocesan tribunal were at The White House in Poringland near Norwich. This estate had been given to the Diocese of Northampton by the Birkbeck Family. It was the residence of the retired Bishop of Northampton, The Rt Revd Leo Parker.

Bishop Clark continued in office until his seventy-fifth birthday made it mandatory for him to tender his resignation to the Holy See in 1994. This was accepted on 21st March, 1995 and at that point he became Bishop Emeritus. He retired to a house built in the grounds and died in the 16th July, 2002 at the age of eighty-two. He was buried near the Slipper Chapel in Walsingham, Norfolk.

Archival history

This Fonds was drawn from pre-2018 holdings (WAL1/2 & CDB3/4) plus accessions (see link in record).
WAL1 Walsingham National Shrine
File 1 Walsingham Finance 1975-1988 ACC
File 2 Walsingham Directors 1979-1988 ACC
File 3 Executive Meetings 1979-1982 ACC
File 4 Shrine Council 1984-1988 ACC
WAL2 Re-assigned from CDB4 (Provenance Canon McBride)
File 1 Walsingham Shrine Executive Meetings Aug 1979 - Mar 1992
File 2 Walsingham Shrine Executive Meetings Oct 1992 – Mar 1998
File 3 Walsingham Shrine Council Meetings Mar 1979 – Mar 1991
File 4 Walsingham Shrine Council Meetings Oct 1991 – Dec 1997
CDB4 File 5 Walsingham Association Executive Meetings Nov 1987 – Feb 1988
CDB4 File 6 (i) Walsingham Association AGM Mar 1993: Nov 1993
(ii) Walsingham Association Shrine Council Meetings Sep 1978 – Nov 1979
Provenance Canon McBride – ex CDB3
File 2 New Window at Slipper Chapel, Walsingham Aug 1994-Aug 1997
File 3 Black Lion Walsingham & other land correspondence Dec 1991-Mar 1995
File 4 Walsingham
(i) Letters/Miscellaneous 1980-1988
(ii) Report on Extension to Elmham House 1984
(iii) Lighting for Reconciliation Chapel 1993
(iv) Architect’s Plans for (new) Church of Annunciation 1996

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

RCDEA Archive

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      Potted History of Walsingham Shrine
      The lady of the manor of Walsingham, Richeldis de Faverches, according to the text of the Pynson Ballad (c 1485) had a vision in which the Virgin Mary instructed her to build in her village a replica of the house in Nazareth where the Annunciation had taken place. According to tradition this vision occurred in 1061. This Holy House was built and a religious community took charge of the foundation. With papal approval the Augustinian Canons built a Priory (c 1150) and Walsingham became one of the greatest Shrines in Medieval Christendom.

      In 1538, the Reformation caused the Priory property to be handed over to the King's Commissioners and the famous statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was taken to London and burnt. Nothing remains today of the original shrine, but its site is marked on the lawn in The Abbey Grounds in the village. After the destruction of the Shrine, Walsingham ceased to be a place of pilgrimage. Devotion was necessarily in secret until after Catholic Emancipation (1829) when public expressions of faith were allowed.

      In 1896 Charlotte Pearson Boyd purchased the 14th century Slipper Chapel, the last of the wayside chapels en-route to Walsingham, and restored it for Catholic use. In 1897 by rescript of Pope Leo XIII, the sanctuary of Our Lady of Walsingham was restored with the building of a Holy House as the Lady Chapel of the Catholic Church of the Annunciation, King's Lynn. The Guild of Our Lady of Ransom brought the first public pilgrimage to Walsingham on 20th August 1897. Visits to the Slipper Chapel became more frequent, and as the years passed devotion and the number of pilgrimages increased.

      On 19th August 1934, Cardinal Bourne and Bishop Lawrence Youens led the Bishops of England and Wales, and 10,000 pilgrims to the Slipper Chapel. At this pilgrimage, the Slipper Chapel was declared to be the National Shrine of Our Lady for Roman Catholics in England. During the War Years, Walsingham was a restricted zone and closed to visitors, but many service men and women showed interest in the Shrine. On May 17th 1945, the American Forces organised the first Mass in the Priory grounds since the Reformation. Between 1968 and 2015 the Marist Fathers had care of the shrine and, with the Marist Sisters and others, were responsible for the ministry to pilgrims.

      In 1997 there were celebrations to mark the centenary of the first post-reformation pilgrimage in1897. One of the lasting legacies of the centenary celebrations is the Annunciation Window in the Slipper Chapel which was a gift of the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom.

      During the Visit of Pope John Paul II to England in 1982, the Slipper Chapel Statue was taken to Wembley Stadium and was carried around the stadium prior to the Papal Mass preceded by the Director of the Roman Catholic Shrine (Fr Clive Birch SM) and the Administrator of the Anglican Shrine (Rev Christopher Colven, now Fr Christopher Colven, parish priest of St James, Spanish Place).The Shrine now attracts many thousands of pilgrims during the pilgrimage season with about 35 Major Pilgrimages from Catholic, Diocesan or Ethnic groups and Catholic Societies or Associations as well as many Parish and Overseas groups.

      In April 2005 the local RC Parish Church of the Annunciation (a 1950's temporary structure) in Walsingham village was demolished, and a new Church with twice the capacity built on the site.

      On the Feast of the Holy Family, 2015, during Pontifical Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady of Reconciliation at the Shrine, Bishop Alan Hopes read out a document from the Vatican, stating that Pope Francis was pleased to confer the title of Minor Basilica on the Shrine. There are only three sites with that title in England, the other two being St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham and Downside Abbey Church.

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