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MARKET TOWNS OF NORFOLK (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Little Walsingham in 1839

New Walsingham is in the hundred of North Greenhoe, 113 miles from London. The parishes of Great or Old Walsingham and of Little or New Walsingham adjoin each other ; Old Walsingham has 2,170 acres, with a population, in 1831, of 434, three-fourths agricultural ; New Walsingham has 860 acres, with a population of 1,004, about one-fourth agricultural : together 3,030 acres; population 1,438.

A chapel was built at Old Walsingham, and dedicated to the Annunciation of our Lady, A.D. 1061, by the widow of Richoldis de Favarches. Geoffry, her son, in the reign of William the Conqueror, founded here a monastery for Augustinian or Black Canons, and erected a conventual church, giving to the monastery the chapel built by his mother. An image of the Virgin, belonging to this foundation, was held in the very highest regard ; pilgrimages to the chapel or shrine of ‘Our Lady of Walsingham’ were even more frequent than those to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket, and the possessions of the priory were augmented by large endowments or costly presents. Foreigners of all nations, came hither on pilgrimage, and several kings and queens of England, among them Henry VIII in the commencement of his reign, paid their devotions here. Erasmus, who visited it, has described the riches of the chapel. The monks persuaded the people that the Milky-way in the heavens was a miraculous indication of the road to this place, whence it came to be called by some ‘the Walsingham way.’ The convent at the suppression had a yearly revenue of £446, 14 shillings, 4¾ pence gross, or £391, 11 shillings, 7 pence clear, beside the offerings to our Lady, valued, according to one authority, at £260, 12 shillings, 4 pence yearly, but by another at £26, 15 shillings only.

There are some fine remains of the convent ; a richly ornamented lofty arch, supposed to have formed the east end of the conventual church, the western entrance gateway to the monastery, having a broad flattened arch ; the walls, with windows and arches of the refectory, 78 feet by 27, with walls 26 feet high ; a Norman arch with zigzag mouldings, which has been removed from its original site ; part of the cloisters, incorporated with the modern mansion, a stone bath, and two uncovered wells, called ‘the wishing wells,’ yet remain. The principal part of these ruins are included in the pleasure-grounds of Walsingham abbey, the seat of H. L. Warner, Esq. There is a fine engraving of the eastern end of the church in the last edition of Dugdale’s ‘Monasticon.’ There was a house of Franciscan or Grey Friars at Little Walsingham, the houses and gardens of which were valued at the dissolution at £3 per annum ; there was also a lazar-house, founded A.D. 1492, for two leprous persons. This lazar-house has been enlarged, and is used as a bridewell.

The town of New Walsingham is near the river Stiffkey. The church, which is a spacious building, contains an ancient font of perpendicular character ; its carving is among the richest in England, representing the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic church and the Crucifixion. An engraving of this font is given in Britton s ‘Architectural Antiquities,’ vol. iv. There is a yearly fair. Quarter-sessions for the county are held here by adjournment twice in the year. There are Methodist and Independent meeting-houses. The living of Old Walsingham is a chapelry, of the clear yearly value of £168 : that of New Walsingham, a donative, of the value of which there was no return.

There were in the two parishes, in 1833, one endowed school, but without scholars ; one school, with 12 girls, supported by private charity ; seven other day-schools, with 161 children ; one day and Sunday school, supported by voluntary contributions, with 37 girls ; and four Sunday-schools, with 173 children.