Most people, if they have heard of Walsingham at all, probably think of the shrine with its strong Catholic associations, but it is worth visiting the village for its own sake, as it is extremely pretty and packed full of history.
Walsingham has been a place of pilgrimage for two periods in its history. The first began in 1061 when the Lady of the Manor, Richeldis de Faverches had a series of visions.
In them the Virgin Mary showed her the house in Nazareth where the Annunciation took place and instructed her to build a replica in Walsingham. The site of the Holy House can now be seen in the Abbey Grounds.
Around 1153, Augustinian Canons established a priory adjacent to the Holy House, and from then on up until the reformation, Walsingham didn't look back. Many fine medieval timber-framed buildings dating from this period still survive in the village to this day.
It all came to an end in 1538 when Henry VIII dissolved both the Priory and the nearby Franciscan Friary (built in 1347). Walsingham, however, continued as a market town and legal centre. The old courtroom now forms part of the Shirehall (Courthouse) Museum.
The second period pilgrimage began in the late 19th century and has continued to this day. The first modern pilgrimage took place on 20th August 1897 to the Slipper Chapel at Houghton St. Giles, which is now the Roman Catholic Shrine. The Anglican Shrine was built in the 1930s.