|Walsingham Priory before the Dissolution|
We are kicking off February half term this year by ‘chanelling our inner Wolf Hall‘. Despite all things Tudor having been explored again and again by dramatists and historians, this BBC series has shone a fresh light on this fascinating period of our history.
Cranmer is a great place to explore Norfolk’s Tudor history and links with Wolf Hall. First of all we have Blickling Hall, Anne Boleyn’s birthplace. Although the original Tudor manor house no longer exists, Anne Boleyn’s ghost is said to the haunt the Jacobean hall on the anniversary of her execution. Oxburgh Hall once welcomed Henry V11 and his wife and Henry V111 and his wife, Catherine of Aragon were frequent visitors to the Augustinian Priory at Walsingham, just 5 miles from Cranmer. In her will, Catherine asked for someone to go on pigrimage to Walsingham and distribute money on her behalf on the way and records show that Anne Boleyn announced her intention of visiting Walsingham on pilgrimage during the heady period of her history with Henry.
Henry V111 is reported to have stayed at East Barsham Hall where he broke his journey before walking barefoot to the Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham. Although the house is in private hands, you are able to see this magnificent Tudor house from the road from Fakenham to Walsingham.
In 1538 Thomas Cromwell ordered the dissolution of the Priory and what you can see today is the ruins including the magnificent East window arch. In the crypt you will find a timeline of the history of Walsingham but what makes the Abbey so special at this time of year is the magnificent carpet of snowdrops in the 20 acres of grounds. It’s well worth a visit.
The connection with Wolf Hall gets even stronger – some of the books used in the series were created by Allan Barton, who runs the Martlet Gallery in Walsingham High Street – well worth a visit for his handmade paper and notebooks.
If Game of Thrones is more your thing, there is plenty of violence and bloodshed in Walsingham’s history. During the period leading up to the dissolution, reports were made to Cromwell of the dissipation and corruption of the Priory and there were even rumours of ‘dark arts and the philosopher’s stone’. In 1537 several ‘conspirators’ were condemned to be ‘hung, drawn and quartered’ including the Sub-prior who was executed in Walsingham. The village itself is also very interesting with shops, places to eat and drink. Lose yourself in its history.