The Portal June 2018 - Page 18

THE P RTAL June 2018 Page 18 Ecumenical Marian Pilgrimage Trust Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Willesden T he P ortal was there! W illesden may be on the Bakerloo Line now, but it was not always the case. Until the coming of the railway, Willesden was a leafy village to the north of London; a place of farms and countryside. It had been thus for generations. Prior to the Reformation, Willesden was the place where food for the great Cathedral of St Paul’s was grown, both crops and animals. The origins of the Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden reach back to the mists of antiquity. The story is that King Athelstan was on his way to a battle. He stumbled Fr Stephen Willis across a group of hermits living in rude wooden huts. The King requested that they pray for him and his success in the coming battle. They duly did as the monarch asked. Upon his return, having won his battle, he is reputed to have given the hermits a purse of gold for them to build a stone church. The present Anglican Parish Church stands on the site of this Fr Mark Woodruff pre-conquest church. Whether this story is true, or whether the shrine dates from the fifteenth century, we shall never know. Whatever its beginnings, what is certain is that prior to the Reformation there was a church and a shrine in Willesden, and that it was dedicated to Our Lady. Quite why it was dedicated to Our Lady is another mystery. Kathy Watters The church contained two images of Our Chuch Warden Lady, one of which was a “black Madonna”. We know that on the eve of the Reformation, it was a thriving centre of Marian devotion. There were processions, fairs, and all the fun of a medieval pilgrimage. There were complaints of prostitution, con-men, and other unseemly activities in the road around the shrine. As one person on the pilgrimage said, “Not much has changed!” Roger Macklen The work being done on the new Church Warden RC Shrine of OL Willesden Crossrail project has found tokens relating to the medieval shrine, and it seems that prayers were offered for a healthy heir to the throne. St Thomas More was a visitor to Our Lady of Willesden. He was a regular pilgrim. Alice, his adopted daughter, lived nearby and he would walk the short distance from his Chelsea home on a Sunday, stay the night and walk back home on Monday. More used Our Lady of Willesden in his defence of Catholic Pilgrimages and practice. We know he was in Willesden one week before his arrest. He came to the shrine knowing he was to be arrested. The shrine was destroyed in 1535. Cromwell’s agent, Richard Mores, has left a detailed description: “With many vanities they have there an image of Our Lady in robes of sarsenet (a type of silk) and with stones; with a veil withal of lace embroidered with pearls and other