Nottinghamshire’s hidden gem
Sheonagh Fergusonon the Shrine of Our Lady of Egmanton as an important site of Marian pilgrimage
‘In thanksgiving to almighty God for the glorious mystery of the Incarnation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, His ever-virgin Mother, Our Lady, St Mary, the Society is dedicated to the Glory of God under the invocation of Our Lady of Egmanton’(dedication of the Society of Our Lady of Egmanton).
Inthe county of Nottinghamshire, approximately one mile from Tuxford, lies the village of Egmanton. A small village, with a population of just 200, it was mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1085 and it is here in this quiet, rural setting that the church of St Mary can be found. This ancient church dates back to Anglo-Saxon times and houses the Shrine of Our Lady of Egmanton, which has been the centre of a special devotion to Our Lady from early times.
Whilst not boasting the fame and prestige of Walsingham, Egmanton is nonetheless an important and significant site of Marian pilgrimage. Our Lady is said to have appeared to a local woman at Ladywood during medieval times, although the exact date of this apparition is unknown. This led to a long tradition of pilgrimage to the Shrine and this tradition continued until the time of the Reformation, when the Shrine was destroyed. Pilgrimages to the Shrine became a distant memory, although the church still stood and remained under the dedication of St Mary.
In 1895 the Seventh Duke of Newcastle commissioned the (then little-known) John Ninian Comper to restore the church and at the same time the present figure of Our Lady, canopied, crowned and holding the child Jesus, was installed. There is also a smaller image in front of the organ pipes above the main entrance to the church. There are several fine examples of Comper’s work within the church; the stained-glass windows, the organ case, the hanging pyx above the high altar and in particular the beautiful and spectacular Rood Screen. The Rood Screen was restored in 2005 by Michelle Pepper and this was partly funded by a grant from the Nottinghamshire Historic Churches Trust. Although much more restoration work is needed on various parts of the church, funding for this is in short supply.
An ongoing tradition
Modern pilgrimages to Egmanton’s Shrine were re-started in 1929 by Fr Silas Harris, who was the parish priest at the time, and over the years many key figures of the Anglo-Catholic movement have been on pilgrimage to Egmanton or preached here. In 1930, Fr Alfred Hope Patten, restorer of the Shrine at Walsingham, made a pilgrimage to Egmanton and left a banner here which can still be seen in the south doorway of the chancel. This is not the Egmanton Shrine’s only link to Walsingham – pilgrims from the north would traditionally use Egmanton as a stopping-off point as they travelled to Walsingham on pilgrimage.
The tradition of pilgrimage to Egmanton continues to this day. The Society of Our Lady of Egmanton is governed by a committee of around fifteen people and organizes several pilgrimages every year, often attracting pilgrims from as far afield as London and Birmingham. Each year’s pilgrimage programme begins with the Summer Pilgrimage in June, followed by the Youth Pilgrimage in July; there is also an Assumptiontide Pilgrimage in August, an October Pilgrimage and an Annual Requiem in November. The Youth Pilgrimage is one of the highlights of the annual pilgrimage programme, bringing together young people from all over the country and allowing them to express their faith and grow in the love of God and in fellowship with one another.
Membership of the Society is open to all – further details regarding this and general information about the Shrine (including pilgrimage dates for 2011) can be found at <www.sole-egmanton. com>. Please come and support our pilgrimages if you can – a full pilgrimage programme is followed, with the Angelus, Mass and Benediction and during the warmer months we have a procession of Our Lady. Excellent home-made food and hot drinks are served in the village hall afterwards, all very reasonably priced, so you can be assured you will be well fed!
We live in challenging times with the secularization of our nation and tensions within the Church of England; let us pray that Our Lady of Egmanton may look down on us with love and mercy and give us the strength to guide us through these difficult times. May people continue to come on pilgrimage to this Holy Place and may Our Lady of Egmanton continue to intercede for all pilgrims on behalf of her Divine Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, now and always.
‘Oh Mother, give heed to the prayer of our heart, that your glory from here never more may depart.’
Our Lady of Egmanton,
ora pro nobis.
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