When in April the sweet showers
March's drought to the root and all
every vein in liquor that has power
therein and sire the flower;
also has with his sweet breath,
in every holt and heath,
shoots and leaves, and the young sun
half-course in the sign of the Ram has run,
little birds make melody
through all the night with open eye
pricks them on to ramp and rage)
Then folk do
long to go on pilgrimage,
And palmers to
go seeking out strange strands,
shrines well known in distant lands.
from every shire's end
they to Canterbury went,
blessed martyr there to seek
them when they lay so ill and weak
These words are from the start of a long poem called 'The Canterbury Tales
which was written by Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400) and who was
grandfather of Alice de la Pole. She was daughter and heir of Thomas
Chaucer, and she had married William 4th Earl and 1st Duke of Suffolk.
The family is connected with both Ewelme in Oxfordshire and at
Wingfield in Suffolk, which is 13 miles west of Halesworth, with tombs
and effigies in both places. Alice is also remembered by the initials
A.P. which are carved on one of the bench-ends at the church of
One of the ways in which the religious revival of the 14th century was
celebrated was in the great increase in the popularity of pilgrimages.
These took pilgrims to the great shrines of the country, especially to
Canterbury where Thomas à Becket was buried. Their foot-steps also led
to shrines in East Anglia which had become celebrated in several ways.
Some, such as the Abbey at Bury St. Edmund, were the burial places of a
popular saint. In other cases, such as Walsingham in Norfolk, a shrine
was created in response to a vision, and there a replica of the House
of Nazareth was built in 1130. While in other cases, such as Thetford
and at Broomholm some relics were worshipped. At the Priory of
Broomholm in Norfolk, a shrine was built to contain what was believed
to be a portion of the True Cross.
The medieval ports of Ipswich and Southwold were licensed for pilgrim
voyages, but although Dunwich was not so licensed, it seems probable
that pilgrims sailed from its port. Over the years several pilgrims
badges, made of lead have been discovered there, which indicates some
of the shrines they visited. Nicholas Comfort in his new book 'The Lost
City of Dunwich'
believes that they travelled to Mont St.Michel
is off the Norman coast, and to the shrine of St. James at Compostella
in Spain, and even onwards to the Holy Land. He pictures the scene
...'Pilgrims thus flowed out of the
town (Dunwich) most taking King
John's Road for Bury, stopping overnight at Fressingfield. Others
struck north for Norwich and the shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham'
Guest houses have survived on three of the roads leading west from this
area. At Leiston Abbey the former guest hall has recently been restored
to be used as a meeting and small concert hall, at Peasenhall, the
guest house which was built by Sibton Abbey has also been restored by
The Landmark Trust; while at Eye in the grounds of Priory Farm, is the
early 16th century brick building believed to have been the guest house
of the Benedictine Priory there.