Inside the Holy House
Walsingham, with its shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary - grew from Anglo-Saxon origins to become the premier pilgrimage site in England during the later Middle Ages; before it was destroyed by Henry VIII in the Dissolution of the Monasteries (he had himself, with his wife, made the pilgrimage as a younger man).
Walsingham was revived by Anglo-Catholics as an Anglican shrine from the 1920s (and also has a Roman Catholic shrine from around the same time). As we were nearby, my family decided to visit the place and take a look. (We did not have time to visit the Roman Catholic shrine.)
This wasn't a pilgrimage; but simply driven by a curiosity derived from the period when I frequently attended the Little Mass in an Anglo Catholic church, and heard about their annual bus trips to Walsingham.
Well, somewhat to our surprise, we liked it very much! There is a small enclosed area with a museum and garden, with stations of the cross leading to an outdoor altar. And there is a chapel and the main church, which is built around a 'replica' representing the Holy House where Mary was met by Gabriel and Jesus was conceived.
These grounds have a powerful tranquillity about them - to step inside is like entering a 'bubble' of calm.
The surrounding small church is decorated with a wonderful and astonishing richness and colour; with a stunning density (for such a recent building) of stained glass, many statues, wood carving, murals, relics, stones from (destroyed) ancient monasteries, a holy well and font, plaques, tombs with carved representations, ornate lettering - and many tiny chapels.
I found it wholly delightful. I am very fond of the architecture of Gothic revival buildings, especially those with a Romantic vision of the Medieval era (such as the chapels at Worcester College, Oxford; or the castle at Lindisfarne; or Walter Scott's house at Abbotsford) - and this was perhaps the best of any I have encountered.
It was charming and eccentric; but also permeated by religious enthusiasm. I would term its building, elaboration, attention to detail and continued maintenance a literal 'labour of love'.
I don't have any very general conclusions as to the 'implications' of my experience; but would simply say that it is well worth a visit, and demonstrates that there was a powerful and active Catholic tradition within the Church of England over the past century and until fairly recently.