New pilgrim’s pit stop named after murdered boy
PUBLISHED: 09:22 05 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:28 05 September 2019
A new stopping place for pilgrims on their way to one of Britain’s holiest places has been named in memory of an 11-year-old boy who was brutally murdered.
The Very Reverend Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich, cut the ribbon at the William Martin Building, which sits next to a former gas works hut at the medieval St Andrew's church in Great Ryburgh.
The church is along the Walsingham Way footpath between Norwich Cathedral and Little Walsingham, which is famous for its shrines to the Virgin Mary.
Anne Prentis, church warden, said the brick-and-flint building was named after a chance encounter its builder, Peter Trent, had with the great nephew of William Martin when he was at the site last year.
She said: "This poor lad [William] had been one of three boys who, while being treated in hospital in Norwich for a range of medical conditions, were brutally murdered by a deranged patient from a nearby ward in 1875.
"So shocked were the public of the time to hear of the violence of the assault, the incident and subsequent court proceedings were widely reported, both in the Norwich papers and titles nationwide.
"Towards the end of 2018, a great nephew of the little boy came into the churchyard looking for the grave.
"When it was suggested that the new building be dedicated to the memory of their great uncle, the family readily agreed."
The building has facilities for pilgrims and walkers making the journey, as well as a toilet and kitchen for people attending community events at the church.
The Revd Robin Stapleford, rector of the Upper Wensum Benefice, gave a rendition of his Walsingham Ballad, and the choir sang from the pulpit.
About 90 people attended the opening of the new building, and the dean gave a service of thanksgiving.
Ms Prentis added: "Until recently the project was known as the Gas House Project, the first phase being the restoration of the small 1914 flint and brick building that housed the machinery for generating the acetylene gas that lit the church.
"The building itself is stunning, thanks to Peter Trent's skills at working with traditional flint and lime mortar - it lies timelessly alongside the medieval church."