THERE has been a church dedicated to St Mary the Virgin in
Willesden, north-west London, since 938, and a
holy well still longer. It was a popular place of pilgrimage in
medieval times, with its famous image of the Black Virgin. A modern
statue, carved from limewood by Catharni Stern, was placed in the
church in 1972, and annual pilgrimages have been restored.
This year, the pilgrimage celebrated 1075 years of Christian
worship in Willesden. The Vicar, the Revd Andrew Hammond (far
left in photo), says it was "noisy, messy, and joyful", which
is "what we go in for here, not frowning earnestness".
The pilgrimage was led by the Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Revd
Peter Wheatley, followed by a 13-foot puppet of our Lady, and "a
suite of unstoppable teenage drummers making a holy racket round
the streets". Many people joined them in what became a joyful
mission. There was also a festival mass, summer fair, sprinkling,
The holy well beneath the church still provides fresh pure water
for baptisms and mixing with the communion wine, and was generously
splashed over those who came for the sprinkling.