Introduction to the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Consolation of West Grinstead
The Shrine Church dates from 1876 and the ceremony of crowning the Shrine Statue was performed by the Papal Delegate, Bishop Butt, representing Pope Leo XIII, in July of 1893. We are justifiably proud that this is the first Shrine in honour of Our Blessed Lady to be established in England since before the Reformation.
West Grinstead was marked out for this distinguished honour because of the loyal part played by our forebears here in the dark days of recusancy. The Presbytery (now known as the Priest’s House) was used as a safe house for priests and seminarians as they travelled by river between London and the Continent, via the Sussex coast. Part of the house dates back to the time of Henry VIII and the break with Rome in 1534. There are three priests’ hides (so-called Priest Holes) and in what used to be an old hay loft, there is a hidden Secret Chapel – still used for the daily celebration of Holy Mass.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation – the only Catholic establishment in England under the patronage of Our Lady in that title – was established in thanksgiving for Our Lady’s prayers for the restoration of the True Faith to England. Pilgrims still come individually, as well as in groups and find this a place of prayer and devotion – a real oasis of peace in a world that once more finds itself increasingly in spiritual as well as temporal turmoil and dissent. (Further details of pilgrimages can be found on this Website.)
In addition to being a Shrine, the church here at West Grinstead also serves the local Catholic church for a parish of some 200 square miles, that includes twelve villages and many small hamlets. The parish enjoys all the usual parochial amenities, including Holy Mass on most days of the week, together with Sunday Masses in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. Whether as a pilgrim or as a Sunday Mass attender – or as both – we look forward to welcoming you to the Shrine at West Grinstead.
Fr. David Goddard