The 2023 Pilgrimage, led by the Revd Dr Carys Walsh, is on Saturday 20 May. For further details see the 2023 Pilgrimage page.
Pilgrimages have been made to Little Gidding since the time of the Ferrars. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries large gatherings were organized to mark the 300th anniversaries of events in the life of Nicholas Ferrar.
After its foundation in 1947 the Friends began to organize an annual Pilgrimage. This took the form of Evensong on the lawn around the Church, often sung by members of the Peterborough Cathedral choir. In the 1980s and 90s, when a community (the Community of Christ the Sower) was resident at Little Gidding the Pilgrimage became a community “open day”. With the refoundation of the Friends in 2003 the annual Pilgrimage was restarted, initially on a small scale with a walk from the top of the lane down to the Church, followed by Evensong — and Tea.
In 2008 the Pilgrimage took its present form of a morning celebration of the Eucharist at Leighton Bromswold, and then after lunch a walk along the country roads and fields to Little Gidding for Evensong. This format has allowed the Eucharist to be celebrated in a church associated with Nicholas Ferrar’s friend George Herbert and whose restoration was supervised by John Ferrar, and for the Pilgrimage leader to address the gathered pilgrims a number of times, with sermons at the two services and five stations on the walk from Leighton Bromswold to Little Gidding. The stations chosen in 2008 have worked well: the Hundred Stone outside the churchyard at Leighton Bromswold, then at Salome Wood, Hamerton, Steeple Gidding Church and the tomb of Nicholas Ferrar. At Salome Wood we originally gathered at the side of the road, but in 2015 we discovered a small clearing in the wood a short distance form the road, and have used this delightful spot since then. At Hamerton the village hall was originally used, but the station is now at Hamerton church.
With Nicholas Ferrar Day held in early December, the Pilgrimage is the main summer celebration of Nicholas Ferrar’s life. Originally held in July, it currently takes place in late May, which is co-incidentally the time of year that the poet T S Eliot visited Little Gidding.
what is it?
A walk through the Huntingdonshire countryside from George Herbert’s church at Leighton Bromswold to Nicholas Ferrar’s tomb at Little Gidding.
why Little Gidding?
Little Gidding was made famous in the twentieth century when it gave its name to T S Eliot’s last great poem. But even before Eliot it was renowned as the home and burial place of Nicholas Ferrar.
who was Nicholas Ferrar?
Born in London in 1592, Nicholas Ferrar gave up a life in commerce and politics to move to Little Gidding, establishing a life of prayer and charitable works with his family. Ordained deacon, he was foremost in the life of prayer, study, and work, setting an example of devotion and spiritual life that has stood as a beacon to those who have followed. He died on 4 December 1637, and his devout life and example have consecrated Little Gidding as a holy place to this day.
when is it?
Generally the Pilgrimage is held each year on a Saturday in late May, beginning at 10.30 am at Leighton Bromswold church. The Pilgrimage finishes at Little Gidding after Evensong with Tea at about 5.30 pm. See the News & Events pages for details.
Lunch is available at Leighton Bromswold and Tea at Little Gidding. Places can be reserved and meals booked and paid for online. Cars can be left at Leighton Bromswold; we co-ordinate lifts back at the end of the Pilgrimage. Leighton Bromswold is just north of the A14 a few miles west of Huntingdon and the junction with the A1. See map below.
what are the costs?
Attendance at the Pilgrimage is entirely free, and all are welcome.
Lunch at Leighton Bromswold and Tea at Little Gidding are available, and each year we suggest a contribution which enables us to cover the costs of Lunch and Tea and some of the other expenses of the day itself. Pilgrims are also invited to make a donation which will be shared between Leighton Bromswold Church and Little Gidding Church; donations can be made at the collections at the two services, or may be conveniently made in advance via the online booking system.
where is the Pilgrimage?
The Pilgrimage begins at Leighton Bromswold, which is just north of Junction 17 of the A14 between Kettering and Huntingdon. Satnav users: enter PE28 5AX.
All are welcome at the Pilgrimage. It will greatly help if you are able to let us know you are coming and how many are in your group by using the online booking system.
10.30 am: Pilgrimage Communion
at Leighton Bromswold Church
whose restoration was funded by George Herbert and directed by the Ferrars.
12 noon: Lunch
Enjoy lunch with fellow pilgrims
(lunch tickets available, or bring your own).
1 pm: First Station
at Leighton Bromswold
The Pilgrimage Walk begins from the Hundred Stone outside Leighton Bromswold churchyard.
2 pm: Second Station at Salome Wood
2.15 pm: Pilgrimage Walk continues.
2.45 pm: Third Station at Hamerton
3 pm: Pilgrimage Walk continues, cutting across the meadow to Steeple Gidding.
3.45 pm: Fourth Station
at Steeple Gidding Church
4.00 pm: Pilgrimage Walk continues to Little Gidding.
4.15 pm: Fifth Station
at the Tomb of Nicholas Ferrar
All gather around the tomb of Nicholas Ferrar. Followed by …
at Little Gidding Church
5.30 pm: Tea at Ferrar House
The walk from Leighton Bromswold to Little Gidding is about five miles, mostly along the country roads. Sturdy shoes are recommended. If sunny, don’t forget to bring hats and water. Drinks and toilets available at Hamerton. It will be possible to join in along the route, particularly at the Stations, where there will be a pause and a short act of worship and commemoration. Timing of intermediate Stations approximate.
We will co-ordinate drivers’ return to Leighton Bromswold.
We want the Pilgrimage to be accessible to as many people as possible. If your specific questions or concerns aren’t answered here, please do contact us, either using the contact form on this website, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
There is level or nearly-level access at all the churches (Leighton Bromswold, Hamerton, Steeple Gidding, Little Gidding). A small supply of gluten-free wafers will be available for the Eucharist at Leighton Bromswold. Those ordering Lunch or Tea will be asked for about any dietary requirements when ordering.
The walk from Leighton Bromswold to Little Gidding is partly along public roads, and partly across country. Alternative routes are available for anyone unable to easily cross uneven fields:
The route is entirely along the roads from Leighton Bromswold as far as Salome Wood. There is a station here, in a clearing just off the road and into the wood. This is about 20 yards off the road, and accessible only on foot, but it is easy terrain and only a few yards. After the station we return to the road and carry on.
The walk continues on roads all the way to Hamerton, where there is a stop for refreshments and another station. It then continues out of Hamerton and up the hill towards Steeple Gidding. Just out of Hamerton the route turns off the road to walk on footpaths and then across the fields to Steeple Gidding. This part is not accessible except on foot. However, it is possible to continue along the road to Steeple Gidding, either on foot or by vehicle.
After Steeple Gidding, the walk continues along the footpath across the fields to Little Gidding, where the final section is up a short stretch of the hill south of Ferrar House. Again, this section is only accessible on foot, but there is an alternative route by road, on foot or by car.
Usually we ensure there are one or two cars patrolling the route of the walk, and they can pick up people who no longer wish to walk, and take them to the next station, or to one of the end points.
The Pilgrimage was first held in this format (starting at Leighton Bromswold and walking to Little Gidding) in 2008. Pilgrimages have taken place as follows:
|20 May 2023||Carys Walsh|
|14 May 2022||Malcolm Guite, Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge|
|25 September 2021||Fiona Brampton (small gathering during the pandemic)|
|26 September 2020||Simon Kershaw and Fiona Brampton (online only: gatherings prohibited during the COVID pandemic)|
|18 May 2019||Mark Oakley, Dean of Chapel, St John’s College Cambridge|
|12 May 2018||Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely|
|20 May 2017||Tim Alban Jones and Bridget Nichols|
|21 May 2016||Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury|
|30 May 2015||Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury|
|24 May 2014||Malcolm Guite, Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge|
|13 May 2013||Alan Hargrave, Canon of Ely|
|19 May 2012||Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely|
|14 May 2011||Ronald Blythe and Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough|
|22 May 2010||David Thomson, Bishop of Huntingdon|
|11 July 2009||John Flack, former Bishop of Huntingdon|
|12 July 2008||Hugh McCurdy, Archdeacon of Huntingdon and Wisbech|
|21 July 2007||Anthony Russell, Bishop of Ely|
|July 2006||Ian Cundy, Bishop of Peterborough|