Our Lady Marian devotion at All Saints
In common with most Anglo-catholic churches, Our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary, receives particular devotion at All Saints, North Street.
In the nave in front of the rood screen is the modern shrine of Our Lady of North Street, the focus of present day devotion to the virgin mother. It is to this image that the sacred ministers and servers process after the main mass of Sunday, she is censed and the Angelus is sung.
The cult of Our Lady and the focus of that devotion at an image in All Saints is no new thing. From the late Middle Ages her cult was focused on her statue in the 'lady quire' or Lady Chapel of the church, which was situated at the east end of the north aisle.
Our first reference to her image is in 1400 when William Vescy gave four pounds of wax in his will 'for one candle' to burn before her. It would seem that a lamp or candle perpetually burnt in front of this image, for in 1442 and 1444, Robert Bilburg and John Sharpe respectively, bequeathed money to 'the light of the Blessed Mary in the quire of the same.' These bequests are specific about the location of the image 'in the quire of the same' to differentiate it from a second image of Our Lady which, as in all medieval English churches, was placed beside the high altar.
There is another important angle to consider when evaluating the devotion to Our Lady in All Saints. In the 1420's and 1430's a dwelling attached to the church was the home to Dame Emma Raughton, an anchoress or hermit, who received visions of Our Lady. Emma's house was probably a two-storied building attached to the west end of the south aisle, with openings called squints that allowed her to view the interior of the church and to hear mass at the altars. These squints are still visible and one was re-opened in the early twentieth century when Father Pat Shaw employed Ridsdale Tate to reconstruct Emma's house. Emma lived in the church for quite sometime, she was there in 1421 and was still resident in the church in 1430, when John de Richemonde gave twelve pence in his will to 'Emma, an anchoress in the parish of All Saints.'
Were it not for the political significance of her visions, Emma may have gone unrecorded except in passing references. However, due to their significance, her visions are recorded in the Beauchamp Pageant and the Rous roll, annals that record the life and acts of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. The Rous roll records that in 1421 (the year King Henry VI was born) Our Lady visited Emma seven times in All Saints and informed her of the impending death of Henry V, of the coronation of Henry VI in France and that Richard Beauchamp would have the rule of the young king until he came to the age of 16.
Whether you believe that these visions occured or not, they offer a fascinating insight into the medieval mind and give this church the designation of a shrine church dedicated to the Virgin Mother.