Following in the footsteps of St Edward the Martyr

Jun 14, 2023

This year, in preparation for the 60th anniversary of St Edward’s School, staff and student representatives from Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12 have been tackling the St Edward’s Way Pilgrimage, a 30 mile walk that runs between Wareham and Shaftesbury. It follows the route taken when the body of St Edward the Martyr, our Patron Saint, was moved from his original resting place at Lady St Mary Priory in Wareham and reburied at Shaftesbury Abbey.

St Edward was the King of England for almost three years, from July 975 until his murder at Corfe Castle on 18th March 978 (now commemorated annually as the Feast Day for St Edward the Martyr.) He was either 15 or 16 years old at the time. He was buried nearby, in Wareham, very soon after his death, notably without any royal honours. His body was moved (“translated” is the correct term for a Saint) to Shaftesbury Abbey a year later in 979 and he was reburied with far more ceremony. The threat from Viking invaders was one reason cited why his body needed to be moved inland but it is likely that Shaftesbury Abbey was keen to have the association of the relic of a saint.

The walk itself goes through the beautiful Wareham Forest, along trails and footpaths, and through some of the stunning lesser-known landscapes of north Purbeck and East Dorset. Two people supposedly walked the route in 1979 but then the route was rediscovered and waymarked in 2019 by the Dorset Ramblers. Bishop Karen from Sherborne Abbey led the inaugural pilgrimage and completed the route in three days during September 2021.

We completed a trial event in Summer 2022, walking approximately half of the route, from Shillingstone to Shaftesbury Abbey Museum, where museum staff graciously shared the history of St Edward and the Pilgrimage. Our trial showed that completing the route for our 60th anniversary celebrations would be possible, but that it would need to be completed in four separate sections to be compatible with the school day.

So far this year, in preparation for our 60th anniversary in September, staff and student representatives have completed the first two sections (Wareham to Bloxworth, Bloxworth to Winterborne Stickland) on 18th April and 18th May respectively. We will be undertaking the final two sections (Winterborne Stickland to Child Okeford, Child Okeford to Shaftesbury Abbey) on 19th June and 17th July respectively. Across the four stages of the Pilgrimage, roughly 50 St Edward’s students will have completed the route.

A member of the St Edward’s chaplaincy team has accompanied each section of the walk, and Youth Worker Harry Vincent has kindly created the Pilgrim’s Staff, pictured below. This symbol of pilgrimage has been decorated with images of each of the churches along the route and the crest of Shaftesbury Abbey Museum, and the staff has been carried by students throughout the journey.

To read more about St Edward’s Way, or to undertake the pilgrimage yourself, visit the Shaftesbury Abbey Museum website.