Few pilgrim badges survive

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This pilgrim badge depicts the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. Walsingham was one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Europe, and over the years it was visited by several kings and queens.

Pilgrimage, or the act of visiting holy places, was highly popular during Medieval times. People believed that by visiting holy shrines they would increase their chances of salvation, or being admitted to heaven after death. They might also be rewarded by having a long and wealthy life, or have illnesses cured by miracles.

Lead pilgrim badges were made in large quantities from about 1350 to 1450 AD. They were brought by pilgrims as souvenirs of the different shrines they had visited and would be worn on hats and clothing. They were very fragile and, although many were made few have survived.

The Lynn Museum’s collection is one of the finest in the country. It was started in the late 19th century by Thomas Pung, a King’s Lynn jeweller, who paid children to search for them in the mud of the Purfleet. The badges were dropped into the water by pilgrims using the ferry over the Great Ouse on their way to and from Walsingham. Many badges have been found in rivers across the country and may have been votive offerings of good luck for the pilgrimage’s start and end.