The British Pilgrimage Trust is a charity dedicated to renewing pilgrimage in Britain (Registered Charity 1176045).
The BPT was formed in 2014 as a Charitable Trust, and re-formed as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation in 2017. Our core goal remains to “advance British pilgrimage as a form of cultural heritage that promotes holistic wellbeing, for the public benefit.”
We believe that ‘holistic wellbeing’ includes physical, mental, emotional, social, environmental and spiritual health, and we aim to make these benefits accessible to wide new audiences. The BPT believes that pilgrimage has the potential to promote community and diversity in Britain’s spiritual landscape.
Pilgrimage – journeying on foot to holy places – was once Britain’s most popular expression of leisure and spirituality, enjoyed by Kings and serfs alike. But the tradition was brought to an abrupt end in 1538, when Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell banned pilgrimage in Britain. Ever since, the tradition has been ripe for a rebrand.
Today, there is a global renaissance of pilgrimage – 350,000 pilgrims walk the Camino to Santiago each year, 2.5 million make the Hajj, 25+ million the Arba’een and 50 million the Kumbh Mela.
It is time for Britain to take part too.
Much of the core infrastructure is already in place – off-road footpaths, under-used churches, pubs and village shops. We simply need to join the dots…
The BPT believes that pilgrimage in Britain today should not attempt to imitate Medieval forms of religious exclusivity. Instead, we are aiming to renew the tradition to fit with modern needs. To this end, the BPT aims to help pilgrimage become a spiritual activity that is open to all, whatever your beliefs, background, age or physical ability.
The flagship project of the BPT is the Old Way from Southampton to Canterbury, which we aim to become a pilgrimage route that sets an example for Britain to highlight new solutions and models for best practice to help take forward British pilgrimage. This was discovered by William Parsons on a 14th Century road map, and has been developed into an authentically ancient 220 mile pilgrimage route via the South Downs. The Old Way launches in 2020!
The BPT is also documenting routes throughout Britain, and is keen to list pilgrimage events being hosted by other organisations and individuals here. The BPT encourages the creation of new pilgrimage routes as well as the re-discovery of old ones – in fact, Guy Hayward and author Nick Mayhew-Smith are currently working alongside the Association of English Cathedrals to create accessible 1-day pilgrimages to mark the Year of Cathedrals and Pilgrimage in 2020, and are publishing the Britain’s Pilgrim Places book in October 2020. We are also partnered with English Heritage, with whom we promote pilgrimage routes in their Annual Handbook and Member’s Magazine that connect their heritage sites. We also list advice on our website to encourage would-be-pilgrims to create and test walk new routes, and guide their own pilgrimage events.