Pre-Reformation

Egmanton appears in Domesday amongst the possessions of Roger de Busli, but there is no mention of a church or priest. The earliest visible fabric dates to the 12th century and there is evidence from all periods  after this. The west tower, built in the 15th century,  was likely the final major addition to the church.


At some point before the 12th century an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared to a local woman in a nearby wood 'Ladywood', which led to the creation  of a shrine to the saint at the church in Egmanton.  This shrine attracted many pilgrims from far and wide who visited the church,  which thus became more than just a parish church. Many of the pilgrims scratched crosses into the stone of the south door and north aisle to  mark their pilgrimage and many of these cuttings can still be seen today.


From early times this place has been the centre of a special devotion to Our Lady (St. Mary the Virgin) venerated under the  local title of Our Lady of Egmanton. This ancient parish church is dedicated to her, and it is of interest  to note that it is the only ancient foundation under the protection of  Our Lady for a wide area around, and here - until the destruction of  1547, her Shrine was a prominent feature and an object of devout pilgrimage.


As with so many shrines of Our Lady and other holy places, one is conscious that here is a special place, a sanctuary to the  Mother of God.  In spite of the Reformation and later attempts to obliterate it, the sense that here is a place where prayer has been offered down the centuries still prevails. There is a reference to the devotion here  in the will of Richard Cuxton of Egmanton who died in 1531, and which reads "... .he gives his soul to God Almighty, St Mary and All Saints, and his body to be buried in the Church of Our Lady of Egmanton"


It is generally believed  that the original image of Our Lady was placed on the north wall of the sanctuary, but there are those who suggest that it was in the north isle. After the despoliation of the shrine and cessation of regular pilgrimages, nothing  remained of the devotion but a dim local memory. 


The present image of Our Lady crowned and with the Holy Child, was  the work of Sir Ninian Comper, and was erected as part of a major restoration in 1897.  While the appearance of the original  shrine is  not known, the Comper image represents the type of figure that would have stood here in medieval times.