How the Friends of Julian were linked to the rebuilding of the Church and Cell, by Sheila Upjohn, a founder member of the Friends

When the Friends of Julian of Norwich was founded forty years ago, the St Julian’s church was virtually new, and Julian’s cell was only 30 years old. For in 1942 a wartime bomb had reduced St Julian’s to ruins, and the church looked set to be demolished.


But Julian’s rector Paul Raybould and the Community of All Hallows Ditchingham launched an appeal in Julian’s name: “Your help is needed to restore the shrine of Julian of Norwich to renew her message to the world. We shall need £8,000,” they calmly announced – a sum worth around £4,571,200 today. They raised the money within 10 years, and the restored church and cell was rededicated on the 8 May 1953.

One of the Sisters of the Community became a foundation member of the Friends of Julian of Norwich in 1984, and a Sister is an ex officio Trustee to this day. The Norwich Sisters used the cell as their chapel as soon as it was dedicated, and Robert Llewellyn spent much of his day there, so the cell was filled with prayer from the start.

As a growing number of pilgrims began to find their way to the church the Friends created a new vestry in the base of the tower, so the old vestry could be used as a counselling room with a small library of Julian books. It was the forerunner of the Julian Centre, set up by the Friends in the 1990s, both of them which were financed by royalties from Enfolded In Love, and by Fr Robert’s later books.

There had not been enough money to rebuild the tower, and St Julian’s bell, one of the oldest in Norwich, had been cracked when it fell from the tower when the church was bombed. It was mounted in a frame in the churchyard where it could be chimed. When new welding techniques meant the bell could be mended, the Friends raised the money to have repaired and re-hung in a newly-formed bell cote.

In the 1993 the bell rang out again after a silence of 50 years.

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