Who was Wilfrid?

Wilfrid’s Café is named after one of the greatest and also one of the most controversial English Saints. An impressive and selfless historical figure, his presence in the area almost 1400 years ago was transformational. 

He is remembered in stained glass at the church of St. Mary and All Saints, Droxford, where Wilfrid’s Café is situated.

Saint Wilfrid came to the Meon valley in 681AD but was born in Northumberland in 634AD into a wealthy Christian family. His mother died when he was thirteen and he was sent to Lindisfarne to be educated. With a wealthy patron in Queen Enflaed of Northumbria, he gained a very good education and had impressive connections. He chose a religious career and was sent to Rome to continue his education.  

Wilfrid lived at an extraordinary time for the church, with power struggles within the church between those who favoured the new Roman practices with ideas brought by Augustine and those who held to the older Celtic traditions.

He encountered great controversy, befriended kings and rulers across Europe, travelled backwards and forwards to Rome three times on foot and horseback. He suffered shipwreck and was nearly murdered several times.  

The Meon valley was one of the last places in England to hear about Christianity and just before Wilfrid’s arrival, there had been the most terrible famine and the distress was so acute, according to the writings of the Venerable Bede, that “forty or fifty being spent with want, would go together to some cliff and there, hand in hand, miserably perish by the fall or be swallowed by the waves”.

Although there were fish enough to eat in the rivers and sea, the poor country folk didn’t know how to catch them and could only fish for eels. Wilfrid borrowed their nets and cast them into the sea. He gathered hundreds of fish in the nets and encouraged the country folk to give some to the poor, some to those who had lent the nets and keep some for their own use. According to Bede, “By this act of kindness Wilfrid gained the affection of the people and they began more readily (to accept) his preaching.”  

The churches that Wilfrid subsequently founded remain alongside the River Meon and a ‘Pilgrimage Trail, In the steps of Saint Wilfrid’ has been designed to allow walkers to discover these churches for themselves and to learn something of the faith which motivated Wilfrid to leave his palaces and live very humbly amongst the people of the Meon valley until 686AD.   Wilfrid was a Bishop for forty-five years and a pillar of the church during one of the most turbulent times in its history as it sought to establish itself in a pagan land. Wilfrid died in 709AD at the Minster church of St Andrew’s, Oundle.

At Wilfrid’s Café we are pleased to continue to help people find and enjoy food! Our delicious home-made cakes and a barista coffees are a great find to visitors who might be in Droxford following in the steps of Wilfrid, or those simply popping in on a walk or bike ride perhaps.

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