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July 8


Saint of the day:
Saint Wihtburh

The Story of Saint Wihtburh

Wihtburh (or Withburga) (died 743) was an East Anglia saint, princess and abbess who was possibly a daughter of Anna of East Anglia, located in present-day England. She founded a monastery at Dereham in Norfolk. A traditional story says that the Virgin Mary sent a pair of female deer to provide milk for her workers during the monastery's construction. Withburga's body is supposed to have been uncorrupted when discovered half a century after her death: it was later stolen on the orders of the abbot of Ely. A spring appeared at the site of the saint's empty tomb at Dereham.,%20Abbess%20of%20Dereham.pdf



East Dereham, England


Wihtburh died in 743 and was buried in the cemetery of Ely abbey. When her body was dug up 55 years later, it was found not to have decayed. This was considered a miracle and her remains were reinterred in the church which she had built in Dereham. The church became a place of pilgrimage, with people visiting Wihtburh's tomb.

In 974 Brithnoth, the abbot of Ely, elected to steal her body so that he could profit from the pilgrims' visits. Brithnoth and some armed men went to Dereham and organised a feast. When the Dereham men were properly drunk, the Ely mob stole Withburga's body and set off for home. Dereham men soon found out that this crime had taken place and set off after the Ely criminals.

The two sides had a pitched fight, using spears as well as fists. As the men approached Ely, however, the thieves had the advantage of knowing their way through the swamps and marshes. They were successful at reinterring Wihtburh in Ely.

When the Dereham men returned home, they discovered that a spring had arisen in Wihtburh's violated tomb. The water in this spring was considered to be compensation for the loss of their saint; pilgrims continued to come and now could drink from the water. The spring has never run dry. The water in Withburga's tomb can be visited to this day.


Legend of Saint Wihtburh and the does

After her father's death (c.653), Wihtburh built a convent in East Dereham, Norfolk. A traditional story relates that while she was building the convent, she had nothing but dry bread to give to the workmen. She prayed to the Virgin Mary and was told to send her maids to a local well each morning. There they found two wild does which were gentle enough to be milked; they provided nutritious drink for the workers. This allowed the workers to be fed.

The local overseer did not like Wihtburh or her miracles. He decided to hunt down the does with dogs and prevent them from coming to be milked. He was punished for his cruelty when he was thrown from his horse and broke his neck. This story is commemorated in the large town sign in the centre of East Dereham.



Spotted Dick 

Traditional British Steamed Fruit Sponge Pudding with a Vanilla Custard 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 5 ounces or 10 tablespoons chilled butter diced

  • 2/3 cup caster sugar or regular granulated sugar 

  • 1 cup dried currants 

  • 3/4 cup milk

  • 2 teaspoons quality vanilla extract

  • Zest of one large lemon


  1. Place metal cookie cutters, a folded towel, or crumpled tin foil in the bottom of a large stock pot to prevent the pudding mold from touching the bottom of the pot. Add water and bring to a boil. Generously grease a pudding mold.

  2. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and suet (or butter) in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.

  3. Add the milk, lemon zest, vanilla extract and currants and stir until combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared pudding mold and secure it tightly with the lid.

  4. Lower the pudding mold into the boiling water so that the water comes up to the halfway point of the pudding mold. Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer undisturbed for 90 minutes.

  5. Remove the pudding mold from the water and let it sit for 15 minutes. Invert the pudding onto a plate.
    Slice into wedges and serve warm with English Custard Sauce.

English Custard (Crème Anglaise)

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • 1 quality vanilla bean, slit open lengthwise)

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch


  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until the mixture is smooth.

  2. Heat the milk, cream and vanilla in a small saucepan just until bubbles form along the edges of the pan.

  3. Remove 1/2 cup of the hot cream and whisk it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Gradually pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the cream mixture, whisking constantly to prevent clumping. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture leaves a path on the back of spoon when you draw your finger across it. DO NOT BOIL.

  4. Cover and chill. Can be made a day in advance.

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