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End of the road for Tyburn walk?

A HEAVY CLOUD hung over the annual Tyburn Walk in London on Sunday 29 April. While preparations were being made to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Restoration of the Hierarchy today (4 May), and nearly twice the number of people took part in the procession this year as last (more than 600), the Guild of Our Lady of Ransome, who organise the event, announced that they will not be holding any more in future years. Initially, press reports said future walks were being called off because of complaints from police and Oxford Street shops trading on Sunday.

Later Mgr Anthony Stark, Master of the Guild, said the walk was being cancelled because of falling numbers. A petition is now being circulated in protest over the decision. Many felt the walk had been poorly advertised and not well organised. "It was a joyless event," one woman said. "Every day there is a demonstration of some kind in London. What makes us different? I'm not surprised numbers have dropped in recent years. It was amazing that so many turned up in the first place and stayed the course. You could only hear what was being said if you were right at the front."

Fr Kit Cunningham, parish priest at St Etheldreda's, Ely Place said: "In its heyday the walk used to attract up to 1,500 people. But if we are going to bear witness to our faith in this way we should let people know what we are doing and why. People should be carrying banners and giving out leaflets." The Tyburn Walk, from the Old Bailey, site of Newgate Prison, to Marble Arch, near the spot where the Tyburn gallows stood, has been made each year to commemorate those executed for their faith during the 16th and 17th centuries. The route takes in several historic sites associated with different eras of the Church in London: St Etheldreda's built as a private chapel in 1276 by the Bishop of Ely and restored for Catholic worship in 1876; St Anselm's and St Cecilia's, a new church built in 1909 to replace St Cecilia's chapel in the Sardinian Embassy - the first to be opened after the Reformation - and St Patrick's. Soho Square, built on the site of the first Catholic church publicly opened in London in 1792, after the Catholic Relief Act. The route ends with Benediction at Tyburn Convent.