Some folks underestimate the destruction of the English Catholic Church during the time of the Reformation. They think it was simply a matter of the king closing down some of the monasteries that were at the end of their lifespan. What really happened was that not only the monasteries were closed down, stripped bare and pillaged completely, but the local parish churches and shrines–which had been lovingly kept and maintained by the ordinary people were pillaged. The king not only took the rich vestments, altar hangings, church silver and rich ornaments and articles of devotion. He also took the lead from the church roof, the bells, the lands which endowed the priest’s ministry and funded the schools and hospitals and poor houses. He also took the money invested over decades to fund the work of the church. If there was any riches of any kind from the humblest parish church to the richest of monasteries the king had it.
The shrine of Our Lady of Caversham had been in existence from before the Norman invasion in 1066. For centuries it was a place of popular devotion, pilgrimage and prayer. Then in September 1538, Dr John London, the kings’ agent came and stripped the shrine, took all the offerings (including a golden crown donated a hundred years earlier by royalty) and shipped them off to the king’s treasury. He also stripped the lead off the roof and sent the ancient wooden image of the Blessed Virgin off to Cromwell in London where it was burnt.