During the 14th century, Glastonbury Abbey was the second wealthiest in Britain (after Westminster) but, as with all the 800+ nunneries and friaries in Britain, it was seized by the Crown during the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-41) and became one of its principle victims. Much of the stone was sold off as local building material but some ruins, together with duck and fish ponds and over 250 trees remain in the 36 acres of the Abbey Grounds. The site is associated in legend with Joseph of Arimathea who founded the first christian church here and King Arthur who is buried here along with his Queen Guinevere.
The landscape of Avalon is full of sacred sites and Glastonbury Tor is usually the first to be noticed as it rises over 150m from the surrounding meadows and can be seen from up to 20 miles away when travelling to Glastonbury.
Chalice Well & Gardens
Chalice Well is one of Britain’s most ancient wells, nestling in the Vale of Avalon between the famous Glastonbury Tor and Chalice Hill. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and orchards it is a living sanctuary in which the visitor can experience the quiet healing of this sacred place. For over two thousand years this has been a place where people have gathered to drink the waters and find solace, peace and inspiration.
The Glastonbury Goddess Temple
People are drawn to Glastonbury, to Avalon, from all over the world. A large number find here, in the landscape itself, the form of the Goddess and the transformation She offers. People coming here need a permanently available sacred space in which to study, learn, be creative and above all honour the Goddess of their hearts. The Goddess Temple, located in the centre of the town. offers pilgrims just such a sacred space.
The White Spring
A key part to Glastonbury’s mystery is water. It was once an island and water rises and falls from its heart in profusion. Two springs rise within feet of each other at the base of the Tor – the holy hill of Avalon. One, tasting sweet with calcium, leaves a white trail. The other, tasting metallic with iron leaves its mark in red.
The Well house was built by the Victorians under the base of the Tor and the White Spring water flows through it. Cavernous and set apart, in blackness or candle lit, it remains mysterious. A stark contrast to the wonderful gardens of Chalice Well of the Red Spring.
Wearyall Hill (Weary all Hill)
This is where guided tours of Glastonbury tend to start as it gives an overview of the island, its surrounding Moors, and all of Glastonbury’s holy hills. Legend holds that when Joseph of Arimathæa came to Avalon, he went first to Wearyall Hill, where he planted his staff in the ground from which sprang leaves and flowers. The descendants of this Middle Eastern species of tree, including the Holy Thorn, still flower throughout Glastonbury every Christmas and Easter.
Somerset Rural Life Museum
The magnificent fourteenth-century Abbey Barn is the centrepiece of the Somerset Rural Life Museum. The barn and the farm buildings surrounding the courtyard contain displays illustrating the tools and techniques of farming in Victorian Somerset. Unusual local activities like willow growing, mud horse fishing, peat digging and cider making are included.
webpage on SCC site
Gog and Magog
Sited near the foot of Glastonbury Tor Hill stand two large ancient oak trees that are said to be over 2,000 years old. Known as Gog and Magog, they were once part of an avenue of oaks that lead up to the Tor. The exact age of the two remaining oaks is debated and some think they may be ancestors to even older sacred trees.
Today, it has become customary for visitors to the two aged oaks to leave them gifts of jewellery, precious stones and other offerings.
Bride’s Mound is a tiny mound to the west of Glastonbury, at Beckery, just near the foot of Wearyall Hill. Legend has it that it was a gateway to Avalon where pilgrims, arriving by boat from Ireland and Wales, would stay in vigil through the night, before passing on up the processional way to Avalon.
The mound can also be said to take its name from Bride (pronounced Breed), Brigit and Brighde (pronounced Bree-dah) who was The Triple Goddess of the Celts. Unable to remove such a powerful Deity from the Celtic people, she was adapted by the Roman Catholic Church into the cult of St Brigit, who founded a religious community at Kildare in Ireland.
Excavations on the Mound have revealed the remains of an early chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene, This chapel was part of a Mary Magdalene hermitage and it was here that St Brigit lived when she came to Glastonbury from Ireland in the fifth century.
Glastonbury Lake Village Museum
The fascinating story of the Glastonbury Lake Village can be viewed in the Tribunal, the 15th century merchant’s house in Glastonbury High Street that also houses the Tourist Information Centre.
The Lake Village Museum presents an insight into everyday life in an Iron-Age settlement, dating from around 2000 years ago, when much of Somerset’s landscape was covered by marshy sea. Although these marshes have long since been artificially drained, the excellent preservative properties of the peaty wetland soils in the Glastonbury area left an archaeological legacy of international importance.
Felled trees, reeds, bracken and clay brought from elsewhere had been used to create a man-made island of around 3½ acres in size, to which the settlers would have gained access by dug-out canoes and trackways of wood laid across the marshland.
From small beginnings, in about 150 BC., the settlement grew to a maximum of 18 houses and about 200 people. The occupants were forced to leave in about 50 AD., due to rising water levels caused by a deterioration in the climate.
St. Margaret’s Chapel
The current chapel built in 1444, stands on the site of its predecessor, built around the 1070s and endowed by St Margaret of Scotland from where it takes its name.
The Chapel ministered to the Abbey’s mens hospital. The monks ministered to patients by day and kept vigil in the chapel by night. After the closure of the Abbey in 1539 the hospital was divided into rooms, to be used as almshouses for the poor. People lived in these rooms up to the early 1960s. Known locally as the ‘Magdalene Chapel’, it takes this name from the hospital, termed The Hospital of St. Mary Magdalene.
Church of St John the Baptist
St John’s is an Anglican parish church and is part of the Diocese of Bath & Wells. It is linked with the parishes of St Benedict’s Church in Glastonbury and St Mary’s & All Saints Church in the village of Meare as a joint benefice. It proclaims to seek to do God’s work through being:
A Christian Spiritual Centre at the Heart of the Town for everyone
St Benedict’s Church
St Benedict’s is located near the top of Benedict Street, which continues down from the bottom of Glastonbury High Street. The church was originally dedicated to St. Benignus or St. Bennings and retained this until the middle of the 17th century. It is not usually left open, but a key is available for visitors in a nearby shop.
A walk around Glastonbury that will help you learn more of the history, (and discover some of the ‘hidden gems’) of the town. Starting at the entrance to Glastonbury Abbey on Magdalen Street, the route follows 20 direction markers set into the pavement. A great introduction to the town and there is always more to learn for those that know it well!
For further information click here
or to download facsimiles of the information boards for use on your walk, click here