23 February 2018, 7.30pm
"The holyest erth of england": Manufacturing Glastonbury's territory of grace - talk by Dr Adam Stout in Glastonbury Archers Way Library
The topography of Glastonbury's "holiest erthe" was imaginatively reinterpreted and embellished several times during the middle ages by the abbey's chroniclers. My recent work on Richard Beere, abbot from 1493 to 1524, has revealed some interesting twists in the development of the myth during the monastery's last decades. Renewed interest was shown in the already-archaic entity of the Hundred of Glaston Twelve Hides, which was effectively rehallowed by a highly unusual perambulation. Several of Glastonbury's ancient saints were rehabilitated, notably St Patrick and St Benignus; this last a shadowy figure whose otherwise obscure cult received a considerable and unexpected boost, bucking the trend in which minor saints' cults were subsumed into those of more important ones.
23 March 2018, 7.30pm
'The Enchanted Life of Dion Fortune', talk by Paul Ashdown in Glastonbury Archers Way Library
‘Dion Fortune’ – born Violet Firth in 1890 – was a novelist and writer of non-fiction whose ‘Avalon of the Heart’, published in 1934, is the definitive portrait of Glastonbury between the Wars. Here, she coined the term ‘Avalonians’ for its artistic and mystical community.
She was also a medium and self-styled ‘occultist’ who sought to unite Christian and neo-pagan understandings of Glastonbury with the magical tradition of the famous Order of the Golden Dawn. She founded her own esoteric order (which still survives), establishing a country retreat for it at Chalice Orchard. She died in 1946 and is buried in Glastonbury cemetery. Her writings were rediscovered by feminist writers in the 1980s, most notably Marion Bradley, whose ‘The Mists of Avalon’ was based on ‘DF’s’ approach. The talk examines her life and personality in relation to her ‘Avalonian’ contemporaries.
13 April 2018, 7.30pm
'When and Why was the River Brue Deflected' talk by Bruce Garrard in Glastonbury Archers Way Library
Until some time around the 13th century, the River Brue flowed north from Glastonbury and joined the River Axe. Since then it has been redirected to flow west towards the sea at Highbridge. Exactly when and why this was done is not clear, and there are various theories – in order to facilitate drainage, or to improve and extend the water transport system, or so that Glastonbury Abbey could avoid paying taxes to the Bishop of Wells for the use of waterways. Bruce Garrard’s talk proposes that none of these suggestions provide a satisfactory answer, and that the real reason is far less straightforward than any of them.
Bruce has lived and worked in Glastonbury for more than thirty years, and recently has become known for his writing on different aspects of local history. In 2015 he published ‘The River’, an exploration of both the history and the topography of the River Brue and the River Axe.
18 May 2018, 7.30pm
‘The Design of Sacred Spaces’ talk by Neill Bonham in Glastonbury Archers Way Library
Not only the two major buildings of Wells and Glastonbury, but numerous creations throughout the world, built and furnished throughout thousands of years, remind us of the high priority given by those in power to providing what they believed to be apropriate settings for the worship of their god/s. Neill will show us how our local examples developed within and added to these wider traditions.