1825/6 Skinner Part I
JOHN SKINNER’S JOURNAL
VOLUME 3 ADDL 33635
Having taken leave of my companion who returned to Bath, I left Wells at 12 and about 5 miles beyond, put up my horses in order to visit the interesting remains at Glastonbury. This celebrated monastery, majestic even in its decay, is said to have been the first founded, and the last destroyed, in the Kingdom.
According to the monkish accounts, Joseph of Arimathea first preached the Gospel here 30 years after the death of our Saviour, and obtained from King Avaragus 12 hides of land, as a perpetual endowment for 12 devout Christians who for many years after resided on the spot in a hut made with earth and covered with boughs. Be this as it may, we have authentic records, that in the beginning of the 5th century a large society of Monks was established here, and that Arthur, and many of the Saxon Kings were buried within its consecrated ground. It flourished in great splendour till the reign of Henry V111, when Richard Whiting conscientiously refusing to deliver up the keys to the Tyrant, was through his instigation accused of High Treason, condemned and executed. The revenues were then valued at £3311 per annum, by Dougdale and at £3580 by Speed.
On the Torr a pyramidical hill near the monastery, the tower of a Church built by the Abbots is still preserved as a excellent sea mark, for ships navigating the Bristol Channel. Here the rich domains of the Abbey might be seen extending for miles over the flat country, and here it was that the unfortunate Whiting was hung.
I took two hasty sketches, one of the ruins of the monastery, the second of the Abbots Kitchen, which continues entire, the roof being constructed entirely of stone, without beams or rafters, because, as my conductor assured me, the King once sent a message to the Abbot, purporting, that if he did not comply with his demands, he would come and burn his Kitchen about his ears; the other replied, he would put that out of his power, and accordingly planned the present structure. Leaving these remains with reluctance, I proceeded to Bridgwater to dine.
VOLUME 26 ADDL 33653
[No 12 Glastonbury Tor & Town, a line of Mendip August 4 1819]
[No 13 West End of Josephs Chapel Glastonbury August 4 1819]
[No 14 Sketch of the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey looking towards Josephs Chapel August 4 1819]
[No 15 Remains in the Abbots Kitchen taken August 4 1819] stone vessel, coffin lid
[No 16 Pilgrims Inn at Glastonbury from the Street August 4 1819]
VOLUME 46 ADDL 33668
Drove to Glastonbury, examined the ruins &c, returned to Wells before three.
We arrived in Glastonbury at about 9, and after a comfortable breakfast at the White Hart, went to examine the remains of the Abbey: as I have so often mentioned this interesting ruin, and made so many drawings I need not enter into a repetition in this place, however, I could not refrain from making two or three sketches, from points I had not before taken; and also another of the Pilgrims Inn, facing the white Hart, which gives a very exact idea of a place of entertainment 3 or 4 centuries old. We then walked to two Alms Houses, the one for poor men, the other for old women, and visited the Church call St. Benedict which possesses few attractions. I only noticed a place for Holy Water to the right of the entrance porch, as at Pylle Church, and an inscription against the wall, purporting that a great flood brake the Sea Dyke, in the year 1606, but does not mention how far the sea flowed up.
VOLUME 49 ADDL 33681
Returning to the Inn,…… we mounted our horses, and proceeded along the turnpike to Glastonbury, between 3 and 4 miles distant. As a natural dorsum is clearly to be traced, the whole way across the marshes, it pointed out the line of passage to the primitive settlers of Pennard Hill when they visited the coast; and the country beyond Bridgwater: indeed tere could have been no otherpass from the range of Mendipin this direction, before the marshes were drained; for the Wells roadis evidently of a later construction. As a further confirmation of this fact we may notice the strong agger thrown up to guard the road, nearly mid way between Pennard and Glastonbury: it extends the whole width of the natural rise above the marsh, half a mile to the west, and a quarter of a mile to the east of the road, so that it was impossible for anyone to pass, unless by the line of the road, without facing the barrier, which of course would be strongly guarded, it is called Pontings Bal; In order to examined this Belgic British work more at our leisure, we dismounted from our horses, leaving them tied to a gate near the house, and first walked to the extremity of the western Bal or Agger, which terminates in the marshes as before observed, half a mile distance from the road, as Mr Richardson proved by pacing it the whole length while I was engaged in making two sketches;
[No 29/136 Defence of Pontings Bal]
the first showing the line of the road from West Pennard to Glastonbury, defended by this immense earthwork;
[No 30/137 Pontings Bal]
the second of the agger itself, measuring 20 ft in height, near the road; but towards the marsh it has been greatly lowered for the sake of carrying carts over the ground.
The eastern extremity of the Bal is more perfect, measuring 2 furlongs in length and at least 20 ft in height, a deep trench from which the mound was excavated being on the north side. Highly gratified by this interesting specimen of Belgic British fortification which is in strict union with their usual mode of defending the passes to their strongholds in every part of the country though on a grander scale,
[No 31/138/225 Approach to Glastonbury from West Pennard]
we pursued our ride to Glastonbury; every side of the road seems to have been secured by a bank running about 30 ft distant. Near a place called Park House we noticed a strong bank joining at right angles; this probably was the boundary of Norwood Park, belonging to the Abbots of Glastonbury. As we passed the Tor Hill, I pointed out to my companion a succession of Linches, which defended it at the base and sides; and an adjoining eminence, still more conspicuous for the pains bestowed in defending it: there can be no doubt that Glastonbury was one of the Dunums occupied by a Clan, under its immediate Chieftain. Arriving at the Antelope Inn we took up our quarters for the night, and procured a well earned repast before we retired to rest which I was not sorry to do soon after 9.00 o’clock.
I was in the breakfast parlour before 8 o’clock, my companion had the start of me, and had made observations of the town before I left my bedroom. As we were both anxious to make the best use of our time, we did not long delay after our meal was concluded, and sallied forth to examine the Ruins contiguous to the Inn Yard, under the guidance of the same young man who accompanied me the Summer before. As Mr Richardson had but partially seen these august remains, I devoted half an hour to pointing out the beautiful archway on the north side of Joseph’s Chapel
[No 1/139/226 Glastonbury Abbey and Town]
Not having seen the Grange belonging to the I walked thither immediately we had quitted the usual routine shown to strangers of the Choir, transepts, stone coffin, vaulted kitchen &c. A farmer carting mature on the premises, gave us full permission to examine this Monarch of Barns, if I may use the term, at our leisure.
[No 2/140 The Grange of Glastonbury Abbey]
We are not surprised that the monastic Orders spared no cost in contributing to the beauty of their Churches and places of residence: but when we observe the nicest and most finished sculpture employed to decorate a building appropriated to the purposes of agriculture we are not a little astonished:
[No 3/141/230 East end of the Grange]
indeed my admiration was not diminished by a closer inspection as I found every article of structure turned out of hand with a finish (barring the nature of the material in which they are worked) almost equal to the celebrated Elgin Marbles.. Let not this be thought an hyperbole; may everyone examine with his own eyes and I shall be exculpated from the ridicule of my being run away with my enthusiasm, beyond the goal of sober judgement. The sketches I have made will give some faint idea of the ornaments here alluded to.
[No 4/142/231 North view of the Grange]
I shall make a point of mentioning to my friend Warner this bonne bouche for his projected work; and if the building and its accompaniments be well executed by Mr Buckler, it will go far to rival the Abbots Kitchen taken by Britton; at any rate, the subject comes fresh, and is as much connected with the Monastic History of the place as the former.
Quitting the Grange we walked into the pasture field, a little below it and took a sketch of Glastonbury Tor Hill,
[No 5/143/232 View of Glastonbury Tor]
the ac or acropolis, as well as the high place of worship of the Belgic Britons. From this point the several linchets which defended the sides of the pyramidical eminence were distinctly seen: as well as the narrow trackway by which it was approached leading from the base to the summit. I have before observed that these pointed hills were used as high places; the blazing fire lit at the apex would be seen for miles, and the appearance of a volcanic irruption issuing from a crater that of Vesuvias or Etna. The Pyramids themselves, although appropriated to the entertainment of the Egyptian princes, had doubtless religious rites performed on their summits, otherwise why were they left broad for such purposes.
The road from Pennard runs at the base of the Tor Hill and another British pass now called Willow Lane, from the circumstances of its leading to a fine Spring of Water, which separates the Tor Hill from St Edmunds.
[No 6/144 Roman road from Glastonbury to Street]
A quarry rich in Ammonites detained my companion at the base of the Tor while I ascended 20 paces in order to sketch Glastonbury and the Roman Road running over Weary all Hill in the direction of Street, Walton and Ashgate, its junction with the Pennard Road near the ruins is here clearly seen, and the natural rise of high ground above the marsh points it out as the line of a British Road, long before it was occupied by the Romans.
While I was occupied with my sketch a man who was working in the fields came to me and said he had found a silver coin near the Ruins, which they told him was Saxon, and another of Brass near the Grange, and promised to bring them to me, but he never did. A little further down the hill I made a new sketch of the Tor and the successive lines or linchets by which it was defended.
[No 7/145 British linchets to the summit of the Tor]
As my companion now joined me we marched to the summit: the day was beautiful; but owing to the exhalations we could not see the Bristol Channel, notwithstanding mine Host of the Antelope had furnished our guide with a powerful telescope. I was therefore content to employ my time in taking objects nearer at hand and made a sketch of the Tower dedicated to St Michael; the present building I should not think above 4 centuries old but I suppose the date of it may be ascertained to a certainty.
[No 8/146 Summit of the Tor & Church]
It is supported by strong buttresses, and entered by an elegantly pointed doorway over which are two singular representations; one describing an Angel weighing our Saviour as our guide informed us, against the Devil: I must confess I wanted faith to be satisfied with this interpretation: the other shows a woman milking a cow. This the monks surely never meant to typify themselves, who were great proficients in milking the foolish and the rich. The Saints who occupied 7 niches above the entrance of the tower have all been removed excepting one, and this figure is so mutilated that it would require a Wilberforce or a Baring to recognise him.
[No 9/147/238 Rough Sketch of Glastonbury Hills]
Before I quitted these airy regions, which now became rather cooler than was quite agreeable, I endeavoured to take a birds eye view of the Insular Avalonia. This rude plan will show the situation of the Tor Hill with respect to the Dunum above the present town of Glastonbury; this inclosure of the Abbey which I conceive the Roman Station to have been: the roads running to Street, Pennard, Brent and Wells, I ought to have shown a fifth, passing across the flat to Butleigh and the country beyond Kings Weston to Somerton. My hasty sketches concluded we descended the east side of the steep, and kept our footing with some difficulty, this brought us into some fields, now digging for planting Potatoes.
[No 10/148 Linch field and line of road by Ponters Ball]
The work men therein occupied told me they had found coins while quarrying a little beyond, near a hill called the Linches, and would show me the place. In my way thither we passed an ancient lane running at the base of the Tor, which is denominated Ashwell Lane, from the circumstances of a fine Spring of Water being contiguous to it which probably supplied the Ash or Ax. On enquiring, I learnt another Spring rises on the heights but I did not notice it. The quarry to which they led us afforded abundant fossils, such as ammonites, belamites, anomia, pundits, &c. Mr Richardson came to anchor for a while, during the interim I made a sketch of Linch Hill and Egerly in front of it: beyond which is seen the line of the Pennard Road near Pontingsbal, and the marshes stretching to the Kings Weston ridge:
[No 11/149 Birds eye view from the Linch of Norwood Park]
I also endeavoured to describe the succession of 9 linchets or terraces from the base to the summit of the hill, and the situation of Norwood Park, one of the 5 described as belonging to the Monastery, with the two park lanes, and the Park House, on the line of the Pennard road, where I noticed having seen a strong bank as we rode to Glaston yesterday evening.
[No 12/150 Tor and Linch Hill from Park Lane]
Having understood from one of the men that Norwood Park had been inclosed by a High Bank towards the Marshes we walked under his guidance to the spot; in the way thither I stopped for a minute to sketch Linch Hill and Glastonbury Tor beyond, both conspicuous from this point for their intrenchments.
[No 13/151 From ||Norwood Park]
When arrived at the Park boundary which here measures 9 ft in height, with a row of large Elms growing upon it, I took another sketch of the Tor and Tower. The Park, according to the description given us by our guide, extended from hence nearly as far as Pontings Ball, and beyond Wick, towards the East, a clear indication that it must have been inclosed long after the marshes were drained; even now, our conductor informed us a great part of it is under water, especially the Winter before last, when the floods extended from Balsbury to Highbridge a distance of 15 miles.
[No 14/152/245 Oak trees at Wick]
In our progress along the Park towards Wick our guide pointed out the aged trucks of two oaks, which have weathered many winters: probably not less than 300, the largest measures 13 ft 6 inches in girth, the other is not far short of it. The man moreover mentioned a larger than either of these on the side of the hill above Wick which went by the name of Avalons, or the Evidence Oak, having been a boundary point for ages, and mentioned as such in the ancient deeds.
[No 15/153/246 Looking down on Wick from Avalon]
When this was blown down, which happened within his recollection a younger tree was planted on its spot to supply its place. The Hamlet of Wick, undoubtedly implies an outpost, but we had not the time to examine it properly; as we perceived the man whom we sent home for the coins expecting us on the side of the hill. On his giving me the coins, I found one of the large brass of Hadrian, the reverse a figure of Peace, at least so I take it to be with a Cornucopia. The other was one of the little coins of Roma struck after the division of the empire into East and West. The men informed me that they had at times found other coins, but that they had parted with them: the young man who accompanied us from the Inn, showed where a small one of Constantius which had been dug up within the inclosure of the Abbey. The field called the Avalons Oak, on account of the ancient tree before mentioned, which formerly stood in it, shewed some traces of the British inclosures, it is bounded by a lane leading to Wick called Branham Lane.
[No 16/154/247 Wick hill the approach from the valley defended by Linchets]
The view of the marsh from hence, and the road crossing it to Wells is interesting. A little beyond Avalon field there is a deep coombe or valley, scooped as it were into the very heart of the hill, the sides and summit of this dell are guarded by linchets so as to render an approach impracticable.
[No 17/155/248 Defences on the hill from Wick]
I made a sketch from a point leading into the dell, with Brent Knoll in the distance and a little beyond. I took another sketch showing its relative situation with respect to the Tor, between that eminence and the Coombe there is an ancient lane now going by a modern name as it is called Paradise Lane.
[No 18/156/249 East side of Glastonbury Tor]
After our long walk we were not sorry to return to the Inn to take some refreshment; as we still had two or three hours to spare we sallied out again being anxious to ascertain, if possible, the site of the station and I am more than ever assured it stood within the inclosure of the Monastery; this very nearly square, and when walking inside the boundary this morning, before we visited the Grange, we had noticed a broad moat and agger, extending from North to South about 150 yards from the East end of the Abbey. This I wished again to examine, and also make some excavation, in order to see the nature of the soil.
[No 19/157 From the road near Mr Rock’s house]
In our way thither, I sketched the ruins from a point where they appear to advantage facing Mr Rock’s house, the Abbot’s Kitchen as it is called; Joseph of Arithamea’s Chapel; and the dilapidated arch which supported the central tower of the Abbey, with Glastonbury Tor at one extremity and the elegant tower of St. John’s Church form such a pleasing assemblage of objects I almost wished that Mr. Britton had seen them with the same eyes that I do; perhaps he did, but declined taking them as a picture, because there was no good foreground.
[No 20/158 Stones let into the wall of the west end of the house]
Continuing our walk along the road leading to Street, we were attracted by some of the sculptured ornaments purloined from the Abbey, and now placed in front of a well built house belonging to a Mrs Downes. On examining them closely we perceived they were Coats of Arms of benefactors among which the Fleur de Lys and the Lions of the English Monarchs were most conspicuous.
[No 21/159 In the walls of Mrs Downes house]
Miss Downes, a good natured old lady, perceived we were strangers, invited us into the house and showed us a very curious assemblage of ornaments, for such they were doubtless thought to be by the builder of the mansion who inserted them in his walls. Among them were three large roses, so often introduced in the architecture of Henry VII and Henry VIII. Two Pelicans, the Arms I believe of the Abbey, four animals with wings. Two birds in the centre of wreaths surrounded by a Mitre; a Cross and 2 Chalices; of these several ornaments I made sketches, or I should say memoranda, to indicate that such were in existence. We then walked along the Street Road and examined the soil of a garden adjoining it which seemed to be of a darker colour than the natural ground, but we did not find here any Roman pottery.
[No 22/160/255 Within the walls]
I made another sketch of the Abbey a little beyond in order to show the inclosure in which it stands; and took a memorandum of the Butleigh Road,
[No 23/161/256 Area to the east of the ruins]
branching off from that going to Street, and crossing the marshes to the higher ridge of land in the vicinity of Kings Weston. These observations concluded we again entered the boundary walls of the Abbey and having procured one of the gardeners’ young men with a spade, began to dig at two or three different spots; taking up the turf and excavating to a depth of 3 feet; the ground was evidently formed of rubbish of the Abbey and consisted of glazed tile, pieces of shale, and brick with coal and cinders, but no appearance of Roman remains did we find: indeed when I began to reflect how many ruined buildings must have contributed to towards the accumulation of soil on this spot in the course of 15 centuries I felt the less wonder that no Roman pottery appeared — were a deep hole dug quite through till the natural earth was found beneath, I have little doubt but great discoveries would be made.
[No 24/162/257 West end of Joseph’s chapel]
The sketch I have made of the inclosure beyond the Abbey will show the supposed site of the Roman station within the moat, which though now dry, could have been filled by a stream as the Gardener informed me to its full depth. This agger within the moat very much resembled that I noticed in the Autumn in Cirencester. As the grounds within the Abbey boundaries belong to a Lawyer of the town, who has lately purchased them, he would not be averse perhaps to have an excavation made on a large scale. I wish Sir Richard Hoare and the Bishop who are to visit Glastonbury next week would set some work men about it, and have it done properly, as it would be a discovery of some importance to ascertain a Station on this spot.
[No 25/163/258 Line of the country to the SW of Glastonbury]
Returning through a Farm Yard into the Street, I took a farewell view of Joseph’s Chapel from the West and the door of an Alm’s house founded in Henry VIII’s reign as I saw by the date 1512 and the Crown and Rose, above a pointed arch on the Chapel Walls.
[No 26/164/259 Stones set into the wall of the chapel of the alms house]
I sketched the Cross in a pointed shield and two roses, after which we returned to the Inn and mounted our horses about 5 o’clock.
[No 27/165/260 Entrance to an alms house]
As the evening was fair and the air dry, I did not anticipate any inconvenience in returning home.
[No 28/166/261 A deep lane leading from the town to Wick]
As we quitted the town we took the Old Wells Road which is worn to a great depths between banks of sand,
[No 29/167/262 Old road from Glastonbury to Wells]
of this I made a sketch and a second a little beyond, which the road is defended by linchets on each side, a sure indication of a British pass: a third sketch I made of the modern Wells Road running nearly in a straight line across the flat: this is risen so much by art that I believe it is never flooded.
[No 2/42 Approach to Glastonbury from the Wells road]
Having engaged to meet Warner and his friend Mr T Shew at Glastonbury today, they having procured permission of the Gentlemen who has purchased the premises to dig within the site of the Abbey in order to ascertain whether it was not built within the lines of a Roman Station; I was obliged early to prepare for a week’s absence from home. Having taken an early dinner I continued my course through Wells without stopping to Glastonbury.
I much doubt whether there was a British road in this direction to Glaston, since the marshes must have been drained before it could have been made and I do not think this was done till the Romans resided in the country. The North side of Glastonbury hill is strongly secured by a succession of ledges rising one above the other from the base upwards. I here observed the traces of a trackway ascending the hill from the flat, made when the marshes were drained: it seemed to cross the Moor from Wokey or in that direction. I got to the White Hart Inn about 6 o’clock: Warner had arrived in the morning but was gone to Pennard: I therefore ordered tea; he returned in the course of an hour and informed me that Mr Reeves, the gentleman who had purchased the Monastic remains, entered warmly into our views, and would he doubted not afford every facility for the examination we proposed.
I was early up, and the morning being delightful after the rain , I walked before breakfast, in order to make observations on the Roman road which passed over Weary All hill: it was evidently constructed on the line of the British trackway running from Pilton to West Pennard, and thence on a natural ridge, rising above the Moor to Glastonbury: it then took the South side of Weary All hill; the base of the hill being guarded by a strong agger, to prevent it being approached from the marsh, which indeed must have been impassable, before it was drained, excepting in the middle of the Summer. I noticed a strong bulwark on the North Side of the hill, extending from Glaston and forming a connection with the hill: the field through which it ran is called Bull’s Close at the present day. I also noticed an oblong tumulus about half a mile distant from the town, near the road which leads from thence to the Mill, but had not leisure to examine it closely. We had our breakfast at eight, after which Mr Reeves called on us, and very politely repeated his permission for our digging wherever we chose, within the walls of the Monastery, he having purchased about 40 acres: the remainder, that is the ground surrounding the Abbot’s Kitchen, had been long before bought by Mrs Rock: I believe the Monastic walls altogether encompassed 60 acres.
Mr Reeves dined with us at the Inn, on our return at six o’clock. He seems determined to preserve the monastic ruins to the best advantage; for I understand they have been terribly dilapidated, for the sake of the materials, by the former owner Mr Downes, who sold thousands of loads (that is the expression) for mending the roads.
Having procured some labourers, four in number, we set them to work after breakfast; two I placed in the field to the East of the building, that is, between the monastic church and the moat; and bade them to dig till they came to the natural soil, beneath the debris of the ruins; the other two I placed to dig a little to the left of the eastern window near the piscina.
[No 3/49 A rough plan of the area within the moat]
While they were thus employed I made a sketch of the square moated enclosure, within the walls which I conceive to have been the original site of the station during the Roman occupancy of the place: it comprised about 60 acres, but this will be ascertained to a certainty, as Mr Cruse the surveyor is engaged to make a plan of the whole for Mr Reeves. The moat is perfectly visible on the East and South sides, and it may be partially traced at the opposite points, behind the houses built at right angles, and now forming the two principle streets of Glastonbury. The monastic church was evidently distinct in the first instance from the Chapel going by the name of Joseph of Arimathea, and the chapel has been enlarged, since the first erection, as may be seen by examining the style of the building. Originally it was terminated by four turrets, one at each corner; and the wall, decorated by intersecting Anglo Norman arches, retains the same pattern; thus far the addition exhibits a late style of architecture, the arches being more pointed. At the East end are the remains of steps leading to the Altar, where probably stood the shrine of Joseph of Arimathea; the Crypt beneath the Chapel was well finished and the roof supported by groined arches. This will be one of the first places cleared by Mr Reeves, when he can get rid of the water which collects there on account of the drains being stopped. I understand the pavement of the Crypt is still in good preservation; some of the windows here admitting light are surmounted by an elliptical arch which, with that now thrown across the eastern window of the Chapel in order to connect it with the church, seem to have been alterations of the time of Henry VIII, when the Chapel was thrown open to the Church giving it a length of upwards of 500 ft. As Mr Warner has undertaken to give the particulars I shall not pay so much attention to this part of the business as I otherwise should have done; but I pointed some things to his observation which I think will be of service. The arches of the Crypt are constructed at the crown with a light kind of pumice stone, after the manner of the Romans, and mentioned by Vitruvius: and as a clear proof the Crypt was formed prior to the building which adjoins it. I noticed the walls of this edifice formed on the arch of the more ancient Crypt, and supported by a wall beneath.
[No 4/50 Freestone gout]
[No 5/51 Gout made of large blocks]
The men excavating the ground to the left of the eastern window of the great church in the course of the morning, came to a water course, 4 inches wide, formed between large blocks of squared freestone within the walls of the building and about 3 ft from the foundations. This drain was embedded in the clay, and intended to carry off the water used in the service of the church at the High Altar, and the picinae of the contiguous chapels, as well as to keep the ground dry beneath the pavement. The precautions taken by the architects of ancient times to preserve the duration of their works is truly surprising.
I observed even grooves cut within the buttresses on each side of the great eastern window for the conveyance of the water from the roof, so as to prevent the walls being injured by the rain. As to Roman discoveries, I met with nothing satisfactory; the men dug in three places about 4 ft from the surface, down to the natural clay: the soil to that depth was formed of the debris of former buildings: slate, fragments of paving stones, nails, mortar, charcoal and coal, constituted the component parts of the earth excavated. It is very evident that when the foundations of the site of the present Church were formed that the ground was levelled to a considerable extent, and all the waste soil taken from thence spread over the ground which accounts for the appearances here mentioned. A person showed me a coin of Jaustina, large brass, but could not say exactly where it was found: one piece of pottery, and one only I could positively pronounce to be Roman: but my conviction is so strong that the Romans occupied the ground within the moat for their station that I need no other confirmation than that I have already received.
[No 6/52 View of Glastonbury ruins]
[No 7/53 Foliated border in freestone]
[No 8/54 Fragment of an antique border]
I made 3 or 4 sketches about the ruins when the people were engaged in their work; and we afterwards dined with Mr Reeves. After tea, we had music, and I made some drawings with burnt paper for Mr Reeves’ daughter, in order to show the mode of producing an effect this way.
Two of the workmen deserted, the other two were desired to dig at the South side of Joseph of Arimathea’s Chapel as Mr Downs, the former proprietor, mentioned there was a flight of steps here leading to the Crypt, and we were anxious to come to a level with the pavement. Finding the men proceeded but slowly I ordered my car at 12, and taking a lad from the Inn as guide, proceeded along the Butleigh Road to Compton Dundon.
[No 9/57 Sketch pf Glastonbury from the Ilchester road]
[Plan from Polsham to Compton Dundon]
On ascending the Car, I was surprised to find that it was nearly half past 4 o’clock, and as I had engaged to meet Warner at Mr Pratt’s to dinner at 5, I made the best of my way back to Glastonbury 4 miles distance, which drive I performed within the time; and having changed my linen, arrived in good order to the house of mine host. After dinner the whole party walked to the Ruins, and saw them to advantage by twilight, and afterwards by moonlight. Mr Pratt, as well as Mr Reeves, is a Lawyer, and manages the great tithe of Glaston for the Bishop: he is an intelligent man and has been of much assistance to Warner procuring some ancient deeds relative to the Monastery. We returned before 10 o’clock to our quarters. I was not sorry to get to bed having had a great deal of exercise during the day, both of body and mind.
I did not walk before breakfast, having overslept myself, but immediately after went to the Abbey, and found the men had excavated to the depth of 10 ft and had come to an archway outside of the Crypt of St Joseph’s Chapel, ornamented in the same style as that building.
[No 27/26 Arch excavated near Joseph’s Chapel]
I set off in the car, Mr Warner and Mr T Shew accompanying me thither. At the ridge called Weary All Hill,
I pointed out to my companions the linchets at the base, by which it was defended, and endeavoured to convince them that the legend of Joseph fixing his staff on the hill when he was weary, could not account for the name, since the language of the ancient Britons was not exactly the same as our own. At the further extremity of the hill, we passed a small hamlet called Newton, on account of its situation close to the Brue River and soon arrived at Street.
[No 28/27 Peck Mill]
[No 41/40 Lines of defence on Weary all Hill]
On arriving at the Inn I learnt that during my absence the labourers had found a well and a stone pavement beneath the arch I had seen in the morning, and that Mr Warner and Mr. Pratt were then with them, I accordingly hastened to view the new discovery, which promises to be of architectural consequence, showing at the same time the monastic modes of extorting money from the pockets of pilgrims. I returned with Mr Pratt to his house to drink tea and got to my dormitory a little after 10.
Notwithstanding I felt plagued by the exertion of yesterday, I left my bedroom before 7, being desirous of seeing before breakfast what I had taken to be a Long Barrow in a meadow beyond St Benet’s Church which is a shabby building compared to the new edifice standing in the High Street.
[No 42/41 Doorway to St Benet’s Church]
Over the doorway are the initials of R Bere, the Abbot and his mitre; betokening that he had contributed to the repairs.
[No 43/42 Costume of the 2 Marsh youths]
[No 44/43 An oblong Tumulus to the left of the road]
On examining the tumulus, I found it heaped up to the height of 12 ft above the level of the mead, and surrounded by the trench from whence the earth was taken: it is nearly oval, measuring 30 ft in length by 120 in width, or rather 100 of my paces one way and 40 the other; it is quite flat on the surface which entirely does away with the idea I had heard expressed by a Farmer, that it was defence for a picket of horse in the Civil Wars: another said, he understood a battery had been erected there to beat down the walls of the Abbey: a third, that an old windmill was erected there; now as such low ground is not well calculated for a battery or a windmill, when higher could be obtained on the range of Weary All Hill, we need not give credence to these opinions. I thought that at one time it might have been risen up as a refuge for the cattle grazing in the meadows in case of sudden inundation, but on examining the surface of the soil I perceived a high ridge running through the ground, equally as much above as below the tumulus and I am still of the opinion, notwithstanding its great dimension, that it was sepulchral.
[No 45/46 Another view of the same Tumulus]
The accompanying sketches will best describe its form and situation; perhaps one of these days I shall be able to give a more satisfactory account of it.
[No 46/45 The town of Glastonbury from the base of Weary all Hill]
I crossed the meadow from the tumulus to get into the road lately made on the North side of Weary All Hill in order to examine the agger thrown up in Bull’s Croft of which I made a drawing showing Glastonbury with its church towers, and that on the Tor in the background. I got to breakfast at 8.
[No 47/46 Anglo Norman arch over Joseph’s Chapel Well]
After breakfast I accompanied Warner to the Abbey, and was delighted to see the ground excavated sufficiently to shown the beautiful arch above the well, and the winding stone steps by which the pilgrims descended to the sacred water, for such I doubt not it was esteemed in that day: and many tricks in consequence were played in the Crypt under the Chapel, (which was probably called the sepulchre of Joseph, in allusion to that provided for our Saviour) as I perceive it has been filled up subsequently to the first section of the elliptical form.
If the arches which have been inserted under the original groins, not being older than the reign of Henry VII, if I judge aright, some ceremonies might first have been performed under the Chapel by the monks before the delighted pilgrims partook of the sacred spring, and they were then marched from the Well into the Chapel in order to contribute at the shrine of Joseph.
That there was a tradition preserved in the town respecting the efficacy of this holy water, we may be assured, from the renewal of the pretended miracles wrought by it in the year 1750. It is incredible how eagerly this ridiculous story (of Matthew Chancellor) was credited; people of all denominations flocked hither from every part of the kingdom to partake of the water of the salubrious stream: every Inn and house in Glastonbury and its environs were crowded with guests and lodgers; and it is a fact well authenticated, that the town, in the month of May, 1751, contained upwards of ten thousand strangers. This spring rises under Tor Hill, and used to supply the moat which surrounded the Monastery; when this was dried, it was conveyed through the premises by a drain or gout, and filled the well in its course, finding an exit into the Street, almost facing the Abbot’s Kitchen.
[No 48/47 Stone steps leading down to the well]
Having made a drawing of the archway, well, steps, &c, &c, I assisted Warner in taking measurements of the height of the ruined tower, of St Joseph’s Chapel: this we affected according to my suggestion, by a kite, which one of the gentlemen procured; to this we attached a string, besides that which sustained it in the air; and by bringing the angle of both the strings over the height to be measured, got it exactly. The high ruin of the central tower measured 74 feet, that opposite 66; the Abbot’s Kitchen above 70; Joseph’s Chapel above 40; as I did not set down the different measurements , knowing that Warner would do so, I must hereafter refer to his memoranda.
Mr Reeves was so much delighted with the discovery of the Well, that he determined to persevere in the digging; indeed as he purposes building a house within the monastic walls it will fully repay the expense; as the soils and fragments of freestone will serve for the walls of the edifice and the gardens. As Warner with his friend Shaw left Glastonbury for Bath by the Stage at one o’clock, I took the opportunity of visiting the village of Meare.
After taking a Lamb Chop at Glastonbury I quitted the town about four, meaning to reach home ere dark. I was stopped for an instant to sketch the linchets of defence rising each other, at the northern extremity of the hill above the Wells road: these are gigantic works and probably guarded the trackway from the marsh at this point.
As Burrard and myself had made an engagement to meet Warner in Wells and proceed with him to Glastonbury, we set off in the car immediately after breakfast, and got to Wells without rain, although the weather was very unpromising. I had the mortification to find so bad a cold come on, I was obliged to go to bed immediately on my arrival in Glastonbury, where I took a large dish of tea, but it had not the desired effect in producing perspiration, and I lay in the burning fever till past four o’clock when I got a little sleep.
I rose somewhat refreshed, but the soreness of my chest so increased, I told Burrard I must positively return home instead of extending the tour as Warner had intended, this indeed in every way met his approbation and after breakfast we walked to the Abbey, which remains in the same state as when we were here last, only the well and the arch cannot be examined on account of the water. While my friends were occupied amongst the ruins I walked to Mr Reeves’, the owner of the premises, to look at some fragments of the sculptural pilasters which had been dug up and conveyed to his house.
[No 4/67 …remains dug out near Joseph’s Chapel
I had previously sketched some fragments of freestone which seemed to have been outside of the building; it represents a winged lion recumbant, but wants its head, and a great part of the opposite extremity; it measures now about twenty inches in height.
[No 5/68 Fragment of figure found in Joseph’s Chapel]
At Mr Reeves’ I copied part of a human figure, sans head and legs, about nine inches height, and five broad, with the right hand elevated, as though the person had been represented addressing an assembly; the drapery is beautifully executed in the White Lias Stone.
[No 7/70 Foot of an image and a foliated border found in Joseph’s Chapel]
I also sketched from another fragment of the same material, the upper part of a head and a foot, coloured with red wash, resembling lake, which rubbed off on being wetted.
[No 8/71 More Fragments]
[No 9/72 Capital of a Column]
[No 10/73 Pedestal and Pavement Tile]
[No 11/74 Glazed Tile]
Mr Reeves has also a few of the glazed tiles which formed the pavement of the Abbey Church, some with the Lions of the Royal benefactors; others with two doves and the foliated cross.
[No 12/75 Head over Mr Reeves’ Green House]
Having finished my sketches within doors I was shown a figure in Mr Reeves’ Kitchen garden, which seems to have been formed of a head taken from a representation of Jesus Christ, and the body, an Abbot or Priest; it is just over the greenhouse. I hope the other remains which fall into this gentleman’s possession will have a more appropriate destination for them.