A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 9, Glastonbury and Street. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2006.
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Settlement outside the monastic precinct probably centred on a market place north-west of the abbey, extending eastwards from the present area and established by the earlier 13th century. From it streets ran roughly east, west, north, and south. High Street, also known as the great street or the street leading to Wells, (fn. 1) takes a direct line parallel to and north of the precinct wall and may have been a planned replacement for Cart Lane (later Silver Street), first mentioned c. 1240, (fn. 2) which clings to the wall further south. Such change must have been complete by the later 12th century when the church of St. John, which lay on its northern side, is first mentioned. (fn. 3) Madelode (later Benedict) Street, its earlier name referring to a route across a river to meadow land, (fn. 4) occurs c. 1245 (fn. 5) as the route westwards from the market place and contained the chapel of St. Benignus and less salubrious parts of the town. (fn. 6) That chapel, in spite of its apparent dependent status and history, (fn. 7) is, significantly, aligned with the abbey to the east, was consecrated in 1091, and was the resting-place of the bones of St. Benignus. (fn. 8)
Northload Street, named c. 1240, gave access northwards from the market place to the river Brue and a route by water to the Bristol Channel. (fn. 9) Leading south, along the western precinct wall, South Street was so named in the early 14th century, by the later 14th century Spital Street, (fn. 10) and by the early 18th Magdalene or Spital Street after the hospital or almshouse transferred there c. 1250. (fn. 11) The southern side of the precinct was known in 1656 as Beare (later Bere) Lane. (fn. 12) On the eastern side of the town a street following the eastern precinct wall was named Chilkwell Street c. 1260 (fn. 13) from the limestone well, later named Chalice Well, mentioned c. 1210. (fn. 14) From it by the later 13th century Blindlane and Dodlane (fn. 15) led eastwards up the lower slopes of Chalice Hill. Northwards from its junction with Cart Lane to the end of High Street is the present Lambrook Street, named after the Langbroc, a source of water for both town and abbey, which occurs c. 1240. (fn. 16) Laundry Lane, named in 1403–4, (fn. 17) perhaps marked a site held by the Lavandria family, the abbey's hereditary launderers. (fn. 18) Gryce Lane was named in 1517. (fn. 19) Sticker's cross stood in 1655 at the south end of Chilkwell Street at its junction with Bere Lane. (fn. 20)
By the later Middle Ages divisions of burgage plots on the south side of High Street had given rise to at least one new street, St. James's Street, between it and Cart Lane, named by 1498–9 after St. James's chapel. (fn. 21) New Street, mentioned in 1439, may have been its earlier name. (fn. 22) North of High Street, Nirbon (later Norbins) Lane led along the western edge of the churchyard northwards to an area of small closes known since the later 12th century as Nordbinna. (fn. 23) Bovetown, Abovetoun in 1408, (fn. 24) seems to have been the earliest suburb, beside the Wells road to the east of the town, and was named in the later 13th century. (fn. 25) It included the chapel of St. Catherine named in 1476. (fn. 26)
Most houses in the town seem to have incorporated shops or had, aligned on the street, large front rooms sometimes used for commercial purposes, as at the 15th-century so-called Tribunal: at least one house had both front room and shop. (fn. 27) Rear wings, usually with halls, occupied parts of burgage plots. The exceptions to this pattern were some in the Market Place (nos. 1, 2, and 7). Some probably had single-storey halls, others were two- or three-storeyed throughout. Ground floors and gable ends of most houses were of stone, the rest being timber-framed with jettied upper storeys. Examples in Magdalene Street (no. 16a), Benedict Street (nos. 4–4a) and Chilkwell Street (nos. 43 and 45) are identifiable either because of traces of jettied floors or exposed moulded doorcases and timbers of high quality. The George and Pilgrim inn and a house which stood further east in High Street were built with elaborate fronts entirely of stone, the latter articulating an arrangement of hall and chambers aligned with the street. (fn. 28) The barn alone survives of the manorial buildings of the abbey home farm.
Most of the houses in the town centre remained essentially unaltered from before the dissolution of the abbey in 1539 until the mid 17th century, a reflection of economic stagnation. After the middle of the 17th century most new buildings were constructed on a modest scale with walls entirely of coursed rubble. From the mid 18th century rubble was sometimes combined with red brick and ashlar, which were used alone only for superior houses until the mid 19th century. From the mid 18th century most roofs were covered with clay tiles. Houses in High Street, Magdalene Street, and notably in Chilkwell Street bear witness to extensive rebuilding in the town in the second half of the 17th century, probably following enfranchisement of former monastic properties. Cock Lane running south of and parallel to High Street in the earlier 18th century, may have been the result of infill. (fn. 29)
Rebuilding and infilling rather than physical growth characterised the town in the early 18th century. Houses remain at the west end of High Street (nos. 8 and 15) and especially east of St. John's church, where two or three (nos. 29–31 and 43) are sophisticated town houses of two storeys with dormers lighting attic rooms. One, the former St. George's Hall (no. 29), has contemporary panelling and plasterwork and had an inlaid oak staircase. (fn. 30) Substantial houses were also built in Magdalene Street and Chilkwell Street in the 18th and early 19th centuries including Abbey Grange from materials of the former abbot's lodgings in 1713, St. Dunstan's House, and no. 19 Magdalene Street. (fn. 31) By the end of the century there were isolated groups of buildings at Mount Pleasant, Hill Head, and Brindham. They were followed in the earlier 19th century by villas and large houses such as Somerset House and its neighbour, the former convent, in Magdalene Street, Northload Hall in Northload Street, and Blenheim House and other villas in Chilkwell Street.
More significant was the rebuilding of properties in High Street after 1800. Individual houses and other buildings were refronted in plain classical style using stucco or ashlar, and after c. 1840 there was considerable rebuilding in red brick to three storeys, the top floor being concealed by raised parapets and locally popular rusticated lintels applied as the only ornament. The new work was designed to increase living accommodation above shops, some of which were created within formerly residential buildings. Several 19thcentury shop fronts survive, including Stuckey's (now Lloyd's) Bank, next to the George and Pilgrim, designed by G. M. Tilley in 1885 in deliberate emulation of its medieval neighbour. The reinstatement of the high cross in 1846 with one designed by Benjamin Ferrey to resemble an Eleanor Cross was done in the same spirit. Subdivisions of plots elsewhere in the later 19th century led to the building of cottages in terraces and courts such as Victoria Buildings and Hanover and Somers squares. (fn. 32)
Physical expansion of the town became noticeable north of High Street in the 1880s. Nine small dwellings called Landmead Cottages in Grist Lane (fn. 33) were the beginning of substantial building development. In 1886 the lane was renamed Manor House Road, and Norbins Lane became Norbins Road; King Street was created in the following year. Cottages were built along the new Wells Road and from 1890 small villas, many built by John Merrick, owner of the nearby brickyards, whose own house, Chindit House, is dated 1903. New terraces off Northload Street were built in 1891 to add to Albert (1879) and Avalon (1871) buildings. During the 1880s there was infilling in Benedict Street, where the town council took the opportunity to buy strips of frontage in order to widen the roadway. (fn. 34) To the early 19th-century villas in Chilkwell Street were added Park Terrace in Street Road in 1860 and smaller villas in Fisher's Hill in the later 1890s. (fn. 35) The notion of 'workers' housing' was introduced in 1919 and sites were identified between Norbins Road and Wells Road. The houses, built by the town council, were of brick in blocks of four, some with parlours and others with large living rooms, and were designed by Harold Alves. Similar houses in Landmead were not completed until 1935 and flats in Butts Close were finished in 1938. (fn. 36) The post office in High Street, opened in 1938, is by H. E. Seccombe. (fn. 37) After the Second World War the town expanded both to the north-east on the former open fields of Windmill Hill and to the south on the southern slopes of Wearyall Hill. Most of the houses were built by the local authority but private building took place along Roman Road. (fn. 38) In the later 20th century commercial building, private housing, and an industrial estate occupied a large area to the west of the town between Benedict Street and Street Road as far as Northover.
During the Middle Ages Glastonbury was a pilgrim centre and a busy market town at the centre of the abbey's vast estates. After the dissolution of the abbey the markets remained of local significance, and from the later 17th century economic recovery can be measured in part by the growing number of inns and taverns in the town, a number which grew to a peak in the later 19th century.
In 1189 there were seven inns (hospicia) in Glastonbury among the holdings of the abbey's tenants in fee. (fn. 39) John the taverner supplied wine for the abbot's hall c. 1301, (fn. 40) and in 1314 as many as 68 ale sellers were in breach of the assize in the town. (fn. 41) Forty-five ale sellers were similarly fined in 1378, (fn. 42) and in 1417–18 two innkeepers and 20 ale sellers were in trouble. (fn. 43) The George, in the 20th century the George and Pilgrim Hotel, was owned by the abbey and was in business in 1439, already having had at least one previous tenant. (fn. 44) After the dissolution of the abbey ownership of the inn passed to the duke of Somerset but returned to the Crown. In 1562 it was described as 'in such great ruin' and the lease included six featherbeds and five bolsters. (fn. 45) Two carved and gilded bedsteads survived there in 1677. (fn. 46) The inn seems to have remained in continuous use.
The front part of the present building, erected by Abbot John Selwood, dates from between 1456 and 1474 and was given by the abbot to support the office of chamberlain. (fn. 47) It is a two-storeyed structure with two rooms each side of a through passage on the ground floor behind a panelled stone front with a projecting bay to the west and an arched entrance. Over the entrance are the arms and supporters of Edward IV, two other shields, and the stone support for an inn sign. (fn. 48) The building may perhaps be the work of John Stowell, tenant of an abbey house in Magdalene Street from 1449, who by 1458 was working at Wells. (fn. 49)
The former Crown inn, owned by Bruton Abbey, was in business in the Market Place by 1535. (fn. 50) The present building dates from the late 17th century and has a central dogleg staircase right through its three storeys. The canted bay on its street façade may repeat an earlier feature, but in its present form is part of an early 19th-century refronting with a roughcast render.
Three innkeepers, including the tenant of the George, were licensed to sell wine in the town in 1555, (fn. 51) and the Hart and the Pelican were named in the 1580s. (fn. 52) Seven victuallers were in business in 1620, (fn. 53) and in 1630 there were eight alehouses, (fn. 54) the limit set by the magistrates in 1636. (fn. 55) Among the inns which contributed to the guest beds for 91 and stabling for 45 in 1686 (fn. 56) were the Ship, the Bell, the Oak or Royal Oak, the Pelican, and the White Hart (fn. 57) in addition to the George and the Crown. In 1695 there were eleven inns, (fn. 58) and those named at the beginning of the 18th century included in addition the Holly Bush and the Tavern. (fn. 59) The parish vestry thought so many alehouses were 'so many nurseries of indolence and vice' and requested the magistrates to licence eleven. Ten alehouses were approved in 1764, (fn. 60) seventeen in 1768, (fn. 61) and fourteen victuallers in 1786. (fn. 62) There were again seventeen licensed houses in the parish in 1866, of which six were unnamed beer houses, and there were twenty-two in 1889 and 1891. (fn. 63) In 1905 there were fourteen fully licensed houses, eight beer houses, and a licensed grocer, a licence for every 174 people in the parish. As a consequence four licences were refused, (fn. 64) and among those houses closed was the Red Lion, which had occupied the former gatehouse to the abbey precinct. (fn. 65) In 1939 there were twelve licensed premises, (fn. 66) in 1998 sixteen.
In the later Middle Ages there was a variety of entertainment in the town based on the parish church. By 1428–9 plays were performed at Christmas and in the summer for the benefit of church funds and hoglers played music then and in 1439–40. (fn. 67) A Corpus Christi play was performed in 1500–1 for the same cause and Robin Hood figured among the fund-raising activities. (fn. 68) Ales were held by the churchwardens and the conduit wardens in the 1580s, accompanied by morris dancing. (fn. 69) Puppet performances occurred in 1584, morris dancing associated with a maypole and summer processions in 1617, and a maypole and bear baiting in 1634. (fn. 70)
A school for adults and a reading room were open from 1848 to 1853 and a library was re-established in 1861–7 in a purpose-built room behind the White Hart inn. (fn. 71) Assembly rooms were opened in 1864, principally to house what was then called the Literary Institute but also for social occasions, notably balls held for the whole county 1867–72 and 1874. (fn. 72) Among other cultural pursuits in the town were the Harmonic Society, active by 1885, the Avalonian Band by 1886, the Antiquarian Society and museum founded in 1886, (fn. 73) and various educational classes. (fn. 74)
In 1912 Alice Buckton (d. 1944) opened a school of Pageantry at Chalice Well House which became the headquarters of the Glastonbury Crafts Guild and of the Folk-play and Festival Association. (fn. 75) Between 1914 and 1926 the composer Rutland Boughton (d. 1960) supported by, among others, George Bernard Shaw and Laurence Housman, organised annual festivals of music and drama. (fn. 76)
A travelling theatre is recorded to have visited the town in 1894 (fn. 77) and a visiting circus in 1899 infringed the by-laws. A pack of beagles, removed from kennels at the Crown inn after complaints in 1898, were again complained of in Dyehouse Lane in 1900. (fn. 78) A 'People's Theatre' performed in 1908 and other travelling theatres were promised in 1911 and 1913. A cinema licence was sought in 1911 and by 1919 the Electric Theatre was in business. (fn. 79)
In 1448 a small close formed out of the north common arable field was let to the town for archery practice. (fn. 80) It was still in use in the early 16th century (fn. 81) and the name Butts Close survived for the field until it was built on c. 1920. (fn. 82) In the 1730s fives and backsword were played, a maypole was set up, and a group of singers established. (fn. 83) A cricket club was founded in 1848 and refounded in 1869. (fn. 84) By 1870 swimming at Cowbridge and bicycle and foot races were taking place (fn. 85) and by the end of the 19th century tennis, hockey, and football were played. (fn. 86) An athletic ground for a variety of sports was provided by a limited company formed in 1900. (fn. 87)
The Glastonbury Friendly society was founded in 1817 and was apparently renamed the Glastonbury Friendly and Benefit society in 1837. Its feast was held on the second Tuesday in June and it had 66 members in 1873. The society was dissolved in 1912. (fn. 88)
The Central Somerset Gazette and Western Counties Advertiser was produced in Glastonbury from 1861 and the title continues. The Avalon Independent was published there from 1890 until 1933. (fn. 89)
Dr. John Dee, the mathematician and astrologer, was reported to have found a very large quantity of the philosopher's stone among the abbey ruins c. 1586–7. (fn. 90) Cures from water flowing through the abbey precinct and emerging near Chaingate mill were claimed in 1751 by Matthew Chancellor of North Wootton and later by people from as far afield as Lancashire and the West Midlands. In response as many as ten thousand visitors came each month. The water was bottled for sale in London and a pump room was begun in 1753 by Mrs. Anne Galloway and opened in the following year. The cures still attracted visitors in the 1780s. (fn. 91) The pump room, on the west side of Magdalene Street and subsequently incorporated in a private dwelling, was originally three bays square, of rubble with freestone dressings topped with a plain parapet, the north entrance front pedimented and pilastered flanking a segmental arched doorway. Walks and gardens were planned in association. (fn. 92)
A second attempt to find a commercial use for the water was made in the late 1790s at Tor House, for a time the Anchor inn and later Chalice Well House. (fn. 93) In 1788 the site included a 'spring well' called Blood Well or Chalice Well and in 1798 a bathing place. In 1798 while still an inn the house was bought by a brewer and his son-in-law a druggist. (fn. 94) In 1877 the owner tried to sell the water to aerated water companies and two years later replaced wooden pipes and examined the two underground chambers there. The house closed as an inn in 1880. (fn. 95) In the 1880s memories persisted of lines of visitors in Chilkwell Street waiting to obtain water at Tor House. (fn. 96) The Sacred Heart Fathers established at Tor House from 1886 sent bottled water in exchange 'for an offering to the apostolic school there'. (fn. 97) Glastonbury water is commercially available in 2000.
A Roman Catholic pilgrimage was held in 1895 after the beatification of Abbot Richard Whiting, John Thorne, and Roger James, the three Glastonbury monks executed in 1539. (fn. 98) In 1897 the archbishop of Canterbury led an international pilgrimage to the abbey in commemoration of the 1300th anniversary of the arrival of St. Augustine in England. (fn. 99) Excavation of the abbey site, revived in 1904 and continued regularly thereafter, from 1907 until 1921 under the controversial Frederick Bligh Bond, raised national awareness of the significance of the abbey and led indirectly to the formation of the Anglican West of England Pilgrimage Association, which almost every year since 1923 has organised a pilgrimage to the site. (fn. 100) Annual Roman Catholic and Anglican pilgrimages continue.
The eventual successor to Alice Buckton at Chalice Well House from 1958 was the Chalice Well Trust, led by Wellesley Tudor Pole (d. 1968), who was inspired by the discovery of a vessel which some associate with the Holy Grail. (fn. 101) The well in the garden there is a popular place of pilgrimage.
In 1935 Glastonbury was identified as the centre of the Temple of the Stars (fn. 102) and in the 1960s the town became a focus for followers of a variety of alternative lifestyles looking to a pre-Christian past, to Celtic revivalism, or to pop culture. From 1970 the Glastonbury Music Festival at Pilton brought visitors and settlers, (fn. 103) spawning book and craft shops, mystical tours, festivals, and ephemeral publications. In 1991 the University of Avalon was set up as a University of the Spirit, and in the late 1990s the Free State of Avalonia was declared. (fn. 104)
The almonry school at the abbey by 1377 was evidently open to pupils not contemplating a monastic career and was still in existence in the early 16th century. (fn. 105) The abbey organist taught singing and organ playing as part of his duties. (fn. 106) In 1600 and 1616 two schoolmasters were teaching in the town, both probably unlicensed. (fn. 107) Henry Albin (1624–96), later a nonconformist minister, was educated in the town. (fn. 108)
Between 1662 and 1745 at least six masters were licensed, three to teach grammar, and they and others taught reading, writing, and accounts. (fn. 109) The earliest school may have been supported by William Strode, (fn. 110) and it was perhaps that school whose pupils received exhibitions at Hart Hall, Oxford, in the 1670s. (fn. 111)
Between 1666 and the later 18th century four gifts of money were made to educate a total of 40 poor boys and 20 poor girls. (fn. 112) A school was opened in 1732 which until 1736 was kept in the common hall, probably part of the market house, and included an evening school, presumably for pupils at work during the day. From 1733 John Cannon, the schoolmaster, received money for sixteen charity pupils. A Quaker held another school in the market house until 1737. (fn. 113) In 1764 a school for boys, originally endowed under the will of James Levington of 1666, (fn. 114) was equipped for 12 pupils, although 14 attended. (fn. 115) That was the public school recorded c. 1780 (fn. 116) which continued to be supported by Levington's charity until the 1850s or later. (fn. 117)
In 1818 it was reported that in addition to the four charity schools there were two Church Sunday and weekday schools teaching 150 boys and 150 girls, a National school for 80 children, probably that known as the Madras school founded in 1815, a Quaker Sunday school for 30 girls, and a Dissenting Sunday school for 10 boys and girls. (fn. 118) About 1825 the Church Sunday and day school had a total of 187 children, with a further 30 in a preparatory Sunday school. (fn. 119)
By 1833 there were 13 schools in the town. The largest was the Church Sunday school with 220 children supported by subscriptions. Dissenters supported two other Sunday schools for a total of 78 children. Five day schools in St. John's parish included the charity school for 40 boys supported by the Levington charity, another for 30 boys supported by subscriptions, and three for c. 60 children, taught at their parents' expense. Three day schools in St. Benignus's parish included one for 8 boys and 18 girls partly financed by Honora Gould's charity and partly by parents, one for 25 children in connexion with the Independent chapel and supported by parents, and a third, founded in 1833, for 13 children, also supported by parents. A boarding and day school for 24 girls and 7 boys, also in St. Benignus's, had been founded in 1824 and was financed by parents. (fn. 120)
In 1839 the two National schools between them had 128 pupils on weekdays and 84 on Sundays and there was an infants' school for 70 supported by a Mrs. Roach and school pence. There were two Independent Sunday schools for 179 children between them and a Wesleyan Sunday school for 50 children. There were also six private schools, three of them described as commercial. (fn. 121) In 1847 the National school, named St. John's and St. Benedict's, had 80 boys attending on weekdays and Sundays, 47 girls on both and 70 on Sundays only, and 147 infants. There were then dame schools for 10 boys and 12 girls affiliated to the National Society. (fn. 122) The Wesleyans and the Independents had Sunday schools in 1861. (fn. 123)
The National school was largely rebuilt in 1864–5; the designs by (Sir) George Gilbert Scott in harmony with those of St. John's church were treated very freely by Frederick Merrick, the builder. (fn. 124) A private infants' school was opened at Hill Head, from 1864 until 1877 receiving a grant from Levington's charity. (fn. 125) In 1875–6 a new National school was built in Benedict Street. (fn. 126) From c. 1884 (fn. 127) it shared the charity endowments with St. John's school.
In 1901 there were five elementary schools in the town, including the Wesleyan day school; (fn. 128) two years later the two public elementary schools, St. John's and St. Benedict's, came under a joint board of management which itself was under the control of a newly-formed borough sub-committee of the county education committee. (fn. 129) In 1903 there were 412 children on the books at St. John's school with an average attendance of 328 children. At St. Benedict's there were 300 on the books and average attendance was 231. (fn. 130) St. John's school had 178 boys and 72 infants in 1925. By 1955, when it accepted controlled status, it had 167 boys aged from 8 to 15 and 97 infants. St. Benedict's had 134 girls and 81 infants in 1925 and later accepted aided status. In 1955 there were 164 girls and 85 infants. From 1958 both schools took children only until the age of 11 and from 1961 St. John's became an infants' school and St. Benedict's a junior. (fn. 131) In 1996 St. John's had a nursery class for 40 children and 257 aged between 4 and 7 years. St. Benedict's had 324 children on roll. (fn. 132)
St. Dunstan's secondary modern school was opened in 1958 for children of 11 years and above and subsequently became a comprehensive community school for the 11–16 age range. There were 256 pupils on roll in 1958 and 668 in 1996. (fn. 133)
By 1868 a Glastonbury Branch School of Art had been established and art classes seem to have been held in the Town Hall until 1903. (fn. 134) In 1886 adult classes were held in St. Benedict's school and from 1891 classes in shorthand, dairying, and science under a district committee on Technical Education. (fn. 135) About 1912 a Manual Training and Domestic Science Centre was opened. (fn. 136)
In 1886 a 'school of mission' was opened by the Sacred Heart fathers in Tor House 'to foster vocations to the priesthood for any diocese, and for any religious order'. Initially there was room for 37 and later for 50 boys, and in 1891 there were 42 students and 9 teachers. The school closed temporarily in 1900 when novices of the Order were transferred there from France because of persecution; the school removed to Cork in 1909. (fn. 137) In or after 1907 the sisters of St. Louis opened an orphanage in the Priory in Magdalene Street, that for older girls closing in 1919 but accommodating c. 50 in 1926. (fn. 138) The orphanage finally closed in 1944. Alongside, the sisters ran a girls' school, for which new rooms were added in 1926. (fn. 139) The school, which taught 'commercial subjects', had 28 boarders and 120 day pupils in 1944 and in 1953 occupied the adjoining Somerset House as well as part of the Priory so that 50-strong classes in typing and shorthand might be offered. The school closed in 1983. (fn. 140)
In 1861 there were two private schools, one in Bovetown, the other the academy of G. W. Wright, later known as the Collegiate School, in Park Terrace, New (later Street) Road. (fn. 141) In 1884 there were six private schools in the borough, only one of which, at Hill Head for under fives begun the year before, was open to the attendance officer. The Hill Head school closed in 1886. (fn. 142) In 1891 there were four private schools, including two in Chilkwell Street, (fn. 143) and in 1906 there were five. (fn. 144) By 1931 there was only one, Glaston Tor school, which was held in the former seminary, then called Chalice Well House. It closed in 1973. (fn. 145) In 1945 Edgarley Hall was acquired as the junior school for Millfield, Street, and is the centre of the Millfield Preparatory school complex. In 1985 a Pre-Preparatory school for Millfield was opened in the former convent in Magdalene Street, part of the premises becoming first a boarding house for boys from Edgarley Hall and from 1987 a boarding house for girls from Millfield. (fn. 146)
A hospital dedicated to St. John, under a master (fn. 147) and financed by the abbey almoner, was removed c. 1250 from the vicinity of St. John's church to a site on the west side of what became Magdalene Street. (fn. 148) By 1460 it was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene and its advowson, whether the right to appoint the chaplain or the brethren is not clear, was in 1493 in the hands of John Poulet. (fn. 149) Nine brethren in 1531–2 were still supported by the abbey almoner, receiving each 3s. 5d. a year and a cash allowance in lieu of bread of 9s. 11d. A chaplain was paid £4. (fn. 150) In 1535 the hospital was regarded as a chantry, with a chaplain (fn. 151) and nine poor men being given 10d. a week. (fn. 152)
A second almshouse, for seven or ten women, was founded by Abbot Richard Bere (fn. 153) perhaps in 1512. (fn. 154) By 1517 it was maintained by a charge of £5 on Northover mill (fn. 155) and in 1549 it housed ten poor women who were paid 7d. each week. (fn. 156)
Both foundations continued as almshouses (fn. 157) and the residents in each received doles from the Crown, hence the name Royal almshouses. (fn. 158) Both houses were said to be 'in some decay' in 1598. (fn. 159) Under an order of 1603 money from the county treasurer of hospitals ought to have been used to equalise the allowances in the two houses, but instead was shared equally. The annual Crown allowance of £34 13s. was paid monthly to all those inmates attending church, (fn. 160) but a petition in 1609 indicated dissatisfaction. (fn. 161) In 1633 the twenty almspeople again petitioned the Crown for repairs since the houses and their chapels were ruinous (fn. 162) and in 1637 a further petition was presented. (fn. 163) In 1647 the money from the county treasurer was three years in arrear and full payment was still under consideration in 1650. (fn. 164) An additional annuity of £6 2s. 6d. was given in 1634 for all almspeople and charged on the Crown inn. (fn. 165) In 1651 the holder of the fee farm of the manor was charged with a total of £42 for the support of ten people in each almshouse and for a minister to serve St. Mary Magdalene's chapel at the men's house. (fn. 166) A further £5 was asked for repairs. (fn. 167) The weekly allowance to the people of the men's or lower almshouse was increased from 7d. to 9d. in 1654, (fn. 168) and was subsequently increased by payments from Levington's charity. (fn. 169)
The Crown in response to petitions also paid for arrears in 1693 and 1703 although both chapels were roofless in 1721. The almspeople were said to live in the houses with the consent of the parish officers. (fn. 170) The women's or upper house was entirely rebuilt in 1817 with money from the Treasury. (fn. 171)
By 1825 the mayor appointed almspeople and each house contained eleven inmates, the last entrant in each house, known as the hall pensioner, living without allowance in the common hall until a dwelling should become vacant. (fn. 172) No duty was performed in either chapel by a minister after 1833. (fn. 173) In 1864 the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, who had been making payments on behalf of the Crown by 1853, extinguished their responsibilities for the annual charge of £34 14s. for the inmates and £4 9s. 3d. for the stipend of the minister in return for investments in consols. (fn. 174) The mayor and the incumbents of the two town parishes became trustees under a Scheme of 1873 when qualification for admission was to be poor, 60 years or over, and resident in the borough for the previous three years. Each of the 22 inmates was to receive weekly pay. (fn. 175)
By 1902 there were only five men in the lower almshouse and ten women in the upper. (fn. 176) In 1959 the trustees of the lower almshouse sold the building to Glastonbury corporation, and flats for elderly people were built on the former gardens to the west. (fn. 177) In 1963 the upper house was demolished, with the exception of its chapel, and its site incorporated into the abbey grounds. (fn. 178)
The income of the charity in the later 19th century comprised investments, land in Meare in the name of the Revd. Thomas Parfitt, the charge on the Crown inn, and a rent charge in Bovetown. The Glastonbury Charity for the Poor, successor to those endowments, makes gifts, grants, and allowances to the poor of the borough under a Scheme published in 1983. The income in 1995 was £912. (fn. 179)
The original buildings of St. Mary Magdalene's hospital comprised a large, rectangular hall incorporating cubicles along its long sides facing a wide central passage, with at its east end a chapel, after 1651 dedicated to St. Margaret, and an entrance beside it. The present chapel appears to be of the 13th century although it was re-roofed in the 14th, perhaps when the hall roof was also renewed. In the 16th century the hall roof was removed and the cubicles converted to stonefronted cottages. (fn. 180) The cottages were 'about to be rebuilt' in 1827. (fn. 181) In 1958 the south range was demolished. (fn. 182)
The houses belonging to Abbot Bere's foundation, known in 1651 as St. Patrick's almshouses, were rebuilt in 1817 and demolished in 1963 but the chapel, still dedicated to St. Patrick, was preserved. (fn. 183) As rebuilt in 1817 there was a single row of ten dwellings, each of one room with a bedroom above, with a hall of the same size near the centre of the row beside a passage to a privy. (fn. 184) The chapel is a single cell building of the early 16th century which includes in its windows fragments of stained glass of the 15th and 16th centuries. (fn. 185)
The Austin Memorial almshouses were established off Magdalene Street in 1887 by James Austin as a memorial to his wife Rebecca (d. 1887) for four poor old women. (fn. 186) It is supported by a charity of the same name under a Scheme of 1990. (fn. 187) Dr. W. J. W. Willcox Homes for Poor Persons were established by will of 1961 and codicils of 1961 and 1963. There are twenty flats and accommodation for a warden. (fn. 188)
James Levington, Crown lessee of South moor, by will dated 1666 gave land in trust for the benefit of poor and aged and for teaching and apprenticing poor children. After an Order in Chancery nearly £25 out of a sum in hand of over £79, described as town stock and coming from rent in South moor and interest on loans, was distributed at Candlemas 1692 among 129 people including ten almsmen. Trustees bought land in Meare parish in 1715 and until 1764 distributed cash to the poor including inhabitants of both almshouses, bound pauper apprentices, and occasionally gave additional help including sending a pauper to Bath for medical treatment or repairing a pauper's house. In 1763 £23 was shared among 149 recipients. That sum was reduced to £12 10s. in 1764 when a school was established in the town, but in 1801 the number of recipients was 124. (fn. 189) By 1825 the land holding of the charity amounted to over 18 a. producing £94 of which £73 was applied to poor not receiving other relief. (fn. 190) By 1857 the land, reduced to just over 12 a., produced only £38, of which £20 was given to poor not on relief. (fn. 191) In 1902 the income was £33 and was given to the National schools, but by 1906 half the income was given to the poor (fn. 192) and in 1912 there were 71 recipients. Twelve new applicants in 1913 ranged in age beween 23 and 86. (fn. 193) The charity, with an income of £400, was distributed in the late 1990s by the vicar and churchwardens of St. John's and St. Benignus's to meet needs of parishioners including rent, domestic equipment, and school trips. (fn. 194)
Mrs. Thomas Parfitt, by will proved 1865, left money to provide loaves for 30 poor men and 30 poor women on Christmas Eve. The charity is distributed with the Levington charity. (fn. 195)
Henry III visited the town in 1235 and 1250, (fn. 196) Edward I in 1278, (fn. 197) and Edward III in 1331. (fn. 198) Queen Margaret of Anjou's army was there in 1471 and Henry VII's in 1497 during the Perkin Warbeck rebellion, when the king himself stayed at the abbey. (fn. 199) The town was only occasionally the meeting-place for government enquiries, was in 1627 the place where disaffected deputy lieutenants and justices met to oppose Ship Money, and in 1634 played host to a consistory court during Archbishop Laud's visitation. (fn. 200)
At the beginning of the Civil War some 3,000 men of the county trained bands left the town when faced by the king's forces under the earl of Hertford before the skirmish at Chewton Mendip in June 1643. (fn. 201) Several local royalists were fined for their support of the king. (fn. 202) The town came under suspicion for possible support of a rebellion against the king in 1665–6. (fn. 203)
The duke of Monmouth marched through on his way to Bristol in June 1685 and again on his return to Bridgwater in July, on the second occasion followed two days later by the king's forces under the earl of Feversham. (fn. 204) Twenty-nine men of Glastonbury joined Monmouth (fn. 205) and among the five men executed in the town was John Hicks, a nonconformist minister, who was buried in St. John's church at the request of Bishop Thomas Ken. (fn. 206)
There was a market by 1189. (fn. 209) By 1327 it was held on Tuesdays and by 1503 until the 1530s or later on Wednesdays. (fn. 210) By 1640 it was again held on Tuesdays (fn. 211) and so continued until after 1792. (fn. 212) In the 1730s it was described as small because Somerton market had changed to the same day. (fn. 213) A toll-free monthly market was said in 1837 to have been lately established (fn. 214) and by 1840 was held on the third Monday of each month. (fn. 215) Between 1873 and 1883 it was increased to the second and fourth Mondays, with an emphasis on cattle. (fn. 216) In law there were two markets on the same day, one owned by the joint ladies of the manor and let to a committee of management, in practice the corporation; the other held by the corporation's market committee as trustees of the ladies of the manor and sublet to an innkeeper. Trading took place in the town's central streets and attracted horned cattle, horses, sheep and pigs, nursery shrubs and trees, cheese and other agricultural products. The average income from tolls was £2 a year. (fn. 217) In 1899 the corporation agreed to buy out the rights of the ladies of the manor and in 1902 established a new site for the sale of cattle in what came to be George Street, north-west of St. John's church. Nurserymen and other traders except those selling old clothes were permitted to remain in the market place. (fn. 218) Traders remained there until 1920 or later. (fn. 219) In 1911 the market was let to a local firm of auctioneers and by 1920 sales were held every Tuesday. (fn. 220) In 1989 the market merged with a larger business at Frome and cattle sales ceased. In 1984–5 the platform canopy from Glastonbury railway station was removed to the former market site to provide shelter for what survived of the Tuesday market. (fn. 221)
A cross, possibly called Gayescrosse, stood in the market place by 1499. (fn. 222) It was replaced in 1604 by a central, polygonal column with a pyramidal top and then a short twisted column surmounted by a figure of Bacchus, also known as Jack Stagg, astride a cross under a weather vane. Around the central column a roof was supported by nine smaller columns linked by arches and reaching to gables each surmounted by a human figure. (fn. 223) The cross is said to have been taken down in 1806. (fn. 224) It was replaced by one in the style of an Eleanor Cross, designed by Benjamin Ferrey and built in 1845. (fn. 225) On the south side of the medieval cross stood the lower conduit, a square, panelled column with an ogee top.
A market hall, on the west side of the market place, is said to have been built by William Strode c. 1714 (fn. 226) using materials from the abbey. It was a double pile building of 7 bays and 2 storeys, the first floor comprising a hall, in the earlier 18th century used by county and town magistrates and the sewers commissioners. It had previously been used as a school. The area beneath, one side at least comprising open arches, had by the 1730s been converted to shops and a prison known as the Hole. (fn. 227) In the 1780s it was let as a silk factory employing children, (fn. 228) and by 1794 the corporation had acquired the lease of part of the building. (fn. 229) In 1811 the whole building was demolished as a public nuisance (fn. 230) and its site became part of the roadway.
In 1656 shambles were said to stand next to the George inn. (fn. 231) Cattle markets were held in the public streets until the end of the 19th century although a small barton behind the town hall was used by 1839 to store hurdles and a weighing engine. (fn. 232)
In 1126–9 the abbey was granted a seven-day fair beginning on the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (8 Sept.). (fn. 233) In 1243 the abbey precentor was given a six-day fair to be held at the chapel of St. Michael on the Tor to end on Michaelmas day (29 Sept.). (fn. 234) In 1283 the abbot had grant of a four-day fair beginning on the eve of St. Dunstan's day (18–21 May), a grant which was repeated in 1318. (fn. 235) By 1327 a fourth fair was being held on the feast of the Exaltation (14 Sept.). The Tor fair was by far the largest in the 1320s, (fn. 236) and records of pleas held during the fair survive for 1311, 1314, 1322, and 1364. (fn. 237) By 1503 the Tor fair was still held for six days, around the Nativity of the Virgin, and there was a much smaller Michaelmas fair. The other two were described as not used. (fn. 238) The two September fairs continued in the 17th and 18th centuries, the first also known as the colt fair, the second described in the 1730s as the John and Joan fair for idle young people. (fn. 239) In the 1730s there were 'of late' fairs on Easter Wednesday and December 13, the latter known as the Short fair, attended by pedlars selling gingerbread and toys. In 1738 the December fair attracted a few fat cattle and some sheep. (fn. 240) By the 1840s there were three fairs, on the second Tuesday in Easter week, on 19 September, known as the Tor fair, for horses, and on 11 October, the Michaelmas fair. (fn. 241) The Spring fair, then held on Easter Wednesday, and the Tor fair for horses were reported in 1865 (fn. 242) but by 1872 the Spring fair had ceased; the Tor (19 Sept.) and Michaelmas (11 Oct.) fairs were both held in a field between the market place and the railway. (fn. 243) From 1885 they were held on the second Mondays of September and October. (fn. 244) Only the September Tor fair continued into the 21st century.
A tolsey stood near St. Michael's chapel on the Tor for the collection of fair tolls. It was described as a cottage in 1640 (fn. 245) and the land on which it stood was named Tolsey Ground in 1923. (fn. 246)
Water Mills The so-called abbots canal (fn. 247) was probably a mill leat supplying the earliest known water mill at Glastonbury, of late Saxon date. There was evidently a mill at Chaingate, at the south-western corner of the abbey precinct, since its ponds were silted up by the 13th century and were thereafter realigned. (fn. 248) In 1573 John Payne was reported to have built corn mills in the abbey precinct to a unique design. (fn. 249) Those may well be replacements at Chaingate mill, which was still in operation, but as a steam mill, in the early 1930s. (fn. 250) The buildings were demolished in 1979. (fn. 251)
Other Mills A horse mill had been built at 'la South hend' by 1361 (fn. 252) and there was one in the town in 1503 (fn. 253) and the 1580s. (fn. 254) Another was built in 1612 for grinding malt and a fourth was held with the Crown inn in 1641, perhaps for the same purpose. (fn. 255) A malt mill was in business in Magdalene Street in 1656 and 1713. (fn. 256)
The economy of the town, probably from its origin, was heavily dependent on the abbey. Eight smiths were recorded in 1086, a merchant, two goldsmiths, and a smith were mentioned in 1189, and by 1260 a goldsmith, a limner, and a scrivener were in business. (fn. 257) At least two goldsmiths were active in the earlier 14th century and one in 1462. (fn. 258) A Strasbourg-born painter was there in the 1430s (fn. 259) and a limner and scrivener were in business in 1557–8, some years after the abbey had been dissolved. (fn. 260)
Small-scale cloth manufacture had begun by the mid 14th century: a shearer was one of two tenants of Beckery mill by 1351 (fn. 261) and thereafter references to a cardmaker and a quilt maker in 1365 (fn. 262) and to a fulling mill at Beckery also in the 1360s (fn. 263) indicate some continuity. A cloth maker, three fullers, a dyer, and a dyehouse, mentioned between 1467 and 1502, (fn. 264) may represent a second short phase of production. The Flemish say and worsted makers introduced in 1551 by the duke of Somerset left two years later (fn. 265) and seem to have had little permanent impact. Clothiers, fullers, combers, and weavers occur in the 1590s and until the later 17th century, indicating some manufacture of woollens, worsteds, jerseys, and serges, (fn. 266) but the most extensive business from the 1620s and until the 1780s seems to have been in stockings. (fn. 267) A knitting school was held in the town in the 1730s (fn. 268) and in the 1780s spinning and knitting hose were carried out for Glastonbury manufacturers in villages at least as far away as Keinton Mandeville. (fn. 269) There was limited production of felt (1620), buttons (1640), and hats (1737). (fn. 270) Some of the raw material came from Ireland in the early 18th century. (fn. 271) Silk throwsting was introduced in the later 18th century, (fn. 272) but the traditional craft of woolcombing and the manufacture of worsteds and stockings continued on a small scale with flax dressing, silk weaving, and hat making in the first decades of the 19th century. (fn. 273)
Tanning and associated trades can be traced from the later 13th century. Osmund the tanner processed 72 skins in 1274–5 and sold them at fairs at Hamdon, Tintinhull, Ilchester, and Sherborne (Dors.). (fn. 274) A glover occurs in 1353 (fn. 275) and a tannery had been established at Northover by 1451. (fn. 276) A Northover tanner was a prominent businessman in the town in the 1790s (fn. 277) and among the labouring trades in the earlier 19th century were curriers, leather dressers, and fellmongers. (fn. 278) There was a tannery at Northover by 1851 (fn. 279) which presumably occupied part of the site of the factory opened in 1870 by James Clark, Son and Morland which produced sheepskin rugs. (fn. 280) A. W. S. Baily was producing a similar product on the adjoining site by 1886 (fn. 281) and Clark, Morland, and Alex Baily, described in 1891 as a wool rug and glove manufacturer, employed perhaps seventy people in different parts of the process from tanning to the finished product. (fn. 282) Baily's in Chilkwell Street were producing calf kid by 1901. (fn. 283) Gloving occupied over 100 people in 1851 (fn. 284) and by 1891 there were three small boot and shoe factories in the town, though most of the 151 employees in the trade and living in Glastonbury presumably worked in Street. In the same year Baily's in High Street made wool rugs and gloves and George Baulch, who had come from Milborne Port, made gloves. Leggings were also made and 53 people were then employed. (fn. 285) By 1939 there was a small glove factory in Church Lane and another in Chilkwell Street, sheepskin slippers were being made by both Baily and Clark, Son and Morland, and Crockers were making boots and shoes in Magdalene Street. (fn. 286) The Chilkwell Street factory was still in business in 1998 but the two factories at Northover ceased production earlier.
From the 1640s there were tallow chandlers and soapboilers, (fn. 287) several cutlers from the 1590s, (fn. 288) Richard Purdue, bellfounder, between 1613 and 1636, (fn. 289) two brasiers, a bottle maker, and a metal man. (fn. 290)
A former saltworks (salinaria) was the site for a new house let to a tenant by the abbey in 1117. (fn. 291) Stone had been quarried on Tor Hill in the earlier Middle Ages, but the quarries were said to be old by the mid 14th century. (fn. 292) In 1708 Abraham Elton (knighted 1717) acquired coal rights but found only lignite, (fn. 293) and in 1792 a further attempt to find coal on the northern edge of the town proved abortive although shares in the Glastonbury Coal Company were being traded in the following year. (fn. 294) Bricks were manufactured in the parish by 1736 (fn. 295) and in 1771 a brick house was in operation, evidently on a site to the west of the course later taken by the new Wells road. (fn. 296) The clay deposits at the junction of the old and new Wells roads towards Hartlake were being used for making bricks by 1817 and others on the south-west slope of Tor Hill by 1844. There were brick and tile works in Northload Street and the new Wells road by 1851. (fn. 297) By 1870 two sites along the Wells road were occupied respectively by the Avalon brick works and the Edmund Hill pottery, later the Glastonbury brick, tile, and pottery works. (fn. 298) The last two were still in business in 1939 (fn. 299) but both had closed by 1951. (fn. 300)
The opening of the railway in the mid 19th century brought Glastonbury's manufacturers significant markets. By 1891 some seventy people were permanently employed either directly on the railway or indirectly in the adjoining timber and coal yards. (fn. 301) Manufactures continued to be the foundation of the local economy in the late 1960s and the expanding industrial estate to the west of the town on and around the site of the former railway suggests that in spite of closures there has been little change in the balance of the town's economy in the later 20th century. In 2001 a furniture factory on the Wells road was the largest place of employment in the town, and there were three other businesses involving plastics, timber, and furniture each employing over 100 people. (fn. 302)
Medieval craftsmen such as goldsmiths and limners (fn. 303) were probably attracted to the town by expectation of business from the abbey, and retailers may have had similar hopes, but the abbey's own resources were wide ranging and more specialist needs were met through direct purchase from ports including Bristol, Bridgwater, and Lyme (Dors.) (fn. 304) or by the employment of itinerant craftsmen. (fn. 305) A shop in the town was mentioned in 1241–2 and the abbey owned five in the earlier 14th century under the hall of pleas as well as nine stalls and a workshop. (fn. 306) Seven shops were mentioned in 1313 in the holding of John le Mon. (fn. 307) A building dating from the 15th century incorporating commercial premises, probably a shop, has been identified in the High Street at the so-called Tribunal. (fn. 308)
In the 17th century the town was evidently a centre for cloth retailing and mercers and drapers, two selling linen, were among the most prominent businessmen, six of whom, with two hosiers, produced trade tokens. (fn. 309) Four mercers were active from the 1740s until the end of the 18th century. (fn. 310) In the early 19th century the town began to attract professional men including four attornies, an auctioneer, an accountant, and two surgeons. (fn. 311) By the middle of the century two banks were established to service the needs of the town's businessmen and local farmers. (fn. 312) By 1883 fifteen insurance companies were represented, and in addition to the range of food and clothing shops to be expected in a small town, there was a fancy repository, a chemist, a photographer, cabinet makers, two printers, and two firms of architects. (fn. 313) By 1891 there were three photographers and a taxidermist. (fn. 314)
Within the next decade refreshment rooms and cycle agents (fn. 315) marked the beginning of the town as one to be visited, and a visitors' guide published c. 1920 (fn. 316) advertised 'unique' souvenir reproductions of objects associated with the town and abbey, and also lists of private accommodation. By 1939 there was plentiful acommodation for visitors in guesthouses, boarding houses, and hotels, (fn. 317) and post-war tourists continued to be attracted to the abbey and town. At the end of the 20th century the esoteric tastes of New Age visitors were well catered for, but a supermarket and other businesses in an industrial estate on the town's western edge have proved fatal to many smaller shops in the town centre. Visitors from many parts of the world remain of vital importance to the town's economy.
A separate administration for the nascent town outside the abbey precinct seems to emerge by the end of the 12th century. In 1189 tenants of the manor were charged with specific administrative duties: one to look after the stocks, one to serve as bedel, and 30 to share the custody of prisoners. (fn. 318) A reeve of the vill, mentioned in the earlier 13th century, received a daily corrody from the abbey. (fn. 319) By the end of the 13th century the bailiff of the vill accounted for the income from monthly courts. (fn. 320) The same officer received fair tolls, stedgabulum, tolcorn, and profits from county and hundred courts, presumably held in the town, in the early 14th and the early 16th centuries. (fn. 321)
In 1189 there was a distinct market jurisdiction and its reeve paid 100 measures (crannos) of salt for tolls and fines there including all pleas except hamfare and bloodshed. (fn. 322) Portmoot courts were held twice a year, at Michaelmas and Hockday, by the end of the 13th century (fn. 323) at which measures were checked and sellers of illegal bread and ale presented. (fn. 324) In the 14th century offenders were presented at the law hundred by the bailiff of the vill who probably then presided at the portmoot. (fn. 325)
Glastonbury was represented as a separate tithing at the hundred court, in 1311 described both as vill and portmoot, (fn. 326) in 1364–5 as portmoot, (fn. 327) and as vill in 1527, 1530, 1533, and 1535. (fn. 328) Six men described themselves as burgesses of the town in 1319, (fn. 329) and in the same year a writ was addressed to the bailiff of the abbey's liberty requesting the election of two representatives to a parliament. (fn. 330) References to a common seal of the community, dating between 1349 and 1495, (fn. 331) and a grant of land by the abbot to the burgesses and community in 1448 (fn. 332) suggest some independence, but by the earlier 17th century the only town-wide officers were two hundred constables, evidently by that time often acting within the administration of the parish. (fn. 333) A Mr. Sydnam, probably Sir John Sydenham, unsuccessfully promoted a bill in parliament in 1554 to make Glastonbury the county town for Somerset. (fn. 334)
After the Dissolution the Crown-appointed chief steward had jurisdiction within the town and outside, and the bailiff of the lordship was also clerk of the market. (fn. 335)
In 1703 the inhabitants of Glastonbury complained to the Crown that the town was inadequately served by county magistrates 'by reason whereof the morals of the inhabitants are corrupt and cavil and breach of the peace very frequent'. Their petition (fn. 336) for a corporation of mayor, recorder, aldermen, and up to 24 capital burgesses was accepted in principle and a charter of incorporation was granted in 1705, under which the town was to be governed by 8 capital burgesses including a mayor, and 16 inferior burgesses. (fn. 337) The mayor was chosen annually on the Monday before Michaelmas by the capital burgesses and had a veto on the choice of inferior burgesses. Burgesses held office for life and were normally resident in or near the town. Under byelaws issued in 1785 refusal to serve once elected to office incurred a fine, in the case of the mayor £20. (fn. 338)
Peter King, M.P., later Baron Ockham and Lord Chancellor, probably had a moving influence; he was named in the charter as the senior capital burgess and the town's first recorder with the right to appoint a deputy, later usually a resident and known as the justice. In 1707 a new recorder, like King and his own successors gentlemen not unlike the county magistrates the new corporation was supposed to replace, appointed another member of the King family as his deputy. (fn. 339) Among those recorders were Davidge (from 1735) and (Sir) Henry Gould (1748–94) of Sharpham; (fn. 340) Henry's brother Thomas Gould acted as his deputy from 1753. (fn. 341) William Warman was nominated as the first town clerk under the charter; one of his successors was removed in 1786 'for divers negligences made . . . in the execution of the said office'. (fn. 342) A treasurer mentioned in 1766 was also known as the steward; he was one of the burgesses and acted as receiver of fines and rates. A 'constitution' drawn up in 1785 and largely a list of offences and fines, named constables, tithingmen, and conduit wardens as officers of the corporation. The wardens, earlier parish officers, seem by the 1780s to have been charged also with collecting rates for the maintenance of the prison and the house of correction, for the keeping of prisoners, and for the provision of buckets and ladders in case of fire. (fn. 343)
Under the charter the mayor and recorder or justice were to hold monthly courts. By 1835 the mayor presided at fortnightly petty sessions and at quarter sessions he was accompanied by the recorder or by the justice, in practice the previous mayor. The town clerk acted as clerk to the magistrates. Claims for a house of correction and a prison in the later 18th century may have been another attempt to establish independence from county magistrates, but in practice the town contributed to county rates and although a grand jury was summoned each quarter at which all members of the corporation attended, by 1835 no trials had been held 'for years past' and the jury was dismissed 'almost as soon as sworn'. The town then had no gaol nor house of correction. (fn. 344) By 1848 courts were held quarterly. (fn. 345)
In 1791, at what was described as a general meeting of convocation, two constables, two portreeves, two gout wardens, two shambles wardens, two searchers and sealers of leather, and a tithingman for Edgarley were appointed. (fn. 346) Recording the event among its minutes indicates that the corporation was deliberately extending its powers at the expense of parish, manor, and hundred. (fn. 347) In 1796 the appointment of a high constable for the eastern part of Glastonbury Twelve Hides hundred (fn. 348) was followed by 1811 by that of a tithingman from Norwood. (fn. 349)
In 1811 a paving Act permitted commissioners, namely the mayor, recorder, justice, and capital burgesses, to levy rates for paving, improving, watching, and lighting the town. (fn. 350) Nine houses on the south side of St. John's churchyard fronting High Street were bought and demolished, thatch was not permitted, scavengers were appointed, and carriages were ordered not to be left in the streets to hinder traffic.
Under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 (fn. 351) membership of the corporation was reduced to 4 aldermen and 12 councillors, each alderman to be elected for 6 years, each councillor for 3 years. Business was conducted through watch and market committees; finance was controlled by an independent treasurer and by appointed assessors and auditors. In 1848 councillors formally took over the duties of the improvement commissioners. (fn. 352) A nuisance removal committee was appointed in 1864, an inspector of nuisances, lodging houses, and slaughter houses in 1865, a fire brigade committee in 1870. (fn. 353) In 1871, after much local agitation and an outbreak of cholera, the corporation adopted the powers of a Local Board of Health in order to improve drainage and water supply, and thereafter employed a surveyor and an inspector of nuisances, but refused to appoint a full-time medical officer of health. Officers were thereafter responsible to the corporation's three main committees concerned with highways, sanitation, and general purposes. (fn. 354)
In 1875 Glastonbury became part of an urban sanitary district with Street but was divided from Street in 1883. (fn. 355) Thereafter the town council met monthly as an urban sanitary authority and quarterly for other business, appointed a full-time medical officer of health and inspector of nuisances, and established committees for highways, finance, sanitation, contagious diseases, and school attendance. Among its immediate concerns were street widening, overcrowding, building standards, and improved water supply. (fn. 356) Under the Local Government Act of 1894 the corporation became an urban district council instead of an urban sanitary authority, but did not adopt the full powers of a parish council until 1908. (fn. 357) Under the Local Government Act of 1974 the corporation adopted town council status under the chairmanship of a mayor, its wider powers being taken over by Mendip district council. (fn. 358)
The sergeants at mace appointed under the 1705 charter attended all meetings of the corporation and quarter sessions and acted when necessary as special constables. At the proclamation of George IV in 1820 there were 2 chief and 14 other constables as well as the sergeants. A beadle was appointed by the paving commissioners from 1835 in consequence of 'disturbances and depredations', principally to control the beer houses. Watchmen had earlier been occasionally employed. In 1837 2 sergeants and 2 constables were appointed. (fn. 359) When Somerset County Constabulary was established in 1856 the corporation paid the cost of 1 sergeant and 2 constables as their contribution. (fn. 360) The headquarters of the constabulary, including offices and houses, had been built in Benedict Street by 1860 and the residence for the Chief Constable, Somerset House in Magdalene Street, was bought in 1857. The police barracks were altered in 1894 and in 1910–11 offices were converted to a court house for petty sessions in succession to a court in the town hall. (fn. 361)
The new corporation met for the first time in 1705 in what was then described as the guildhall and in 1708 as the 'guildhall called [the] church house of Glastonbury'. (fn. 362) In 1800 the refronting of the building was under consideration 'so as to make it convenient for a town hall'. (fn. 363) Its demolition was proposed early in 1811. (fn. 364) Later in that year a new building incorporating both a town hall and a market house, and later a prison, was suggested, but the corporation had no money and instead considered rebuilding the current premises. Plans from a Mr. Beard of Somerton were requested in 1813 for a building on a new site and a mortgage was raised against annual payments to be made by burgesses. Proceeds from the sale of materials from part of the demolished market house and another mortgage replaced by a substantial loan from Thomas Roach in 1816 seem to have allowed building to proceed, and the new town hall, on the east side of Magdalene Street, was used for a meeting of quarter sessions in October 1817. A committee to complete the building was appointed in 1823. (fn. 365) The open arches on the ground floor were subsequently filled in and in 1930 a larger hall was built to the east. (fn. 366)
The corporation has two silver-gilt maces, each bearing the Royal Arms of Stuart, the monogram AR, and the date 1705. (fn. 367) They were regilded and repaired in 1797 at the expense of members. (fn. 368) The common seal evidently in use in the 18th century (fn. 369) was lost in 1840 when Richard Periam Prat, town clerk, left the town in disgrace. A new seal was then ordered. (fn. 370) That seal, 11/8" in diameter, bore a shield of arms identical with that on the mayor's chain presented in 1870, namely gules, two croziers in saltire behind a mitre, or, with the motto FLOREAT ECCLESIA ANGLIAE within a border of trefoils. (fn. 371) The Local Board of Health used the same achievement but with the motto FLOREAT ECCLESIA ANGLICANA. (fn. 372) Neither achievement nor mottoes have been formally granted. (fn. 373) The seal, which was apparently replaced in 1896, was said to be missing in 1925. (fn. 374)
Five conduit wardens were appointed by the corporation in 1839. (fn. 375) In 1887 the conduits were removed when a more reliable water supply was produced from a reservoir at Edgarley taking water from a supply at Wellhouse Lane. (fn. 376) That, too, proved inadequate for the fastexpanding town and the town council received compulsory powers in 1900 to acquire a supply from two sites in Pilton parish. (fn. 377)
From 1839 the corporation made an annual grant to maintain the parish fire engine and from 1865 managed it entirely. It was kept in the town centre under the Vestry Hall. A new engine was bought by subscription in 1869 and from 1870 was manned by a volunteer staff. (fn. 378) A new fire station was opened in George Street in 1902 (fn. 379) which was replaced by another on the same site in 1950. (fn. 380) The brigade was subsequently absorbed into the county service.
A public cemetery was created north of the town in 1854. (fn. 381)
St. Saviour's isolation hospital on Wearyall Hill was opened in 1898. The site was provided and buildings erected by Stanley Austin (d. 1925) which were leased jointly to Glastonbury corporation and Street urban district council. (fn. 382) The hospital was bought from Austin's representatives by the lessees in 1926 but was closed and the buildings sold in 1932. (fn. 383) The Victoria Nursing Home, Fisher's Hill, was opened in 1898 and had a single emergency ward and quarters for district nurses. It was still open in 1939. (fn. 384)
In 1835 gas was first supplied in the town by a private company. (fn. 385) The gas undertaking was bought by the corporation in 1899 and sold in 1939. (fn. 386) Electricity was introduced to the centre of the town in 1904. (fn. 387) Telephones were installed from 1899. (fn. 388)
The first religious community at Glastonbury would have been the natural focus for the spiritual needs of those living nearby and an early monastic church may have provided accommodation for a lay congregation. Its area of influence, its parochia, was partly defined in the east by the bounds of North Wootton, West Bradley, and East and West Pennard in the 10th century, (fn. 389) but its other limits lay undefined in the surrounding marshes.
Within that area the chapel of St. Benignus is said to have been built in 1091, (fn. 390) but its inferior status in relation to the church of St. John implies that the latter was already in existence. Documentary evidence for St. John's survives only from the later 12th century, (fn. 391) but its name then, St. John's Northbin (Nordbinna), (fn. 392) seems to refer to its site on the north side of the monastic enclosure, in the original part of the settlement outside the precinct. The chapel of West Pennard was also later dependent upon St. John's, documented only from c. 1200 but defined by the manorial division at Havyatt. (fn. 393) By the end of the Middle Ages there were several other chapels within the town and its suburbs in addition to those attached to both hospitals or almshouses. (fn. 394)
Between 1158 and 1171 Henry of Blois (abbot 1126–71) granted the church of St. John to the abbey sacristy, stipulating that it should be served by a vicar who should celebrate, but who had neither guaranteed income nor tenure. (fn. 395) At some date between 1175 and 1184 a vicarage was ordained and endowed with the whole revenues of the church, from which a pension of £4 was to be paid to the sacristy. (fn. 396) The arrangement was evidently ineffectual because a rector was in office until c. 1205 when the entire revenues of the church were appropriated to the sacristy. (fn. 397) Thereafter the church was served by salaried chaplains until an endowment was secured in 1721 (fn. 398) and the living became a perpetual curacy. In 1846 the ecclesiastical parish was divided to form separate parishes for St. John's and St. Benignus's. St. John's, united with Godney in 1972, remained a single cure until 1984 and thereafter was held with St. Benignus's, West Pennard, and Meare, a benefice known as the Abbey Five until 1998 when the church at Godney was closed. (fn. 399)
At some date in the 1180s the Crown presented an incumbent when there was no abbot, (fn. 400) but after c. 1205 until the Dissolution the appointment of parochial chaplains lay with the abbey sacrist. (fn. 401) The Crown lessee of the rectory presumably appointed chaplains after 1541 until 1548 when the advowson passed to the bishop of Bath and Wells, (fn. 402) although curates were in practice presented for licence by lessees of the rectory until after 1746 when the bishop resumed nomination. (fn. 403) In 1998 the bishop was patron of the benefice. (fn. 404)
The chaplain of St. John's was paid £10 a year in 1541 and the same sum was paid to the chaplain serving both St. John's and St. Benignus's in 1575. (fn. 405) In 1648 the lessee of the rectory paid the minister £16 in respect of St. John's and £8 for St. Benignus's. (fn. 406) From 1655 for two years or more the minister serving both received £40 a year. (fn. 407) In 1721 the living was augmented by grants from Lady Moyer matched by Queen Anne's Bounty, and in 1754 was worth £24. (fn. 408) It was augmented again in 1818 by the patron, the incumbent, and Mrs. Pincombe's trustees (fn. 409) and in 1819 the net income was £155. (fn. 410) In 1835 the average net income was £195. (fn. 411) In 1851, after the division of the living, the incumbent of St. John's received £141 a year. (fn. 412) The income was further augmented by £150 a year from 1872. (fn. 413)
By 1819 the benefice income comprised a stipend of £36 payable by the lessees of the rectory and the rent of 33 a. of glebe acquired with augmentation money and 10 a. in respect of common rights after inclosure. (fn. 414) Glebe measured just over 1 a. in 1840. (fn. 415)
Two chaplains shared a newly-built house at the west end of the church in 1500–1. (fn. 416) The priests' chambers were let by the parish for at least three years until 1562. (fn. 417) In 1623 there was a residence described as a vicarage house (fn. 418) but by the 1780s the incumbent was living in High Street in the building later known as the Tribunal. (fn. 419) In 1819 a house was built in Chilkwell Street to the designs of Hugh Adams on the site of cottages recently acquired with augmentation money. (fn. 420) It was sold in 2002.
By the later 14th century the income of the churchwardens, to whom the endowment of masses in the Lady Chapel of St. John's had been transferred, amounted to well over £5 largely drawn from properties within the town. (fn. 421) Further endowments, including that of Richard Atwell (d. 1475–6), (fn. 422) had more than doubled the value by 1498. (fn. 423) Income for specific purposes was increased in the 15th and the earlier 16th century by the performance of plays, (fn. 424) the collection of cash including hogglingsilver, (fn. 425) the use of 'crokes' with the help of 'Robin Hood' (fn. 426) and groups of women and girls, (fn. 427) the sales of seats, the loan of torches for funerals, (fn. 428) and for a short time in the 1620s through charges for ringing knells. (fn. 429) The church estate was said to be worth c. £500 clear c. 1816 (fn. 430) but only £400 in 1817. (fn. 431) In 1835 the 81-a. estate was mortgaged (fn. 432) and the income in 1910 was £240. (fn. 433)
Festivals at the abbey and pilgrimages to shrines there find no mention in the records of the parish church of the town. A mass of Our Lady was endowed in St. John's in the later 13th century, (fn. 434) a Lady Chapel was mentioned in 1303, (fn. 435) and an aisle and altar dedicated to St. Nicholas by 1366. (fn. 436) By 1418 there were altars also of St. Catherine and St. George, by 1484 an altar of St. Erasmus, and by 1540 one to the Trinity. (fn. 437) Several of the altars had accompanying statues, that of St. George gilded. (fn. 438) The feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated, probably in the 1480s, with pageants and a play. (fn. 439) By 1498–9 there was a fraternity dedicated to the Name of Jesus, (fn. 440) and a church house, apparently built as a pentice, c. 1500. (fn. 441) There were large and small organs by c. 1484, the former on the roodloft, the latter in the choir. (fn. 442)
A chantry for the Atwell family and others was founded in 1482 by Bruton priory to support a priest for forty years. The support had been withdrawn in or before 1511. (fn. 443)
There is no evidence of any opposition to the liturgical changes of the Reformation at St. John's though the sources of income in the later 16th century came to be restricted to rents and the sale of seats. (fn. 446) The number of clergy was reduced to one for the whole parish and quarterly sermons were infrequently preached. (fn. 447) Church ales continued to be held at least until the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign and an organ was still in use in 1625–6. (fn. 448) Until the earlier 18th century the church was served by a rapid succession of curates, though about 1648 John Luffe was described as 'a learned and painful preaching minster'. (fn. 449)
Thomas Parfitt, incumbent of St. John's from 1812 until 1847, also served St. Benignus's and West Pennard and held one service with sermon each Sunday at St. John's and celebrated the communion four times a year. (fn. 450) His sermons were described as 'old fashioned and prosy' and he stammered. (fn. 451) A 'regular company' of singers was formed in 1816, to be shared with St. Benignus's, and a new organ was installed in a gallery in the following year. (fn. 452) By 1827 Parfitt lived at West Pennard for part of the year but held two services each Sunday at St. John's with the help of another clergyman. (fn. 453) The latter in 1834 was licensed to serve St. Benignus's on Sunday mornings and to take services and preach at St. John's on Sunday evenings, paid initially by voluntary contributions and later from pew rents. (fn. 454) By 1843 celebrations of the communion were held monthly. (fn. 455) Attendances on Census Sunday 1851 comprised 179 adults and 75 children in the morning, 187 adults and 92 children in the afternoon. The evening congregation of 373 adults belonged to St. Benignus's. (fn. 456) In the 1850s Alfred Lovekin, assistant curate with high church sympathies, formed a choir, look a lead in the restoration of the church building, and generally 'created a stir'. Charles Sydenham Ross, incumbent from 1865, introduced a surpliced choir and processions. (fn. 457) By 1873 celebrations of the communion were held every Sunday and holy day with two sermons every Sunday except the last in the month when there was only one. (fn. 458) By 1918 there were four services for adults and one for children each Sunday, weekday celebrations, and daily Evensong. (fn. 459)
A mission church of St. Andrew was built at Edgarley in 1897 on a site given by J. A. Porch. (fn. 460)
The church of St. John the Baptist, judged to be 'very fair and lightsome' (fn. 461) not long after the tower was built but rather gloomily restored in the 19th century, stands to the north of High Street and until the 1820s was cut off from it by a row of houses. (fn. 462) The churchyard may once have extended further west than its present boundary. (fn. 463)
The earliest church traceable on the site was 12th century and had a central tower, nave, and chancel. By the late 12th century the church, already large, was cruciform but probably aisleless: narrow aisles were added in the 13th century. (fn. 464) The south transept was at least partly rebuilt in the 14th century, as a window with internal cusping attests. Those changes were minor compared with the major work that followed and led to the church being described as new in 1428–9. Wider aisles, (fn. 465) new aisle arcades of conventional Somerset type, and the whole east end must have been constructed by then. The last addition was the porch, also described as new with the church and built, like the rest, of lias (in this case from Street) with limestone dressings from Doulting. Sale of timber from the old porch helped to meet the cost. (fn. 466) The rest of the embattled south aisle is the result of continuing work which included a new roodloft carved by Robert Hulle (fn. 467) and the construction in 1439 of a stair turret on the north. Further expenditure in the 15th century, probably before 1458, involved refenestrating and reroofing both nave and chancel aisles, as can be seen from the resemblance of the remains of a south chancel window to those in the nave aisles. (fn. 468)
The much renewed south window of the south transept looks a little later. More had to be done, some by William Smythe, (fn. 469) after the removal of the central tower, which followed damage to the nave caused by falling pinnacles c. 1465. The nave arcades and clerestory were extended into the crossing, the transepts were opened up to the aisles with shallow arches, and the chancel aisles were reconstructed. The stair turrets flanking the north transept date mostly from this period, the west one probably having given access to a screen across the third bay of the nave. Stylistic evidence suggests that the whole crossing and east end were remodelled in the last decades of the 15th century, together with the clerestory and the nave roof. Some of the work was later ascribed to Richard Atwell (d. 1475–6), (fn. 470) whose tomb chest stands in the chancel opposite one to his wife (d. 1485). The west tower was added no earlier than c. 1480, when the room over the south porch was built and the east side of the south transept was ornamented. (fn. 471) The design of the tower combines two main Somerset types, the blank panelling of the Wells type with the sort of 'exuberantly top-heavy' and 'lively' crown found after 1488 at St. Mary's, Taunton. (fn. 472) A vestry was mentioned in 1500. (fn. 473) Glass in the chancel is late 15th or early 16th century and may have come from the east window or, perhaps, from St. Benignus's. (fn. 474) The sanctus bell is probably of the 15th century from the Bristol foundry. (fn. 475) The medieval pulpit and font were both of stone and in Perpendicular style; (fn. 476) in 1635 the pulpit was placed at the lower end of the church. (fn. 477)
After the Reformation there was a gallery in the tower and most of the building was filled with pews and benches until restoration in 1856–60 to a general plan of (Sir) George Gilbert Scott, (fn. 478) which followed a survey in 1823 by John Pinch or his son John (fn. 479) and a recommendation by Manners and Gill to remove the gallery. (fn. 480) Many of Scott's designs for individual items were rejected as too expensive. (fn. 481) New open seats replaced pews and a stone pulpit replaced one given shortly before 1856. (fn. 482) Most of the contracting and some of the design work of 1856–60 was undertaken by Frederick Merrick.
The east window glass is by Westlake of 1879. (fn. 483) In 1859 Henry Willis restored the organ, removing it from the west end where it had stood on a screen enclosing the vestry and put it in the north choir aisle. (fn. 484) It was removed to the west end of the nave in 1926. (fn. 485) The vestry screen, and another described as a 'altar screen', were both designed by Thomas Hutchins of Bridgwater in 1823. (fn. 486)
The three oldest bells were cast by Thomas Bilbie in 1743 and 1747 and the peal was increased from six to eight in 1878. (fn. 487) The plate includes an Elizabethan cup by I. Ions of Exeter, a salver of 1725 by John Bignell, another salver of 1744 by Gurney & Co., and a large brass or latten dish of German origin. (fn. 488) The registers begin in 1603. (fn. 489)
The church of St. Benignus is said to have been built and consecrated in 1091 in connexion with the translation of the relics of St. Benignus from Meare to Glastonbury. (fn. 490) The cult of the saint, which appears to have been first centred on Meare, (fn. 491) developed from the confusion of an Anglo-Saxon Beonna with the Irish Benignus, allegedly a follower of St. Patrick. (fn. 492)
A chaplain appears to have been in office at the church c. 1245 (fn. 493) and the church was served by parochial chaplains in the 15th century. (fn. 494) It seems to have been dependent upon St. John's after the Dissolution although in 1575 it was for a time considered to have been concealed former chantry property. (fn. 495) About 1648 the parish minister was paid £8 for his work at St. Benignus's. (fn. 496) A legacy of £150 from Lady Holford and a gift of £50 from John Prat, both given in 1725 for the endowment of a curacy, seem not to have been applied for the purpose (fn. 497) and the church continued to be a dependent chapel. (fn. 498) Until 1847 the curate was paid £12 by the impropriator of the rectory, a sum augmented in that year by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to provide an income of £100. It was further increased in 1872 to produce £297 a year. (fn. 499) The living was created a separate benefice in 1844, in the patronage of the bishop of Bath and Wells, and remained a single cure until 1982. Thereafter it was held with Glastonbury St. John, Godney, Meare, and West Pennard, a benefice named The Abbey Five. (fn. 500)
Successive incumbents had to find their own accommodation before a house was built near the west end of the church in 1886. (fn. 501)
In 1557 the church had been without a curate for a year and lacked a tabernacle. (fn. 502) In 1568 it was still without a curate. (fn. 503) In 1586 a homily was read every Sunday but there had been no sermons for six months. (fn. 504) From 1590 the curate of St. John's was normally licensed to both churches because communion had not been celebrated at St. Benignus's for a year, (fn. 505) but sermons and homilies were still not given for several more years. (fn. 506) By 1815 Sunday services were held alternately with St. John's, with celebrations of the communion four times a year. (fn. 507) In 1827 Sunday services were said to have been held 'only when the law requires', when St. John's might be shut for repair, and four times a year for celebrations. (fn. 508) In 1834 a curate paid by voluntary contributions took a service and preached at St. Benignus's every Sunday morning and served St. John's in the evening. (fn. 509) In the same year additional pews were built but an attempt to add a south aisle was heavily defeated. (fn. 510) In 1840 there was a resident curate and one Sunday morning service with sermon was held 'by the bishop's direction'. (fn. 511) In 1843 communion was celebrated monthly. (fn. 512) In 1851 the congregation in the morning on Census Sunday was 250 with 30 children from the Sunday school; the larger evening congregation was required to worship at St. John's. (fn. 513) In 1858 it was said that services were held rarely. (fn. 514) In 1873 there were two Sunday services, both with sermons, (fn. 515) and by 1912 there were week-night services 'of an evangelical nature'. There was in 1912 a mission room at Hill Head. (fn. 516)
The church of St. Benignus, from the 18th century mistakenly known as St. Benedict, (fn. 517) at the lower, western end of the town, appears to be squeezed into its island site between Benedict Street and Grope Lane, the result of being extended by J. D. Sedding in 1884–5. Sedding rebuilt much of the north aisle wall, retaining the initials of Abbot Richard Bere (abbot 1493–1525) on its battlements, and added a new south aisle which merged with the former south transept. The whole, including a north porch and west tower, is in the Perpendicular style, details in the chancel suggesting a late 14th-century date for most of the earlier building. (fn. 518) A singers' gallery in the tower, decorated in 1823 with paintings of the twelve apostles removed from St. John's, was replaced in 1836. (fn. 519) Stained glass with the arms of Abbot Bere, now in St. John's, was formerly in St. Benignus's. (fn. 520)
There are six bells, the first five originally all of 1776 by Thomas Pyke. (fn. 521) The plate includes a cup of 1734 by 'I. I.', a dish and flagon of 1753 by John Payne, and a small silver salver of 1774 by 'R. I.'. (fn. 522) The registers of baptisms begin in 1663, of burials in 1664, and of marriages in 1678. (fn. 523)
Within the town there appear to have been several chapels in the Middle Ages. A chapel dedicated to St. Catherine was in a ruinous condition in 1476 when an indulgence was issued for its repair. (fn. 524) By 1517 it had been converted to a cottage (fn. 525) and still stands in Bovetown, on the south side of St. Catherine's Hill. Its name, Jacoby Cottage, derives from Thomas Jacob, the tenant in 1713. (fn. 526) In 1784 it was occupied by a cobbler and was later used by Methodists; in the 1840s it was described as a meeting house. (fn. 527) The building probably dates from the early 15th century. (fn. 528)
St. James's Street, named in 1498–9 (fn. 529) and leading south from the eastern end of High Street, (fn. 530) may be so called from a chapel which was subsequently an inn and was later occupied by Presbyterians until replaced by the Independent chapel built in 1814. (fn. 531) The dedication seems to have been transferred to the chapel attached to Abbot Bere's almshouses. (fn. 532) A plot called St. Saviour's, on the south side of High Street towards its western end and mentioned in 1656, may also indicate the site of a chapel, (fn. 533) and a further plot on the south side of Benedict Street east of St. Benignus's church, part of the rectorial glebe, was in 1844 described as 'old chapel and yard'. (fn. 534)
OTHER RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS
William Good, born in the parish in 1527, was headmaster of Wells cathedral school and after 1562 a Jesuit missionary in Ireland, Sweden, and Poland. (fn. 535) In 1597 a recusant was buried at St. John's (fn. 536) and in 1674 four recusants were convicted. (fn. 537) In 1736 a Catholic priest named Beaumont, probably the Franciscan John Beaumont, Guardian of the Custody of Bristol, baptised a child in the town, (fn. 538) and c. 1780 there were reputed papists in the parish. (fn. 539)
In 1886 members of the French Order of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, exiled to Madeley (Salop), established themselves at Tor House, the site of Chalice Well. A chapel, open for public worship and later enlarged, was designed by Fr. A. J. Scoles, who also added accommodation for children at the school started there. (fn. 540) Novices of the Order were temporarily transferred from France to Tor House in 1901 but by 1910 the Order's removal to Ireland was expected and it finally left in 1913. The former superior, Fr. P. L. Martin, moved to the Priory in Magdalene Street where a convent of Sisters of Charity of St. Louis had been in possession since 1904 and were formally established there in 1907. (fn. 541) The sisters initially opened an orphanage, established a laundry (closed 1919), ran a small farm in their extensive grounds, and eventually opened a school. (fn. 542) The convent closed in 1984. (fn. 543)
As early as 1910 the sisters had offered Fr. Martin a site for a church as well as a cottage to live in, but meanwhile the convent chapel, partly furnished from Tor House chapel, was open to the public. The congregation from the town then numbered between ten and twelve and was served by the convent chaplain. (fn. 544) A proposal to build a temporary chapel for the town in 1922 was rejected by the bishop of Clifton on the grounds that neither the convent nor the chaplain had secure futures, but in 1926 stables adjoining the Priory were converted to a church, built with contributions from the bishop and others. The convent chaplain became the first parish priest. (fn. 545) That church was demolished in 1938 to make way for a new and larger building, opened in 1940 and consecrated in 1941.
The new church, dedicated to Our Lady St. Mary of Glastonbury, was designed by J. H. H. Willman. (fn. 546) It includes the shrine 'restored' in 1955 and a statue of the Virgin, designed and carved by Philip Lindsay Clark in 1954, which was canonically 'crowned' in 1965. A hall was built at the rear of the church in 1994. (fn. 547)
Between 1551 and 1554 a group of Flemish weavers occupied the former abbey buildings, under the auspices of the duke of Somerset, to set up a clothmaking business. They used their own Protestant liturgy devised by their leader Valerand Poullain. (fn. 548) James Renynger, formerly organist at the abbey, was in 1572 described as 'preacher of the Gospel', (fn. 549) and in the following century Nicholas Lockyer, born in the parish, became a puritan divine and was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell. (fn. 550)
The town was visited in 1656 by James Naylor, a charismatic Quaker preacher. (fn. 551) The first General Meeting of Quakers in Somerset was at Glastonbury in 1659 and in the following year Quakers disputed with the Anglican minister in the churchyard. A Meeting was established in the town in 1660 and by 1675 Quakers were using the former abbot's kitchen. The June Quarterly Meeting for Somerset was usually held at Glastonbury each year until 1837. (fn. 552) In 1737 the Scots Quaker 'preacher' Mary Drummond 'held forth' at the market hall. (fn. 553)
A meeting house was built c. 1691 (fn. 554) and was sold in 1797. (fn. 555) It stood on the south side of Benedict Street (fn. 556) and, having later been used by Independents and Baptists, was by 1840 a dwelling house. (fn. 557) A second meeting house, on the west side of Magdalene Street, was altered in 1813 and was sold in 1838 to Independents. (fn. 558) The former St. Catherine's chapel in Bovetown was said in the 1840s to have been a meeting house, and for a few years from c. 1931 a house in High Street was so used. (fn. 559)
In 1669 Glastonbury was home to nine ejected Anglican clergy. One of them held services in his malthouse (fn. 560) and a barn had been converted to a chapel where 300 worshipped. (fn. 561) Presbyterians, led by the minister ejected from St. John's, and Baptists were meeting in houses in St. Benignus's parish in 1672–3. (fn. 562) Between 1689 and 1715 twelve licences were issued for groups worshipping in private houses, in the market house chamber on the east side of the market house, in a building called the Meeting House, and at a house formerly the Ship inn. (fn. 563) The Presbyterian group met only once a fortnight in 1690–2 and could not afford a minister. (fn. 564) In 1706, however, it occupied a building in High Street, known by 1795 as the Old Chapel. (fn. 565) By 1816 the congregation, which had rebuilt its chapel in 1814, described itself as Independent. (fn. 566) On Census Sunday 1851 there were 92 adults and 53 children at the morning service and in the evening 150 adults. (fn. 567) By 1872 the cause was described as Congregationalist (fn. 568) and is now United Reformed. Services are held twice on Sundays and also on weekdays.
In 1798 and 1803 Independents were also worshipping in Benedict Street, (fn. 569) probably in the former Quaker meeting house, and from 1816 until 1818 discontented members of the High Street chapel met there under an opposing minister. (fn. 570)
Undetermined Protestant groups had licences to worship in premises in Benedict Street in 1823, 1827, 1833, and 1845, and in Chilkwell Street in 1827. (fn. 571) Particular Baptists, including seceding Independents, used a house in Benedict Street from 1818 until the 1840s. (fn. 572) Baptists were again worshipping in the town in 1875. (fn. 573)
Wesleyan Methodists built a chapel on the corner of Lambrook Street with Silver Street in 1825 and on Census Sunday 1851 it was attended by 81 in the morning, including 9 children in the Sunday school, and by 157 in the evening. (fn. 574) A new chapel was built to the north-east in Lambrook Street and was opened and licensed in 1866. (fn. 575) A Sunday school was added in the rear in 1873. (fn. 576) A morning service is held on Sundays and meetings on weekdays. The earlier chapel, under the name Avalon Hall, was given to St. John's parish in 1946 for use as a parish room. (fn. 577) It is occupied by the Mid Somerset Community Church.
A new building in Magdalene Street, licensed in 1833 in succession to a room there in use from the previous year, may have been that occupied in 1851 by Plymouth Brethren. On Census Sunday there were c. 45 attenders in the morning and c. 80 in the evening. (fn. 578) By 1889 the Brethren had what were described as missions in Lambrook Street and Bovetown, but by 1897 worshipped in Bovetown only. (fn. 579) In 1998 Christian Brethren occupied Bovetown Gospel Hall. (fn. 580)
Primitive Methodists built a chapel in Northload Street in 1844 and in 1851 the afternoon service was attended by 26 adults and 56 Sunday school children and the evening service by 43 adults. (fn. 581) A house was added for a minister in 1869. An application to close the chapel was made in 1968, (fn. 582) and the building is occupied by the Archangel Michael soul therapy centre. The Salvation Army was using premises in Magdalene Street between 1885 and 1912. (fn. 583) The International Bible Students Association had licence to use Kingdom Hall, Archer's Way, from 1942; and Jehovah's Witnesses occupied Kingdom Hall, Church Lane, from 1964 (fn. 584) and later used Kingdom Hall, Old Wells Road.