Last Photographed: Thursday 26th November 2020
Despite Glastonbury's illustrious mediaeval past, very few buildings of that period have survived. Those that do, however, are quite striking.
Glastonbury Tribunal is a well-preserved 15th Century building fronting on to the High Street. Law in Glastonbury was administered by the abbey, free from royal jurisdiction, and it was once believed that the Tribunal was the court house from which such justice was administered. These days, it is believed that the house has always served as a merchant's residence, and the kitchen block to the rear helps attest to this. The present façade is a 16th Century addition, salvaged from other period buildings. Currently, the Tribunal is home to the Tourist Information Centre and Lake Village Museum.
The George and Pilgrim
The George and Pilgrim (originally "The George") was built by Abbot Selwood of Glastonbury Abbey around 1470AD and is one of the oldest and finest of England's historic hostelries. Its purpose was to house the growing number of wealthy pilgrims visiting the abbey, and its existence is testament to the growing wealth and influence of Glastonbury's religious house in the late medieval period.
The inn's medieval façade survives in excellent condition. Attractive mullioned windows front the building, and the porch boasts an overhead heraldic shield, featuring the arms of Edward IV, St George, and a blank panel representing Abbot Selwood, who owned no coat of arms due to his religious status.
Various legends attest to the existence of tunnels under Glastonbury (a common archetypal myth), but in the case of the George and Pilgrim, the existence of such a tunnel is actually documented. From the cellar of the inn, a passage leads out under the High St in the direction of the abbey. It has been partially explored, but is blocked after a mere 20ft by a modern-day sewer.
The Abbey Gatehouse
Glastonbury Abbey originally had a number of gatehouses. The western gatehouse (also accommodating a porter's lodge) is the only one to survive into the modern age. Legend has it that Richard Whiting, last abbot of Glastonbury, spent his final night in the chamber above the archway before being taken off to be tried and executed.
At some point, the archway was blocked up and the whole building served as The Red Lion Inn. The gatehouse was restored following the Church of England's purchase of the abbey in 1908AD, and it now serves as the main entrance to the abbey for visiting tourists.
St John's Church
St John's church dates back to Norman times, with recent archaeology suggesting that a Saxon origin (circa 950AD) can not be ruled out. It served as a parish church for the local population, existing alongside and sponsored by the abbey. The early church featured a large central tower, but this collapsed around 1403AD, leading to extensive rebuilding work. The existing tower - commissioned by Abbot Selwood - dates back to 1475AD. Further enhancements took place around this date, and by the turn of the 15th Century, the church was largely as it appears today.
The church is notable for containing a funeral pall reputedly made from the cope worn by Richard Whiting, the last abbot of Glastonbury abbey. This is housed in a glass case that sits upon a stone plinth - possibly part of a 15th Century shrine to Joseph of Arimathea that once existed in the abbey.
Jacoby Cottage is the only survivor of Glastonbury's three 'slipper chapels', where medieval pilgrims once stopped to slip off their shoes before continuing barefoot on the final stage of their pilgrimage to the abbey. Much altered since medieval times, it is now in use as a private home and guesthouse, but the bricked up chapel window remains visible on the eastern gable end.