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A major excavation is under way to explore the unclear history of Britain’s largest Iron Age hill fort.

The Ham Hill Iron Age hill fort site spreads over 80 hectares making it the largest in Britain

The Ham Hill Iron Age hill fort site spreads over 80 hectares making it the largest in Britain

The purpose of the Ham Hill site in Somerset is not known but researchers are now hoping to gain a deeper insight into life 2,000 years ago.

A joint team from the universities of Cambridge and Cardiff have begun a dig at the 88-hectare site to learn more.

Work is due to continue until September 2013 by which time the team hope to have a clearer map of its interior.

Niall Sharples, from Cardiff University, said: “It’s a bit of an enigma. Ham Hill is so big that no archaeologist has ever really been able to get a handle on it.

“People think of these places as defensive structures, but it is inconceivable that such a place could have been defended.

“Thousands of people would have been required; militarily, it would have been a nightmare.

“Clearly, it was a special place for people in the Iron Age, but when did it become special, why, and how long did it stay that way?”

Researchers believe the site may have been a monument and was somehow meant to create a sense of community, collective identity, or prestige.

‘Communal identity’

Christopher Evans, from the Cambridge archaeological unit, said it was a rare opportunity to tackle the site’s big issues on the scale they deserve.

“We don’t know if the site’s development was prompted by trade, defence or communal identity needs,” he said.

“Equally, should we be thinking of it as a great, centralised settlement place – almost proto-urban in its layout and community size?”

One of the key aims of the current excavation will be to pin down the rough date of the hill fort’s construction.

Smaller scale digs at the site have produced a number of finds, including human remains, the skeleton of a dog, pottery, iron sickles and the remains of a house.

‘There is also a wonderful pearched right on the top of Ham Hill tat serves a mean ‘Ploughmans’ and a great pint’ – Somerset tour guide

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Archaeologists searching for King Arthur’s round table have found a “circular feature” beneath the historic King’s Knot in Stirling.

The King's Knot in the grounds of Stirling Castle

The King's Knot in the grounds of Stirling Castle

The King’s Knot, a geometrical earthwork in the former royal gardens below Stirling Castle, has been shrouded in mystery for hundreds of years.

Though the Knot as it appears today dates from the 1620s, its flat-topped central mound is thought to be much older.

Writers going back more than six centuries have linked the landmark to the legend of King Arthur.

Archaeologists from Glasgow University, working with the Stirling Local History Society and Stirling Field and Archaeological Society, conducted the first ever non-invasive survey of the site in May and June in a bid to uncover some of its secrets.

Their findings were show there was indeed a round feature on the site that pre-dates the visible earthworks.

Historian John Harrison, chair of the SLHS, who initiated the project, said: “Archaeologists using remote-sensing geophysics, have located remains of a circular ditch and other earth works beneath the King’s Knot.

“The finds show that the present mound was created on an older site and throws new light on a tradition that King Arthur’s Round Table was located in this vicinity.”

Stories have been told about the curious geometrical mound for hundreds of years — including that it was the Round Table where King Arthur gathered his knights.

Around 1375 the Scots poet John Barbour said that “the round table” was south of Stirling Castle, and in 1478 William of Worcester told how “King Arthur kept the Round Table at Stirling Castle”.

Sir David Lindsay, the 16th century Scottish writer, added to the legend in 1529 when he said that Stirling Castle was home of the “Chapell-royall, park, and Tabyll Round”.

It has also been suggested the site is partly Iron Age or medieval, or was used as a Roman fort.

Extensive work on the royal gardens was carried out in the early 17th century for Charles I, when the mound is thought to have taken its current form.

The first known record of the site being called the King’s Knot is from 1767, by which time it was being leased for pasture.

Locals refer to the grassy earthworks as the “cup and saucer”, but aerial photographs taken in 1980 showed three concentric ditches beneath and around the King’s Knot mound, suggesting an earthwork monument had preceded it.

The new survey — funded by Historic Scotland and Stirling City Heritage Trust — used the latest scientific techniques to showing lost structures and features up to a metre below the ground.

It also revealed a series of ditches south of the main mound, as well as remains of buildings, and more recent structures, including modern drains which appear at the northern end of the gardens.

Mr Harrison, who has studied the King’s Knot for 20 years, said: “It is a mystery which the documents cannot solve, but geophysics has given us new insights.

“Of course, we cannot say that King Arthur was there, but the feature which surrounds the core of the Knot could explain the stories and beliefs that people held.”

Archaeologist Stephen Digney, who coordinated the project, said: “The area around Stirling Castle holds some of the finest medieval landscapes in Europe.

“This investigation is an exciting first step in a serious effort to explore, explain and interpret them. The results so far suggest that Scotland’s monarchs integrated an ancient feature into their garden, something we know happened in other countries too.

“We are looking forward to the next stage in September when we hope to refine some of the details.”

Dr. Kirsty Owen, Cultural Heritage Adviser at Historic Scotland, added: “The project has the potential to add to our knowledge of the landscape context of the medieval and early modern occupation of Stirling Castle.

“The ditches identified may intriguingly be part of historically documented earlier garden features, or if prehistoric in origin could add to our scant knowledge of prehistoric activity at Stirling Castle.

“We look forward to seeing the results of the next phase of investigations.”Futher work including a ground-penetrating radar survey, is now planned to take place next month to find out more.

A small display of the interim results can be seen close to the site at the Smith Museum.

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Legends of Glastonbury

There are so many myths associated with Glastonbury that it is difficult

Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury Tor

to know where to begin to talk about them. There are two main streams of legend that surround Glastonbury, though they twine around each other to some degree. The two streams revolve around the romantic figures of Joseph of Arimathea and King Arthur. Let’s take them one at a time.

Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph was the Biblical figure who took Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. According to some legends he was actually Jesus’ uncle, and had visited Britain years before with Jesus in the pursuit of his interests in the tin trade. It appears that there actually was a strong Jewish presence in the west of England at that time, and many of the tin miners may have been Jewish settlers.

At any rate, when Jesus died, Joseph thought it prudent to flee Palestine, and after many travails he came to Britain with a company of followers. He brought with him the Holy Grail, the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. Some versions of the legend have it that the Grail contained two drops of blood captured from Jesus’ side when he was wounded on the cross.

When Joseph came to Britain he was granted land at Glastonbury by the local king. When he arrived at Glastonbury, Joseph stuck his thorn staff in the earth, whereupon it rooted and burst into bloom. A cutting from that first tree was planted in the grounds of the later Glastonbury Abbey, where it continued to bloom every year therafter at Christmas time. There is still a thorn tree in the Abbey grounds, of a variety native to the Holy Lands, and it does indeed bloom around Christmas time.

Joseph was said to have established the first church in England at Glastonbury, and archaeological records show that there may well have been an extremely early Christian church here. What happened to the Holy Grail is another matter. Some legends have it that Joseph buried the Grail at the foot of Glastonbury Tor, whereupon a spring of blood gushed forth from the ground.

There is a well at the base of the Tor, Chalice Well, and the water that issues from it does indeed have a reddish tinge to it, from the iron content of the water.

Other legends have it that the Holy Grail was interred with Joseph when he died, in a secret grave. The search for the mysterious Grail emerges again and again in the tales of Glastonbury.

Further legends tell that the church founded by Joseph continued for many years. Eventually it became a monastery, and one of the first abbots was the future St Patrick, who was born in the west country.

King Arthur and Glastonbury

Glastonbury Abbey, where King Arthur is said to lie buriedLegends of King Arthur swirl about Glastonbury like a tantalizing fog from the nearby Somerset marshes. The nearby hill fort at South Cadbury has long been suggested as the location for Camelot. Indeed, excavations of South Cadbury suggest that it was in use during the early 6th century, which is the likeliest era for the real Arthur to have lived.

The association of Arthur and Glastonbury goes back at least to the early Middle Ages. In the late 12th century the monks of Glastonbury Abbey announced that they had found the grave of Arthur and Guinivere, his queen. According to the monks, an excavation found a stone inscribed “Here lies Arthur, king.” Below the stone they found the bones of a large man, and the smaller skeleton of a woman. The monks reburied the bones in the grounds of the abbey, where they were a very handy draw for pilgrims. The site of the grave can be seen today in the abbey grounds.

Glastonbury Tor, the enigmatic conical hill that rises above Glastonbury, has been linked with the Isle of Avalon, where King Arthur was buried after his death. This isn’t so farfetched as it may sound, for a millennium ago the water level was much higher, and the tor would indeed have been an island. Avalon was also called “the isle of glass” which does suggest similarities to the name “Glastonbury”.

The Holy Grail, the object of Arthur’s questing, is said to be buried beneath Glastonbury Tor, and has also been linked to Chalice Well at the base of the Tor.

One final myth of Arthur at Glastonbury: the landscape around Glastonbury is said to have been moulded and shaped so that the features (such as roads, churches, and burial mounds) create a zodiac calendar replete with Arthurian symbology. Like so many of the Arthurian myths, so much is open to interpretation and your own predisposition to believe or disbelieve.

Glastonbury Abbey
Is there a place more steeped in legend and myth than Glastonbury? Glastonbury AbbeyProbably not. Legend holds that the earliest church here was founded by St. Joseph of Arimathea in about 60AD, and that when he planted his staff in the earth a thorn tree burst forth.

In the grounds of the ruined Benedictine monastery there is a thorn tree of a variety common to the Middle East which is given to bloom around Christmas time.

By the late Middle Ages Glastonbury had become the richest abbey in England, due to the heavy pilgrimage trade. It was rich enough to build an inn for well-to-do pilgrims (the George Inn, on nearby High Street, which still welcomes guests 500 years later). The best preserved building in the abbey grounds is the old Abbot’s Kitchen (see photo), a curious square building which appears round due to its octagonal roof. In the abbey grounds are the reputed graves of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, which were conveniently discovered by the Glastonbury monks in the 12th century, when the abbey needed a financial boost. Outside the grounds are the abbey tithe barn, which now serves as the Somerset Rural Life Museum (well worth a visit), and 4 miles away at Mere is the abbey’s Fish House, were fish was salted and cured.

The abbey is entered through the Abbey Gatehouse  an imposing arched gateway located on off Magdalene Street. Visitors pass through a fascinating museum depicting life at Glastonbury during the Middle Ages, and then enter the Abbey grounds proper. The first building you see on entering the grounds is St Mary’s Chapel, a roofless structure that boasts wonderful architectural details, from the recessed arches of the door to the repetitive arcading that rings the interior. Look up, where the curious small towers at each corner of the chapel seem almost Georgian in style.

If you continue past the chapel you will soon reach the Abbot’s Kitchen, probably the most recognizable symbol of the Abbey, and subject of numerous postcards! This is a peculiar building, with a high octagonnal tower over a square base bedecked with gargoyles. The interior is notable for the very large ovens and the high dome supported on reed-thin vaulting ribs.

Return from the Abbot’s Kitchen towards St Mary’s Chapel and you will pass a small sign on the green lawn. This marks the old burial ground, where, in the 12th century, monks conveniently found bones beneath an engraved stone indicating the burial place of legendary King Arthur. The bones and those presumed to belong to Arthur’s queen, Guinivere, were reburied within the Abbey Church, where a small memorial can be seen.

The grounds of Glastonbury Abbey emanate a sense of calm and peace; it is truly a magical place, and taken as a whole with the other attractions of this ancient town, make Glastonbury well worth an extended visit.

Visitor Information
Glastonbury Abbey
The Abbey Gatehouse
Magdalene Street
Glastonbury
Somerset
UK
BA6 9EL
Web: http://www.glastonburyabbey.com
Email: nfo@glastonburyabbey.com
 
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 The weather may not be anything to write a postcard home about – but the West’s tourism industry enjoyed a twin boost yesterday.

Key visitor attractions featured prominently in the first global TV adverts for a decade and new research showed up to 17 million Brits will holiday at home this year.

VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, yesterday unveiled its international TV campaign to attract overseas visitors to the country.

The adverts will be screened around the world, and include Stonehenge, Glastonbury and the Cotswolds.

Stonehenge is already in the spotlight because of the summer solstice, and VisitBritain say the UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most important prehistoric monuments on the planet.

As well as the 5,000-year-old site, there are money Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in the surrounding landscape, and Avebury, the largest stone circle in Europe, is nearby.

Glastonbury is synonymous with the annual music festival taking place at the weekend, with international superstars such as U2, Coldplay and Beyonce, as well as theatre and circus performers and much more.but VisitBritain also point to the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, and the iconic Tor, along with myths and legends about the Isle of Avalon, King Arthur, Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Grail.

The agency adds: “For many visitors, the Cotswolds represent everything that is quintessentially ‘English’, with villages and churches of honey-coloured limestone set among gentle hillsides, cottage gardens, beech woods and drystone walls.”

Historic sites include Sudeley Castle and Chedworth Roman Villa, while VisitBritain urges tourists to sample local produce such as Gloucester Old Spot pork, Tewkesbury mustard and the famous Cotswold cheeses.

Other locations in the TV adverts include London landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral, the Lake District, Snowdon in Wales, Edinburgh Castle and the Highlands.

Celebrities such as actress Dame Judi Dench, fashion icon Twiggy and chef Jamie Oliver – who has restaurants in Bath and Bristol with another opening in Cheltenham this summer – star in them.

The campaign kicks off a major marketing push that seeks to build on the global impact of the Royal Wedding, with the Olympics next year also guaranteeing the international spotlight.

It will concentrate on the current most important tourism markets, such as the US and Western Europe, and the big growth areas for the future, including China and India.

VisitBritain chief executive Sandie Dawe said: “This is our first global TV campaign for 10 years and marks the start of an ambitious marketing programme. With the eyes of the world on us, we have an opportunity to showcase Britain and then to close the sale with great travel deals and offers from our partners.

“This campaign aims to inspire visitors to come and explore for themselves. Over four years, we aim to attract four million extra overseas visitors, who will spend £2 billion across Britain.”

Meanwhile a new survey has found nearly 40 per cent of Britons will stay at home this summer as families strive to balance household finances.

Many of them will instead enjoy ‘staycations’, with the West sure to cash in.

The poll was carried out for savings bank ING Direct, and chief executive Richard Doe said: “It’s not surprising that the summer holiday is often being sacrificed.”

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As a Christian symbol, it seems appropriate that its resurrection took place in time for Easter.  Glastonbury’s Holy Thorn tree began to show new buds this week, three months after it was savagely cut down by vandals.
According to legend, Joseph of Arimathea – who some say was Jesus’s great-uncle – travelled to Wearyall Hill after the Crucifixion and stuck a wooden staff belonging to Jesus into the ground before he went to sleep.

When he awoke, the tale goes, the staff had sprouted into a thorn tree, which became a shrine for Christians across Europe.

Every year, the sacred tree flowered once at Christmas and once at Easter, until just before Christmas last year when it was vandalised, leaving the community of the small Somerset town fearing it was dead.

But that was before the council enlisted the help of Peter Frearson, a self-titled pagan wizard who happens to run his own horticultural business.

Mr Frearson said: ‘Well-meaning but uninformed people were putting things like marmalade on the wounds. ‘Mead, an alcoholic drink made from honey, was also popular, as well as various ales and Guinness on one occasion.

‘There’s also been a few ribbons tied round it, as well as lots of people holding hands around it, and circles of people projecting positive energy.’

Sacred: Well-wishers visit the tree in Glastonbury, SomersetSacred: Well-wishers visit the tree in Glastonbury, Somerset

But Mr Frearson, nicknamed the Garden Wizard, had other ideas to ensure the tree’s revival.

He said: ‘We applied a dressing of pine resin and beeswax to stop further moisture and rain getting in, keep out bacteria and fungus, and applied nutrients.

‘We covered it in horticultural fleece, then bubble wrap, then more fleece.
‘Soon after we replaced the bubble wrap with hessian.

‘We mulched around the base of the tree with well-rotted wood chips to keep the moisture off the ground, and we’ve also driven spikes into the ground and filled the holes with compost and bonemeal, and we’ll do it again soon.’

Glastonbury’s mayor John Coles said the display of new buds on the tree was ‘wonderful news for the town’.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1370056/Resurrection-Holy-Thorn-Tree-Glastonburys-vandalised-shrine-comes-life.html#ixzz1Hh02v1NE

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A film is set to be made by Hollywood producers on the Glastonbury legend of Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Thorn.

The £50m-budget film Glastonbury: Isle of Light is set for release in 2012 and has been written and produced by Daniel McNicholl with Galatia Films.

Holy Thorn - Glastonbury Holy Thorn – Glastonbury

A film is set to be made by Hollywood producers on the Glastonbury legend of Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Thorn.

The £50m-budget film Glastonbury: Isle of Light is set for release in 2012 and has been written and produced by Daniel McNicholl with Galatia Films.

In December the Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill was cut down by vandals but efforts are being made to re-grow it.

The legend relates to Joseph who planted Jesus’s staff into the ground on Wearyall Hill 2,000 years ago.

A tree grew, and it is believed the hawthorn sprouted from a cutting of the tree. It is one of several Holy Thorns planted around Glastonbury.

Daniel McNicholl said: “This is a British story so I think it needs to be told through British landscape.

“We want ancient Glastonbury to be shot in places like the Isle of Man, Ireland, Wales, and Somerset.

“Clearly the topography is much different than it was 2,000 years ago and we will be using digital effects to take out some of the modern buildings, so it is very much a different place.”

The film producer has said he was aware of the Holy Thorn being vandalised which he described as “punch in the gut” but believes the tree will re-grow successfully.

Avon and Somerset police are still continuing their enquires and a reward of £200 has been offered by the town council for more information.

Glastonburymovie.com
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-12160098

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Wanted to claryfy that we have not misspelt our tour company name. HisTOURies comes from two words  ‘history’ and ‘stories’ – clever eh?
We operate guided historical (hisTOURical) sightseeing tours of Britain.  Our expert guides (historians or hisTOURians) bring Britain’s rich history (hisTOURy) alive with tales’s and stoiries (sTOURys or sTOURies) of ancient England.
‘It is not spelt incorrectly.’
Hope thats clear (clear as mud)……………..
Our award winning tours can depart from London, Salisbury, Bath or Glastonbury.  Please visit our website:
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in British History (hisTOURy)

Histories (Herodotus)

The Histories of Herodotus is considered one of the seminal works of history in Western literature. Written from the 450s to the 420s BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that were known around the Mediterranean and Western Asia at that time. It is not an impartial record but it remains one of the West’s most important sources regarding these affairs. Moreover, it established without precedent the genre and study of history in the Western world, although historical records and chronicles existed beforehand.

Perhaps most importantly, it stands as one of the first, and surviving, accounts of the rise of the Persian Empire, the events of, and causes for, the Greco-Persian Wars between the Achaemenid Empire and the Greek city-states in the 5th century BC. Herodotus portrays the conflict as one between the forces of slavery (the Persians) on the one hand, and freedom (the Athenians and the confederacy of Greek city-states which united against the invaders) on the other.

The Histories was at some point through the ages divided into the nine books of modern editions, conventionally named after the Muses.

Herodotus seems to have travelled extensively around the ancient world, conducting interviews and collecting stories for his book. At the beginning of The Histories, Herodotus sets out his reasons for writing it:

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