The first excavation on Bride’s Mound was undertaken by John Morland in 1887. He discovered the remains of two chapels, a smaller Saxon timber chapel built around 700AD, which was replaced by a larger Norman stone chapel built about 1000AD and enlarged in 1290. There was another structure which he called a ‘priest’s house, and several burials. At least one of the burials predated the first stone chapel, which as John Morland wrote: “would show us that this was a sacred Christian spot before the older chapel was built; for this and all the more perfect skeletons were orientated with the head to the west”.
In 1967-8 Philip Rahtz excavated the chapel and cemetery, where one burial from around 700 – 750, appeared quite significant as it was in a grave lined with slabs and with nearby post-holes that suggest it may have been a tomb-shrine, perhaps of the founder of the community. The first Saxon timber chapel was built around this grave. Bones from at least 63 individuals were found, all male apart from one woman and two children, and dating to the Saxon period.
John of Glastonbury wrote of a hole in the south wall of the chapel through which people would crawl for forgiveness of their sins, perhaps a purification for pilgrims en route to the Abbey.
In 2001 Avalon Archaeology did a resistivity survey of the top layer of a small area of Bride’s Mound, and in 2004 a larger survey of the Chapel Field on behalf of the Friends of Bride’s Mound. The Friends hope at some stage to organise a further survey to the south of the ridge, where the exact location of a jetty may be revealed.
For more information:
‘Glastonbury Myths and Legends’ – Philip Rahtz and Lorna Watts
‘Did Saint Bridget visit Glastonbury’ – Beth Frances
‘Brigid: Goddess, Druidess and Saint’ – Brian Wright
Rahtz, Philip Arthur. 1974: Beckery Chapel, Glastonbury, 1967-8. Glastonbury Antiquarian Society.
These pics are of the chancel end of St. Brigid’s chapel as viewed from the NE and NW, with views of Wearyall Hill and the Tor in the background. There are also pics of some pieces of floor tile and a pot found in the chapel, and a white lias roof tile and some bones and pottery pieces found in the newly discovered building north of the chapel.
All photos copyright Adam Stout.