logo.gif - 4Kb   2017 May 31

The River: Bruce Garrard makes a friend of the Brue

The_River_cover.jpg - 64KbBook review by Kevin Redpath, reprinted from Newsletter 144:

Bruce Garrard’s latest book, The River, helps deepen our sense of wonder of the ecology of central Somerset with its distinctive natural and engineered landscape. He gently peels away the layers of time to reveal a much more meandering River Brue that wound its way past the island chapels of saints — a landscape of special significance, their names listed with Glastonbury in King Edgar’s charter, as islands that had a privileged status that exempted them from the ordinary laws of the land — the Isles of Avalon, Beckery, Godney, Martinsea, Panborough and Andrewsea.

    The Brue once connected them all. But it has become a disconnected river as the engineering work by the medieval monks effectively cut it in half. The Brue and the Axe were once the same river. It took a lot of hard work to retrace the original path.

    With a background in environmental activism and a healthy scepticism of the purely academic, Bruce would never have been content locking himself away in the antiquarian library or poring over the archives of the Somerset Drainage Boards. Throwing a rucksack over his shoulders he got out into the landscape with all its nettles, barbed wire, railway lines, rhynes, weather and landowners and walked, over five days, from the Brue’s source at Brewham to its original mouth at Uphill, just south of Weston-super-Mare. But more than that, he made friends with it. He kayaked and swam in the river, sat on its banks and listened to its changing sounds. He observed the deforestation in its upper reaches as it tumbles towards Bruton and the accumulation of algae pollution in its slow flow near its present-day mouth at Highbridge.

    He was inspired by a Glastonbury screening of the film Aluna last year, where the Kogi people of Colombia, isolated for centuries, relay an urgent message to the materialist modern world: “You don’t have to abandon your lives, but you must protect the rivers.” Bruce made a commitment to explore the Brue.

    The first quarter of the 258-page book recounts his pilgrimage along its banks. Then he reflects on the Brue’s past: from prehistory, through the iron age, Roman occupation, Celtic Christianity, King Alfred, St Dunstan, the medieval Abbey, through to the current debate about the future of our wetland ecology in a world dominated by economic growth. (The Environment Secretary visiting Somerset in the 2014 floods when asked “What is the purpose of a river?” replied “To get rid of water” — as if our rivers are giant gutters to be straightened and dredged.)

    A remarkable graph in the book shows the relationship between woodland and river discharge. The greater the tree cover in the catchment area, the greater the absorption of heavy rain. Government research reached the astonishing result that “water sinks into the soil under trees at 67 times the rate at which it sinks into the soil under grass”.

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    I believe that Bruce, as a writer, is contributing to an emerging body of immersive, experiential writing about nature that encourages us to reconnect with the land around us. Writers like Robert Macfarlane, Philip Marsden, Glastonbury’s own Patrick Whitefield [who died in 2015], and Roger Deakin, who wrote the groundbreaking Waterlog, can help deepen our appreciation of the spirit of place.

    The River offers us an opportunity to remember the Brue, to appreciate its history and its displacement. Bruce deserves our deepest thanks for giving witness to its remarkable story.

The River is available at £12.95 from local bookshops, or by post from Unique Publications or at a discount direct from the author at his office upstairs in the Old Clinic, 10 St John’s Square. (Bruce gave a talk about his book to a meeting of Glastonbury Conservation Society, 2016 June).

Walter Tully, Glastonbury’s pioneer photographer

Glastonbury Conservation Society’s annual general meeting on Friday 27 November 2015 saw a collection of photos taken in town between 150 and 90 years ago by Walter Tully.

Plying his trade in the early days of photography, Tully had a state-of-the-art studio with fine skylights at 19 High Street (the building that now houses the Dilliway & Dilliway shop selling crafts from India) until he retired in 1920.

Andrew Boatswain showed the meeting slides of a number of Tully's photos that he collected — studio portraits, views of local events, book illustrations and picture postcards. They give interesting insights into Glastonbury and its residents over those six decades.

Frustratingly, however, many of the pictures remain anonymous — such as the two puzzling ones below. Can you give any clues?

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This studio portrait by Walter Tully is what is known as a Cabinet Card — the picture is 10.5 × 15cm. It shows two young men, who are probably brothers, dressed in their best. “What is the occasion?” Andrew Boatswain wonders. “I am guessing it is all about a wedding and one is the bridegroom and the other his best man. This photo could date from about 1905.

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Andrew Boatswain purchased this photograph (16 × 21cm) from Ohio in the United States. It shows three generations of a family, again dressed in their Sunday best. The costumes would date it about 1902. “Sadly, there is no clue as to the identity of the family members but I would love to know how this picture taken in Walter Tully’s Glastonbury studio ended up in Ohio. There has got to be a story there if only we could find it.”

‘Article 4’ of planning law now in effect
to give Conservation Area more protection

New rules covering buildings in Glastonbury’s designated Conservation Area — unlisted buildings as well as listed ones — came into effect on August 2 in 2012.

Mendip District Council mailed a pack to all property owners in the Conservation Area giving details. On the day — despite rain and impossibility of holding an umbrella while tying string — conservation officers fixed official notices on lampposts throughout the Conservation Area.

Owners now require planning permission to make any change to the front of their property that will affect the character of the neighbourhood.

Article 4 is part of the Town and Country Planning Act, dating back to 1990. Bringing it into effect in Glastonbury was one of the recommendations of the formal Appraisal of the town’s Conservation Area carried out last year. The Appraisal would have been cancelled in the council’s budget cuts, but a £1,000 grant from the Conservation Society enabled it to go ahead. The Conservation Society at its inception 40 years ago was the moving force that led to the designation of the Conservation Area to begin with, back in 1976.

Wells is so far the only other area in Mendip where Article 4 is in effect; others are under consideration. South Somerset has Article 4 directions at Wincanton, Bruton and Castle Cary.

More information is available from Mendip council’s website:
details of the Appraisal
the booklet about Article 4 as posted to property owners.

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Farewell to Keith Miller, fourth generation at hardware shop

Keith Miller died in June 2012 at the age of 82, five years after he retired and sold the family hardware shop in Benedict Street because he was due for major heart surgery.

Keith began working in the family shop when he was 17 and eventually took over from his father, George Miller Jr. It was Glastonbury’s oldest shop: his great-grandfather founded G. Miller & Son in 1872.

Articles about Keith and Miller’s Hardware from past newsletters have been republished on this website.

The sketch, after an old photograph, shows Keith at age 18 outside the family shop in Benedict Street. The artist is Keith’s son Matthew — contact him if you’d like to commission a drawing of your own property: (01458) 83 2078.

civic-voice-logo.png - 5Kb Civic Voice is the national body set up in 2010 as an umbrella group for local societies promoting civic pride all over Britain. A campaign is growing around the government’s current proposals to loosen the planning process in favour of developers. (Glastonbury Conservation Society has not yet joined Civic Voice.)

Civic Sense is the online newsletter published monthly by Civic Voice, with links to civic societies around the country and what they are doing.

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The Chronicles of John Cannon

Both volumes of The Chronicles of John Cannon are out now (£55 and £65, oup.co.uk). Adrian Pearse, who is probably Cannon's nearest descendant, reviews the publication in Newsletter 134.

From Prof John Money, the editor who spent 18 years on the project, a lengthy essay about Cannon’s diaries of Somerset is online on the Conservation Society website.

Cannon was born at West Lydford, near Glastonbury, in 1684. He worked as an exciseman (tax officer) and then as a scrivener (solicitor’s clerk) and Glastonbury town schoolmaster. Throughout his life he kept a meticulous diary, and it contains fascinating detail of people, places and customs that no one else of that period recorded. Cannon has been called “the poor man’s Pepys”.

About the society

It is somewhat startling to calculate that the Conservation Society has been doing its bit for more than 10% of the tercentenary that Glastonbury as a town recently celebrated: 40 years out of the 300. The society was formed in haste in 1971 in order to save the Crown Hotel in the central Market Place from being pulled down, as had several interesting medieval buildings nearby; swift spot-listing saved a number of other sites too. Today the Crown thrives as the Backpackers Inn. Another project was to rescue some of Glastonbury’s pre-Beeching heritage: the canopy from the railway station, by relocating it (ironically?) amid parked cars, in the main central carpark, where it shelters market stalls and makes two acres of asphalt easier on the eye. The trees in the carparks are the society’s work too.

Today, Glastonbury Conservation Society

  • obtains copies of all planning applications and exercises the right to comment
  • plants trees in town and 10 miles around: 45,000 trees in 40 years!
  • hears interesting talks from experts on various aspects of our environment
  • publishes a newsletter (approx quarterly)

The membership subscription is only £5 a year (and dare i say it, the newsletter alone is worth that much); members are of course free to give more.

Also on this website

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  • Eric King’s memories of the High Street in the 1940s (four-part series published in newsletters 95–99) Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

55 years in Glastonbury: John Brunsdon looks back over his time here
This is the full text of a talk John gave recently, updated from reminiscences he wrote down 10 years earlier.

clock (small) - 5KbHow did Kiwi pioneers come to keep Glastonbury time?

Robin Huggins, touring New Zealand after a wedding, discovered a longcase clock with “R. Woollan, Glastonbury” inscribed on its face, at The Elms, a historic mission house built in 1847 amid warring Maori tribes. Can anyone shed light on the clock? Who made it? How did it come to be where it is? Write to the newsletter.
   Mr Huggins and his wife founded Becket’s Inn in Glastonbury High Street (in a building that was the town surgery for 250 years); they now live in France.

   Update 2013-12-01: The surname was wrongly given as “Huggett” — corrected now.

somerspaint40.jpg - 25KbMemories of childhood in Somers Square

David Orchard grew up in the 1950s in a forgotten square near the top of the High Street. His schoolboy painting of it won him a scholarship. Somers Square was flattened to become a garage and eventually the Co-op supermarket. Now that too has been demolished and new cottages and flats have gone up; the developer called it Avalon Mews. Click here for a fuller version of David Orchard’s piece, from Newsletter 115.

Links to some affiliated and like-minded organizations

  The Glastonbury Conservation Society was founded in 1971 in appreciation of our built and natural environment here at Glastonbury, in Somerset, England.

tree2aw.png - 28k bytes Tree-planting volunteers always welcome
The society has so far planted 48,500 trees in and around Glastonbury. Contact Alan Fear, 83 3185.

Become a member — contact Kevin Mitchell, treasurer:
0796 887 6440 or email or download form (PDF)
Map of the Conservation Area

The Society’s constitution

Summary of the society’s doings since 1971
The newsletter
Issue 145 came off the press on 2016-July-25.
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Articles include:
•  Bill Knight’s mural wins a vague stay of execution
•  Town in bloom impresses judges
•  One month of planning applications in the Conservation Area
•  Rescue Our Ruins appeal reaches the one-third mark
•  Every tree at Bushy Coombe requires separate planning permission
•  War effort brought profound changes to the Brue valley

A few recent newsletter articles in full:
•  Assuring the future of the Abbey: Vicky Dawson outlines the conservation plan
•  Where was the Swan Inn? (Still a mystery.)
•  Bushy Coombe is now a wildlife area — and the path up the hill is now mud-free!
•  The hidden history of the Roman Catholic church in Glastonbury (a talk by Michael Protheroe

Contents list of all newsletters since 1999

Website first published in 2005. Page updated by Jim Nagel    tor.gif - 3554 bytes
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