MEET Glastonbury Abbey’s Living History team who bring characters from history alive for visitors to the Somerset attraction.
From a pilgrim visiting just before the dissolution to a pedlar selling their wares and from a monk to Sir Richard Pollard, who executed the Abbey’s last abbot Richard Whyting.
Characters working as kitchen maids also bring the 14th century Abbot’s Kitchens to life, says Susan Strong, the Abbey’s Education Officer.
“The kitchen is arranged as a large medieval kitchen might have looked with cooking areas and tables for food preparation.
“As well as describing the life of the monastery, there is also an interactive demonstration of how the bread oven worked and sometimes cookery demonstrations using authentic charcoal braziers.
“Living History guides also lead tours of the ruins explaining the development of the many high status buildings on this site and telling the stories, both historical and mythological, connected to it.”
The Abbey is England’s cradle of Christianity and is also the burial place for the legendary King Arthur.
Julie Hayes, also known as Matilda who is a medieval pilgrim, is one of three Living History coordinators.
“The response from visitors is amazing. They are intrigued and often bombard us with questions. Being able to bring the Abbey’s history to life, breaks down barriers but also gives visitors information about past events in a fun way,” she said.
Julie, 51, who lives in Street, says Matilda is based on the type of pilgrims documented as having visited the Abbey.
“Matilda has been widowed three times. She vowed during childbirth to come on pilgrimage to the Chapel of Our Lady here at Glastonbury Abbey if she and her child survived.
“Now her daughter has married and she is alone. She knows what’s happening to Abbeys as she lives near to Welbeck Abbey which was the principal abbey of the Premonstratensian order. They have been visited by the King’s Men so she decided that in order to keep her vow she should set out to Glastonbury now (1536).
“She has walked from Nottinghamshire, begging for food or eating from the hedgerows. She has finally arrived at Glastonbury and has been found food and lodging by the Abbey. She’s been thinking that she should look for another husband whilst she’s here or even a place in a household as a servant as she may not survive the return journey. Pilgrims and travellers often died on their journeys.”
Living History presenters are in the Abbey daily until the end of October and can be pre-booked for group visits by calling 01458 832267 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The characters are: Matilda, a pilgrim, Julie Hayes; Aelfric, a weaver, Tony Hughes, of Langford; Alkanet, housewife, Alison Hughes, of Langford; Anabelle, a French washerwoman, Annie Marrec-Cole, of Glastonbury; Widow Nell, widow in the almshouses, Helen Marquis, Glastonbury; Brother Jaacabus, Monk, James Stone, of Shepton Mallet; Prior Nicholas London, prior, Dan Bradford, Glastonbury; Sir Richard Pollard, royal surveyor, Bill Wych, Glastonbury; Brother Dunstan, monk, Mark Hutchinson, of Wells; Alyce Cleeve, servant, Kay Wych, of Glastonbury; Brother David, monk, David Wood, Glastonbury; Leofric, the tithingsman, Luke Loader, of Glastonbury and a stonemason played by Ben Tweddell, of Frome.