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Medieval Kitchen Garden to be created at abbey

Medieval Kitchen Garden to be created at abbey

Pictured: Brother Dunstan, aka Mark Hutchinson, Living History Presenter at Glastonbury Abbey in the herb garden

A medieval kitchen garden in the style once seen hundreds of years ago at Glastonbury Abbey is to be recreated.

Centuries ago the abbey would have grown its own produce for use within the Abbot’s Kitchen which catered for the abbot and his high-status guests such as the Royal family of the time as well as to feed the monks and employees.

The plan to recreate the garden is the brainchild of learning assistant Luke Loader. The project will be formally launched on October 20 at the abbey.

People are wanted to help with the initiative which aims to create a garden similar to that which existed at the abbey.

Luke says: “At Glastonbury some of the gardening may have been carried out by monks but we do know that it was common for gardeners to be employed.

“In 1333 we have some information from documents in which the then head gardener Thomas of Keynsham described that there were at least two gardens as well as an orchard and vineyard.

“Parts of both gardens were grazed by horses but pot-vegetables including onions, leeks, beans and garlic as well as plants used for dye such as madder and bed straw were present. This information points to gardening on a local industrial scale requiring a dedicated staff to manage production.

“We hope to have the garden created and growing crops by next summer and we plan to use the garden and its produce to help schools and all our visitors learn about seasonality of produce and how people grew what they ate. We will also use some of the produce in the Abbot’s Kitchen.

“The aim of this garden is to increase the resources we have to show visitors and school groups what used to be done here and we will be using medieval methods to create it.

“It will also help us to illustrate the differences between contemporary and medieval diet and food production.”

The fencing enclosing the site will be made from English willow hurdles with the herbs and plants in raised beds.

The abbey’s Living History team who give guided tours to visitors will be able to demonstrate how the beds were tended and the type of tools used from trugs (baskets) to wooden handcarts and gardening hoes.

The garden will be created from an area which is currently overgrown and will be next to the current herb garden on the edge of the orchard.

The project has secured funding from Somerset Skills and Learning with the following courses available for individuals.

The courses are listed below and to register interest either call Marcelle Bacchus, the abbey’s project manager, on 01458 832267 or visit the abbey between 1.30pm and 3.30pm on October 20. Courses are free for adults 19+ with a £10 refundable deposit.

Course 1: Creating an Accessible Garden . 10th November2016 .This will teach the skills needed to make raised beds.

Course 2: Hurdle Making. 25th January 2017 and 25th February 2017. This will be delivered offsite by Musgrove Willows, and it is hoped to create 20 willow hurdle panels as part of a fence surrounding the medieval garden, over the 2 courses.

Course 3: Building the Medieval Kitchen Garden. 29th March2017.

The key point of this day will be the installation of the perimeter fence, along with skills for making animal proof enclosures and lots of pointers for different aspects of securing your garden, such as gate hanging etc.

Course 4: Planting the Medieval Kitchen Garden. 3rd May 2017. This will be using plants which have been chosen for their medieval heritage, grown by the Grounds team at the abbey to complete the first stage of the project. There will be a talk on the differences between medieval gardening and our contemporary equivalent.

Medieval Recipe for the Abbot’s Table

Cabbage Chowder (14th Century)

This will make a main course soup. You can also add small strips of fried bacon or broken toast/croutons which were common medieval additions.


600g firm hearted cabbage or 700g spring greens225g onions, peeled and finely chopped225g white part of leeks, thinly sliced into rings1/8 teaspoon dried saffron strands½ teaspoon salt¼ teaspoon each ground coriander, cinnamon and sugar850ml chicken or vegetable stock.


If using cabbage cut into 8 segments and remove the core. If using greens cut off stalks and cut the leaves into strips. Put into a large pan with prepared onions and leeks. Stir the saffron, salt and spices into the stock, adjusting the quantity of salt as desired, then pour the mixture over the vegetables. Cook gently, covered, for about 20 minutes or until segments of firm cabbage are tender.


Added: 6th October 2016