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Unravelling Radford; the 1951-1964 Excavations at Glastonbury Abbey
by Dr Cheryl Allum

University of Reading, Post-Doctoral Research Assistant for the Project


A number of significant historical excavations have been re-visited in recent years, some culminating in full publication for the first time. In a similar vein, the historical excavations at Glastonbury Abbey (between 1908 and 1979) are now the subject of a major research project.

This paper presents for the first time a complete and accurate trench plan based on previously unavailable drawings. The main focus however will be the excavations conducted by Dr Ralegh Radford. The breadth of his work at Glastonbury Abbey will be summarized based upon preliminary analysis of the 1951 to 1964 seasons. In contrast to Tintagel (excavated by Radford in the 1930's), the archive for Glastonbury has been found to be predominantly complete and of huge potential to our understanding of the Abbey. The circumstances of Radford's appointment will be presented, followed by a summary of the archaeological objectives and methodologies employed. These will be considered in the context of developing archaeological techniques and the emerging discipline of medieval archaeology during the 1950's and 1960's. The range of recording techniques will be considered in relation to one aspect of Radford's results, the evidence for the Romanesque church.

Despite the differences between historic and modern excavations, this paper is a recognition of the contributions made by past excavators to our understanding of Glastonbury Abbey.

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