From Pilgrims To Polio.

Updated: Jul 15, 2019


Glastonbury. King Arthur, Camelot, Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail, giant wooden rabbits... That mystical place where the festival doesn't take place (That's at Worthy Farm in Pilton, a few miles down the road.) has been a centre of pilgrimage since the middle ages and whilst my association with the town is more recent I have enjoyed, if that's the correct word, innumerable Somerset sojourns there since 1980.

Unsurprisingly, having been so popular with visitors for so long, Glastonbury has had its fair share of inns and taverns in its time. Of those whose names have been recorded, the George, still trading today as the George and Pilgrim, was operating by 1439 and had already had at least one previous tenant by then.

But this is about bygone boozers, so lets get back to them. In the first half of the 18th century there were so many sources of ale, 'so many nurseries of indolence and vice', that magistrates were requested to limit the number of licenses. There must be quite a number of lost hostelries to hunt down. With such a sizeable task I'm limiting this post to the current High Street, so join me as I stroll past the crystal shops, the tarot readers and the bookshops selling tomes espousing the benefits of drinking rat urine in the treatment of leprosy. Do take care to avoid tripping over the dogs on string that try to escape when their guitar-toting owners start with their monotonal output of Streets of London. Not even the Levellers, just McTell. New Age has become very Middle Aged!

Starting at the Market Cross, and heading north up the High Street, I don't have to go more than a couple of metres before coming across the first bygone boozer. The Crown Inn was originally owned by Bruton Abbey and can be found to have been operating in 1535. The building that stands on the spot today was built in the late 1600s and refronted around a century later. I believe it closed in 2016, having spent the last few years of its life using its accommodation as a backpackers hostel. The building is currently boarded-up and looking sad, but if you've a little spare cash, and the desire to own a Grade II listed property, it's on the market for £315,000.




The Crown Inn (& Backpackers).

A few yards up the hill and on the other side of the street must've stood the White Hart Inn/Abbey Hotel. The Hart is one of the inns in existence in the 1580 and the White Hart features in various trade directories published from the late 18th century. The Assembly Rooms were built on the site of its stables in 1864 so it possibly closed then. Does the original inn still stand, selling crystals or photographs of orbs? More research is needed. Strolling on a little further and we come to Art of Africa. If you want to buy a gecko made from used Coke cans, or wine glasses produced from bottles that formerly held the same brew, then this is the place to visit. In an earlier incarnation this building sold brews of a different nature. Dating from 1713 this was The Monarch in its later years but was known as The Angel in the 1860s. I can't ever remember it being a pub, although it was still trading in the middle of the last century.


The former Monarch Inn, previously The Angel.

Continuing on our journey, and crossing the road once more, we come to Excalibur. This vegan café is the former Rose and Crown. There is a record of it being built in 1903 for Welton Breweries but it exists in earlier records from at least 1822, when one William Scriven is named as innkeeper in Pigot's directory. Perhaps it was rebuilt/substantially altered at the turn of the century. It was operating up to at least 1939 when Kelly's listed Robert Viles as the proprietor.


The ex Rose & Crown.

At the top of the High Street stands the premises that currently houses The Wonky Broomstick, purveyors to the wicca and pagan world. From at least 1822 until it served its last pint in 2013 it was the home of the Queen's Head – or in its latter years Ye Queen's Head.



The Queen's Head closed in 2013.

And so we arrive at the site of our last bygone boozer on the High Street. Standing at the junction with Wells Road was the Glastonbury Arms. Well, it stood there from at least 1822 when James Crocker had it before he moved on to the Anchor (which will feature in some future post), until the 1960s when it was demolished for road widening and the building of a new health centre. The health centre has itself now been replaced with a newer version. From the 1930s, until its closure in the '60s, it was run by the Baulch family. Firstly by William and then by his son Simeon.


That was then:-


The Glastonbury Arms stood on the corner of High Street and Wells Road.

This is now:-


A former health centre on the site of the former Glastonbury Arms.

Finally, one to show that hostelries come as well as go. In a way, the inverse of the Glastonbury Arms situation. As we've worked our way up the High Street we've walked past the Beckets Inn. I've had a pint or two of Wadworth's 6X and Badger's Tanglefoot inside but my good lady wife remembers being served with something non-alcoholic here - the anti-polio Sabin vaccine on a sugar cube. It used to be her doctor's surgery. I think I'll stick to the Badger.


Beckets Inn - once a GP's surgery.

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