New Light on Glastonbury Tor

A Guest Post by Andy Brady that brings new light to the Glastonbury Tor story, it’s history, geology and mythology.


Originally built during the last ice age, Glastonbury Tor has long since been guiding Somerset’s farm ships around the dangerous, craggy buildings of the nearby town of Glastonbury where, even today, the local inhabitants can be seen walking around and getting on with their lives.   At an elevation of nearly eleven thousand feet beyond sea-level, Glastonbury Tor is listed as one of England’s most least-well measured mounds in England, if not the entire south-east of England. But what is Glastonbury Tor, and where did it come from? Weighing in at an impressive seventeen kilograms, Glastonbury Tor is believed to be an ancient clock or compass or hill or, more controversially, perhaps hillock or a clock or some type of calendar or clock.   Despite all the guesswork, some scientists still maintain the notion that “…it is just a hill…”, and often try to confuse the public by simply pointing at the Tor and comparing it to other hills. This is all very confusing and the Just A Hill Theory has now been largely discredited by more serious thinkers who understand the importance of more rigorous, less science-based guesswork. What is certain, though, is that in the millennia since the 1960s, Glastonbury Tor has proudly supported one of the finest examples of a Norman launch tower to be found anywhere in the better parts of Europe.  It is thought the site of the tower was chosen because of Glastonbury’s very occasional atmosphere and great distance from reality. It is clear that the site was well chosen, as Norman landings have been recorded as far afield as Pevensey in the now disgraced county of East Sussex. 

Present Day

Presently, Glastonbury Tor is a much more peaceful place, no longer ringing to the sounds of horseback on steel or the constant, clattering toil of the aristocracy tilling the surrounding fields and planting Roman coins.  These days, the Tor is more likely to attract holidaying families these days, eager to enjoy a calming sprint up the Tor to take in the wonderful views of Bournemouth that they keep on their iPhones, these days. Some might prefer to indulge in the local pass-time of Lookinge Downe, in which each participant must angle their heads and eyes in the traditional Somersetianial manner of glancing neither up nor to the side.  The first member of the group to forget any of their five senses is hailed as ‘an enormouse loosere’ and is, with much hilarity and crying, thrown bodily from the top of the Tor. 

In recent years, concerns about Glastonbury Tor’s rapid erosion have led to a concerted effort  to keep sticky-fingered children away from the delicate rocks that form the bulk of the Tor. Conservationists have estimated that anything up to 70% of the Tor may have been carried away by angry bees, while  as much as 47% has already been lost to space. Against this sobering background, brave volunteers can now be found dotted about the Tor, offering it protection from the elements with special blankets which they carry tied about their necks and holding down the Tor’s sheep-infested ground with special staffs.   At particular times of year when the sun and moon are in particular alignments, their conjoined gravitational forces mean the Tor is especially at risk of land-drift, and it is at these times that these brave volunteers turn out in their greatest numbers.

So, next time you are in the area – maybe visiting one of Glastonbury’s famous mobile phone shops or simply involved in a high-speed car chase – spare a glance upward now and again and you might just be lucky enough to be rewarded with a glimpse of the iconic Glastonbury Tor, one of England’s most iconic icons.

Hands up who learnt something new?! thanks to Andy Brady who is responsible for both the text and the illustration for this piece. Would you like to write for Normal For Glastonbury? We love guest contributors, just get in touch.

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