My research examines the interpretation of Glastonbury Abbey and I visited yesterday to see what’s going on. I found the Abbot’s Kitchen covered in scaffolding as part of a conservation and re-interpretation project.
The Abbot’s Kitchen is a fascinating piece of architecture with a varied history. It was built sometime between 1320 and 1370 as part of a large complex which served the Abbot’s guests and speaks of the medieval wealth the Abbey. Given its relatively domestic function it also holds stories of religious strife. The Dissolution of the Abbey in 1539 saw the man it served, Abbot Richard Whiting, being executed, with his head put on a spike above the Abbey gatehouse. Immediately following this it was home to group of Huguenot weavers fleeing religious persecution on the continent. In 1683 it also housed a Quaker meeting which was forcibly broken up and resulted in 10 Friends being sent to jail.
It was eventually used as a cow shed but drew the interest of antiquarians and artists with its unique design. Pugin visited Glastonbury Abbey and drew elevations of the kitchen. It was well known to figures such as John Ruskin and was replicated in neo-Gothic architecture. The ‘laboratory’ to the right of Oxford Museum of Natural History entrance is based on the Abbot’s Kitchen and I even found a summer house replica on St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall. The Abbey is running an exhibition on the Kitchen which deals with these issues, and a case full of tourist images demonstrates its ongoing iconic status.
As for the future of the Kitchen, more can be found out in the exhibition and its accompanying video interview with project staff. Historical kitchen expert Peter Brears has recently been able to provide information about the layout of the medieval building, even identifying the presence of a raised walkway where chefs could watch different workers. A conservation team is currently hard at work stabilising the building before re-interpretation can take place. Visitors will be able to get tours of the scaffolding over the next couple of weeks but I got a sneak preview. Here are some more photographs of what I saw…please enjoy and think about contributing to the Rescue our Ruins project which is making this possible.