Glastonbury Abbey was at the cutting edge of craft production.
9th April 2012
GLASTONBURY Abbey was at the cutting edge of craft production, a new study of its archaeological excavation records has revealed.
The exciting Glastonbury Abbey Excavation Archive Project has used 21st century techniques to further investigate the medieval crafts and technology used during the Abbey’s heyday.
It has revealed the high quality of stone carving, tile making and glass painting and that new techniques and products were often used to impress high ranking visitors, such as King Edward I.
And now a new exhibition will show visitors some of the artefacts discovered at the Abbey as well as information about the raw materials, markets, production sites, techniques and some of the people involved in making and commissioning the crafts.
Janet Bell, Abbey Curator, said: “Glastonbury Abbey was largely created by craftspeople. They shaped and fired raw materials from the earth to build and embellish the monastery.
“It was at the cutting edge of craft production. Stone carving, tile making and glass painting were of the highest quality. We now know that some products, such as tiles, previously thought to have been brought in from further afield, were made in local workshops, producing some designs unique to Glastonbury.
“The medieval abbey was richly decorated with glass windows, tile pavements, painted and sculpted stone, fine metalwork, textiles and carved wood.
“Following the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539 the most valuable objects and materials were taken. This exhibition focuses on the tile, pottery, glass and stone that was left behind.
“These represent only a small proportion of what was once here. Early excavators at the Abbey were interested in buildings. They rarely recorded where they found craft objects and sometimes did not keep them.
“However, experts working on The Glastonbury Abbey Excavation Archive Project have used the latest archaeological techniques to find out more about these artefacts. They don’t always appear impressive but they reveal new information about Anglo-Saxon and medieval technology and the people who made and owned them.”
Professor Roberta Gilchrist of the University of Reading and Abbey Trustee said: “Glastonbury Abbey was one of the earliest and most important monasteries in medieval England.
“It has attracted archaeological interest from the early 20th century with 34 seasons of excavations taking place.
“The results were never published and it might seem that archaeology has not told us much about the Abbey’s history. The Glastonbury Abbey Excavation Archive Project has proved otherwise by revisiting surviving excavation records and objects and coupling them with new scientific techniques.
The project is a partnership between the Abbey and the University of Reading and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
The exhibition runs until September 16 with an accompanying programme of archaeological events and activities – see glastonburyabbey.com for more information.
Not for publication.
To arrange interviews or a visit to the exhibition please contact press officer Wendy Best on 01458 832267 or 01225 764767