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Sacred Sites | Burrowbridge Mump

Sacred Sites

Burrowbridge Mump


Burrowbridge Mump is a solitary hillock sticking up out of the southern Somerset Levels. The A361 Glastonbury-Taunton road heads for it in both directions across the Levels, and then passes around its perimeter.

The river Parrett flows to its south side and, once, the river Cary flowed around its north and west side, making it quite isolated and also defensible. The river Tone joins the Parrett nearby. So this is a natural meeting-point in the ancient marshes of the Levels, and a rather blessed place.

In former times it would best have been approached by boat. The bridge over the Parrett was built around the 1820s - before this time, to get from Taunton to Glastonbury would have involved ferrying over the Parrett at Bridgwater to the western end of the Polden Hills. During medieval times there was a causeway to the Mump.

The Mump is a natural, anomalistic outcrop of hardened Kuiper Marl with Triassic sandstone layers, dipping slightly to the east. The banks around the Mump and the overall shape of the hill have been made by hand, no one knows when, and emphasised by later hill-creep.

The location of Burrowbridge Mump on the St Michael alignment, which passes from Norfolk to the far end of Cornwall, through Avebury and Glastonbury Tor, suggests that the hill has very ancient connections, but only a little archaeological evidence from the Neolithic (late Megalithic) period have been found down the hill near the pub. On a clear day the Tor can be seen from the Mump - though the Mump cannot be seen from the Tor.

Otherwise, there were Romano-British and medieval remains found on the hill. A large number of Roman coins found nearby suggest the banks of the Mump were used for trading - standing as it did at a river junction.

The church on top of the Mump was probably first built in Saxon times, dedicated to St Michael - it was not far downriver from the Saxon western summer capital of Somerton. It was the site of a famous retreat by the Saxon king Alfred against the Vikings in 878, and it saw action again in the Civil War in the 1640s. Over time it was variously under the aegis of Athelney Abbey and Glastonbury Abbey. The present chapel was built in the 1830s.

On an inspiring day, when the light is right, or mists waft across the Levels, the Mump is a special place, surrounded with flat land that once, when flooded, would have been very isolated. In ancient and early-medieval times, supplies of fish and fowl would have been plenteous, and mobility by boat along the rivers easier than any other way of moving on the otherwise soggy or flooded Levels.

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