Butleigh church is a more interesting site than it first appears. It is the site of an ancient sacred enclosure dating back at least into Celtic (Iron Age) times. Its significance is demonstrated by the sheer number of ley alignments passing through it. This includes a line passing from Butleigh, through the site of the Olde Church at Glastonbury Abbey, to Godney church, and a line from Butleigh through Glastonbury Tor, Knowle Hill, Westbury Beacon settlement, Gorsey Bigbury henge and Burrington Combe to Cadbury Camp on the North Somerset coast.
Here's a report from Mike Chenery of Butleigh:
I have lived in Butleigh for some years, and have amassed some interesting historical facts; some are perhaps not so 'historical' but are worth mentioning.
The earliest historical evidence that Glastonbury abbey had sole authority in the manor of Butleigh was from William of Malmesbury's The Antiquities of Glastonbury where he translates from old manuscripts that the West Saxon King, Ine, had reaffirmed the abbot and monks' sole ownership and that no king, bishop or prince had any authority to interfere with the church or manor of Butleigh. It seems logical to suppose that as the Saxon King Ine merely reaffirmed this 'specialness' that an earlier King than he had previously bequeathed Butleigh to the Abbey estates, much earlier than AD 725, when Ine made the reaffirmation.
It is thought that Butleigh Church, dedicated to St Leonard, may have been one of the original sites given to St Joseph of Arimathea by King Arviragus in about AD 64, though it may be that only the northern part of Butleigh was within the original Twelve Hides, as then given to Joseph.
The church has clearly been used as a place of worship for a very long time, perhaps before Christianity, and (I am told) it is built over a 'blind-spring' (underground water dome), giving rise to an energy source which encompasses the whole village in a spiral.
Another interesting fact, as written by John, a monk of Glastonbury, was that Walter of Taunton, then abbot of Glastonbury, died at Butleigh in January, AD 1322. He (Walter) "...constructed the church's pulpit with ten statues and erected a large cross with images of the Crucified, Mary and John".
I don't know where Abbot Walter died. It may well be that it was in a building at the site of the present Butleigh Court, where evidence of a 14th century house has been found (not much, just a roof cruck!). There is another ancient house in Butleigh, Bridge Farm, older in fact than the Abbey Tithe Barn in Glastonbury, and it may well be it had some ecclesiastical use (reference: The Vernacular Houses of Butleigh for details of the roof-cruck and the antiquity of Bridge Farm).
In his book The Early Wars of Wessex, Albany Major writes that Butleigh is the most likely place that King Alfred used as a 'waiting place' before embarking on his meet with other men at Selwood (about 15-20 miles east of Butleigh) and before his battle with the Danish King Guthrum, at Edington (about ten miles west of Butleigh). Major maintains that the battle took place in Edington, Somerset, rather than the place of the same name in Wiltshire.
However, whatever the site of battle, Butleigh might have been an appropriate place to meet. A convincing argument has been made for this. One would consider the short distance to the abbey - one which the abbot would not find difficult to make, to bless Alfred and his men for the ensuing battle ahead.
Recently, a legend surfaced of the possibility of a visit, or ceremonial site dedicted to, Queen Boudicca! The Rev E F Synge, in his book Butleigh: a Thousand Years of a Somerset Parish mentions that there were about eighteen different spellings of the village name, some written in Domesday Book: 'Boudcherie', 'Bodcherie', 'Buddekaulegh', etc. But he himself settles on the name 'Budica' as being of interest, and early in date. He says it is Saxon, but it doesn't look like that to me. I've mentioned this to several local notables who in general have scoffed at this idea, of a Boudicca connection, but Geoffrey Ashe did not.
The 'facts' are these (apart from the village name of course). Peter Salway, in his excellent treatise Roman Britain (Oxford University Press), has written that one reason why the hillfort at Cadbury was 'sacked' by the Romans, and the inhabitants dispersed or killed, was for their support during the uprising of the Iceni, Boudicca's tribe in Eastern England, and that of other tribes of the Old British.
This would place Boudicca's representative or envoy, or even Boudicca herself, in this area, a mere eleven miles from Glastonbury, before AD 61. As Glastonbury would seem to be a Celtic worshipping place, and Boudicca was thought to have been a Druid priestess, it seems likely that she may have come to this area, especially as the Roman legions had massacred the Druid School and stronghold in Anglesey island.
A common criticism of this theory is that she was in Eastern England and wouldn't have been mobile enough to have travelled such a great distance. I submit that the Fosse Way (just a few miles from Butleigh) was used earlier than the Roman period, as most of these 'Roman roads' were already in existence when they invaded. The Romans merely did what all armies do, metalled it, enlarged it and made it good for speedy transport of their armies.
Boudicca would have had little difficulty in travelling the distance, perhaps calling at Butleigh en-route for some unknown reason. Indulging in speculation, maybe she actually met the men of Cadbury in this place, instead of at the fort, or there was an already established Celtic worship site here.
One has only to look at a map and see just how close the Fosse Way actually comes to the area where Boudicca was Queen. This, then is the basis for the Boudicca legend.
Something which might appeal to those who believe in the Glastonbury Zodiac. Parkwood, near Butleigh, is at the centre or hub of this mystical zodiac. It forms what might be perceived as the giant head of a Dragon or Serpent, and legends of snakes abound in Butleigh. Mary Caine, in her book The Glastonbury Zodiac writes of a legend where every year a knight in shining armour cuts the head off a snake, but she may have been referring to Butleigh Wood and not Parkwood; personally I think she meant the latter, with its situation at the centre of the Zodiac.
Here's an afterthought from Mike:
Palden, I've just looked at the leyline map you sent, and think that the ley which runs through Butleigh and terminates at Charlton Mackrell runs through my house!!
I have looked at maps previously to ascertain why I have such problems at night here, especially when I'm in bed. The line comes through at an angle, goes through the kitchen door, and cuts through the kitchen wall into a corner of my bedroom where the computer is situated. Over the last few months, I have suffered knockings and banging noises which grossly disturb my sleep. These noises stop when I turn the light on, and start again when I turn it off!
The knockings seem to be centred around the computer monitor, which bangs so hard it rings like a bell. I have had more of this stuff, not only bangs around the computer, but on one occasion a loud bang, on the wall next to my bed, after the monitor banged. Now don't laugh, but once I heard a sound like somebody blowing a raspberry at me after one of these knocks!!
I have seen lights in the garden hedge. I peered out of the bedroom window once, to catch the offender, thinking it a mouse or hedgehog, only to see pin-point lights dancing around in the hedge, in the dark!! I can only describe these as looking like the sort of thing which cinema portrays as fairies.
I had this place dowsed once and the existence of a 'line' through the house was confirmed. Walking along the footpath which is alongside the church, into a field behind, I saw the rods close and open rapidly, possibly confirming the 'spiral pattern' I first mentioned to you, emanating from the church (we think).
Just one more thought on all this: one woman said she saw a 'cigar shaped' object 'drifting' across the field behind the church, "lit like a railway carriage with its lights on" she said. Plenty of UFOs have been seen here, and some sightings made the local paper.