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Sacred Sites

Godney and Glastonbury Lake Village


Godney

Godney was once a small clay island (a 'burtle') in the flooded Levels. In ancient times it was probably unsettled or only temporarily settled. It lay close to the old river Brue, which flowed between two of the low bumps which constitute the Godney burtles. In the Middle Ages Godney was the site of an outlying hermitage of the Abbey (Godeneia) - its name could be translated as 'God's Island'. An ancient or very early Christian importance to Godney is demonstrated through the exact alignment of Godney church, site of the hermitage, with the Olde Church at Glastonbury and Butleigh church (formerly a pre-Christian enclosure) - along which the road to Godney, aligned to the church, now runs.. The current village of Lower Godney, alongside the river Sheppey, is relatively recent, founded after the draining of the Moors in recent centuries.

Godney Village website

Glastonbury Lake Village

Artist's impression of the lake village in its own time

The lake village was made up of five to seven groups of houses, each for an extended family, with sheds and barns, made of hazel and willow covered with reeds, and surrounded either permanently or at certain times by a wooden palisade. It housed around 100 people. Fishing, game-hunting and gathering of berries, willow withies, harvesting of wood, reeds and other materials will have been easy here. The village was close to the old course of the river Brue, meaning that there were some trading possibilities - first pickings for Glastonbury people from boats arriving from Ireland, France and the Mediterranean. This will have encouraged craftsmen in bronze, iron and glass, derived from trade and local sources, either for home use or for export.
Excavated remains at the site of the Lake Village

Excavated remains of the palisade at the site of the Lake Village

There is a good chance this village was mainly occupied during the summer by people living otherwise on the Isle of Avalon. Naturally, tidal and flooding extremes will have defined occupancy, but temporary retreats to the mainland would be quite easy. The village was in use between 250 and 50 BCE. Clay and wood were piled up to make mounds on which to site the houses.

The lake village was discovered in 1892 by Arthur Bulleid, a young member of a well-known local family, whose father was an antiquarian. Molehills revealed fragments of pottery, charcoal, bone and a whetstone (a stone for sharpening blades). Later, on excavation, spinning whorls and weaving combs were found, suggesting textile production. Evidence of bronze-casting and iron-smelting were found, as well as production of jewellery.

The site of the Lake Village is found by taking the Godney road from Glastonbury. After a double-bend followed by a road junction and bridge, the field is on the right, recognisable by small mounts interspersed across the field. Nice in springtime. Reasonable accessibility. Not much to see, but on a nice day, a good place to go inside yourself to find out if you can 'feel' the villagers' memories there. Lake village finds are kept at the Tribunal museum in Glastonbury (though interpretation and presentation is rather weak and minimalist).

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