Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Holy Thorn

BATH-GLASTONBURY 009 1. Holy Thorn in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey, January 2014.

2. Visited Glastonbury on 25 October 2010 and spent some time looking for, and at, Holy Thorn trees.
Found two in the Abbey grounds. The older one, which had a plaque beside it stating it was a Glastonbury Thorn and had metal supports, was in poor condition, possibly dying with few fruits and no flowers. A younger tree planted nearby had numerous fruits and a lot of healthy looking flowers.
There were two trees, both in good condition and with many flowers, in St John’s chiurchyard.
A tree in St Bartholomew’s churchyard (which I believe to be a Holy Thorn, but there is no evidence to confrim this) was in good condition, still with lots of green leaves, some fruits, but no flowers.
A Thorn tree in the grounds of the Abbey Barn, now the Somerset Rural Life Museum, had a notice beside it stating it was planted to commemorate the golden jubilee of Guide Dogs for the Blind in 1981.
One tree was noticed in a private garden.
The tree on Wearyall Hill was in good condition, but not, as far as I could see, flowering. The metal railings around the tree had been hung with ribbons which covered them. There were also some ribbons attached to the more accessible branches. The ribbons, which were in good condition (i.e. they didn’t appear to have been there for long) looked as if they had all been placed there at the same time – at one event, rather than placed by odd individuals at odd times. A few of the ribbons had writing on them it what appeared to be Spanish (or, maybe, Italian).

3. There is, or was, a holy thorn at Shenley Churchend in Buckinghamshire. It’s now engulfed by Milton Keynes, but I think there’s still a ‘Holy Thorn Way’ or something like that commemorating it [Sheffield, March 2005].

Images: postcards, of Holy Thorn, posted Wells, Somerset, July 1907, and of Glastonbury Abbey with Thorn twigs, posted Glastonbury, 24 December 1906; the sender notes ‘The Holy Thorn which is supposed to bloom tonight at 12′.

See also ‘Holy Thorn vandalised’, news item, 11 December 2010.