Essays - Friends of Bride's Mound
Fellowship of Isis Priestess Jane Marshall spoke to Caroline Wise
about the on-going work to protect Bride’s Mound.
Please note there are several variants of her name. Brigit, Briget, Brighid, Bride, and Bridie are
some of them. We have left these different versions in the text below. This goddess and saint has
spread her light over many centuries and locations, therefore her name, and the spelling of it,
differs as would be expected.
Friends of Bride’s Mound Mission Statement:
To preserve, protect and enhance the land and environment known as Bride's Mound, and to create
and care for the space which is open to all who feel drawn to visit here, regardless of beliefs or
Who are Friends of Bride’s Mound?
Dr Serena Roney-Dougal formed Friends of Bride’s Mound with a group of people local to
Glastonbury in 1995. Its aims were “To preserve, protect and enhance the land known as Bride’s
Mound and its immediate surroundings.”
In 2005, the farmer who owned the land surrounding the Mound gave us the opportunity to purchase
three fields to the west of the Mound, approximately 25 acres. This land included the Ridgefield,
which contains the western end of the Mound and the stone marker known as the Bridie stone. With
the help of the generosity of our friends in giving donations we were able to arrange a private loan
and on 28th April 2005, Friends of Bride’s Mound bought the land. Through buying this land we now
own the western end of the Mound next to the chapel field in which the mound is situated, so we are
in a much better position to negotiate with the South West Regional Development Agency for the
possibility of public access to the Mound.
What is the Mound’s significance in legend and history?
The Bride Stone tells of the existence of Bride’s Well, where the famous and evocative
Glastonbury Blue Bowl was placed by Dr Goodchild. This artefact is now in the guardianship of the
Chalice Well Trust and Dr Goodchild’s ‘Beckery Salmon’. The Bride stone is now at the foot of the
bank of the River Brue.
For the full story of the Blue Bowl and the Beckery Salmon, please refer to Patrick Benham’s
excellent book ‘The Avalonians’
“One of the best known shrines to Bride in the West Country was
that of the Beckery near Glastonbury. The land round there is
still called Brigit’s Isle or Little Ireland – Beg Eri.”
Both William of Malmesbury, c. 1135, and John of Glastonbury, c.1400, wrote of the visit of St.Bride
to Glastonbury in 488 AD where she spent time at the Beckery. There was an oratory dedicated to
Mary Magdalene there. It was common for Celtic-Christian missionaries to visit Glastonbury as
allegedly St. Dunstan was taught by Irish scholars. Relics left by St. Bride were reportedly on
display in the time of William and John and were visited by pilgrims. Their writings tell us that the
Beckery was an important chapel site, a daughter establishment of the abbey. The Beckery is also a
papal charter of 1168, refers to the Beckery as the location as first of the islands in the
Glastonbury Abbey estates.
“Companionship of Bridget of the cows be yours”
A bell known as Bride’s bell is mentioned in Dion Fortune’s ‘Avalon of the Heart’
“St Bride, too, the sweetest of solitaries, had her cell at the Beckery, a low rise of ground beyond
Wearyall. There she left her weaving tools behind her and a few years ago a bronze bell of most
ancient workmanship was found there by a shepherd and was given by him to chalice well for their
chapel, where its two sweet notes used to give the call to prayers, morning and evening. That it was
a woman’s bell is certain, for the finger holes by which it is held are so small that only a woman’s
fingers could use them.”
The bell is now lost, but Alice Buckton, owner of the Chalice Well from 1912 – 1944, can be seen
using it in the film ‘Glastonbury Past and Present’ made in 1932. Whether it was an ancient British
bell or a cowbell is unknown, but Bridget, like the Egyptian goddesses Isis and Hathor, is associated
with cows and the bas-relief carving on St. Michaels Tower on Glastonbury Tor depicts St. Bride
milking a cow.
Pilgrims to Glastonbury are said to have spent the night in vigil in the chapel before processing to
the abbey. If visiting from the west by water, e.g. from Ireland, Bride’s Mound formed the
Western Gateway to the Isle of Avalon.
John of Glastonbury wrote of a special hole in the southern wall of the chapel, a healing hole through
which people crawled when in need of healing. One of Brigit’s attributes is goddess of healing.
Until recently, the fields surrounding Bride’s Mound were known as ‘the Brides’.
What have been the major challenges to the success of the Friends’ aims for Bride’s Mound?
Over the years the position of the site adjacent to what was the derelict Morland’s factory site
has been neglected and subject to development plans which The Friends have opposed in order to
reclaim this sacred site. The Friends campaigned to stop the original owners using part of the
Mound as a car park. This continued with letters and meetings as the land changed hands, which led
to us giving evidence at a public inquiry for the District Local Plan in 2000. We established that the
chapel field was outside the Morland’s development limit and were pleased as the inspector
supported our intentions that this place should be respected for its spiritual significance and stated
that any use of the site which fails to respect the chapel would not be permitted. The Mound itself
is a scheduled ancient monument.
From 2004/5 the South West Regional Development agency wanted a two-storey visitor’s centre on
part of the chapel field and the Friends opposed this. In 2005, in order to purchase the land, the
Friends had to becomes a non-profit making limited company, which has been a hard, challenging
journey for a visionary association and a learning curve for all of us on the Committee. With
ownership has come responsibilities plus being subject to current legislation. We are trying to do
our best for the land being far more official yet keeping alive our vision.
What may happen to the rest of the site, where the well was, and what is the Friends’
Friends of Bride’s Mound aim to preserve, protect and manage the land as a sacred site. Our aim for
Bride’s Mound is for the site and our land to become one, to be used by local community and visitors
of all faiths, whilst keeping the natural simplicity of this special place. Our plans include a herb
garden, orchard, wild flower meadow, and a shrine to house Briget’s perpetual flame. We hope to be
able to improve the land gradually, by planting more trees, have a few seats, and to hold more
events and ceremonies on it. We’d like to make it a natural park. We hope the SWRD agency will
eventually allow us to manage, buy or lease the Mound so there is public access. We have working
parties to tidy up the land.
Much of our time was spent last year in negotiations regarding a Lottery bid proposed scheme which
would have been on our land. The bid was unsuccessful.
The land has been managed organically and its flower rich meadows protected under the
Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA). It has an abundance of wildlife including roe deer, hares,
barn owls, little owls, herons, bats and dragonflies. A ditch between our land and the chapel field,
called a rhyne, locally, is a designated County Wildlife site as it is home to a rare water beetle
There are fantastic views over the Somerset Levels to the West, especially at sunset, and to the
east of Chalice and Wearyall Hills, and The Tor, dominate the landscape.
We will soon be having new gates and pathways for easier access to the land/. Feel free to visit and
enjoy it with us.
More archaeological investigations need to be done and if there is a well or a sluice, we hope to be
able to locate it.
Is it true that two ordained Priestesses in The Fellowship of Isis signed the contract for the
Friends of Bride’s Mound is non-denominational and we hope people of all faiths – and non – will visit
the land. The Celtic Goddess became the Christian Saint Bride thus forming a bridge. Myself, as
Company Secretary, and Joy, who is our Treasurer and Director, signed the contract. It just so
happened that we were both ordained Priestesses in The Fellowship of Isis. This was a very
humbling experience, and made us very aware of our responsibilities. It is awe-inspiring to sign a
contract on behalf of an organisation.
Our main worry is covering our mortgage payments each month. There are also insurance, water
rates, legal and other administrative costs. The Committee run stalls and have done car boot sales,
but this does not raise sufficient funds.
How can we in the wider international Goddess Community help?
By becoming members and/or giving a donation, no matter how small. We hope to be able to cover our
mortgage costs this way. Local members can volunteer help on the land.
Postal address: FOBM, c/o Glastonbury Opportunities,
7 Abbey Mews, 56-58 High Street Glastonbury, BA6 9DY
Call: 01458 835416
Friends of Bride’s Mound events: Imbolc Celebrations, February Ist 2009,
9.30am White Spring Celebration, 10.30 Chalice Well Celebration, 11.30 refreshments,
12 noon, Procession from Chalice Well through town to Bride’s Mound
1pm Celebration of Bride’s Mound with fire ceremony
3pm refreshments at Bridies Yard Food Co-op.
More News. A new publication ‘Did St Bride ever visit Glastonbury?’ by Beth Francis includes
myths, history and archaeology of St Bride’s Mound and is being sold to raise money tor the mound.
£3.99 + 50p p+p from the above address
Serena Roney-Dougal is the author of ‘Where Science and Magic Meet’ Element books 1991, now
published by Vega Books.
'The Avalonians', Patrick Bentham. Gothic Image 1993, revised 2003. For the full extraordinary
story of the Blue Bowl, the Beckery Salmon and Alice Buckton, who wrote a play called the ‘Coming
of Bride’ which is about Briget’s visit to the Beckery.
'Glastonbury Myth and Archaeology’, Philip Rahtz and Lorna Watts Tempus Publishing 1993 revised
2003 for full details of the investigations at The Becker in 1997/8/
This interview first appeared in The Mirror of Isis