Terror at the Tor


Marco’s Pendulum
by Thom Madley
Usborne 2006

The cover blurb gives it away: Is the Holy Grail buried at Glastonbury, or something much darker? Well, of course, you know the answer to that, because this would otherwise be a rather tame young adult novel.

Townies Marco and Rosa find themselves separately set down in Somerset, both saddled with parents who don’t seem to understand them and set about both by bullies and by strange and very unsettling psychic experiences.

Pretty soon they find themselves thrown together and flung into a claustrophobic labyrinth under Glastonbury itself (reminiscent of the endings of both Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen) in a narrative that is hard to put down and preferably not to be read at night. Well, not by adults anyway.

Continue reading “Terror at the Tor”

Historical whodunit not for the po-faced

Templar Head of Christ displayed in Templecombe church, Somerset


Michael Clynes The Grail Murders Headline Books 1993

It is 1522 and Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham has just been beheaded for treason. Soon afterwards Cardinal Wolsey’s spies start to be bumped off one by one, apparently in revenge for Buckingham’s execution. Buckingham himself was searching for two objects in darkest Somerset and seems to have been in cahoots with a powerful secret society, supposedly disbanded for two centuries. Under pain of execution two investigators, Benjamin Daunbey and Roger Shallot, are ordered by Henry VIII to find these two missing relics — the Grail, the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper, and Excalibur, the fabled sword of King Arthur — and foil the Templar plot against the Tudors. Along the way there is a lot of intrigue and action before matters are finally resolved. Or not.

First, the good news. Continue reading “Historical whodunit not for the po-faced”

Chronicles, cranks and the credulous

1935 reconstruction by A E Henderson of Glastonbury Abbey before the Dissolution
A E Henderson’s 1935 reconstruction of Glastonbury Abbey before the Dissolution of the Monasteries

James P Carley
The Chronicle of Glastonbury Abbey:
An Edition, Translation and Study of John of Glastonbury’s

Cronica sive Antiquitates Glastoniensis Ecclesie

The Boydell Press 1985

Glastonbury has long been a Mecca for seekers after arcane knowledge, and certainly its reputation for being a world centre for occult teachings, legends and geomancy increased immeasurably after the middle of the 20th century with hippies, New Agers, latter-day druids and would-be witches making it not only a port of call but somewhere to settle. But belief in its mystic significance is not a modern phenomenon as this scholarly text — which I first reviewed in 1986 — makes crystal clear.

Professor Carley first edited the text of a 14th-century work, Cronica sive Antiquitates Glastoniensis Ecclesie, in 1978 for British Archaeological Reports, and that text reappears here with a very readable translation by David Townsend. Over a third of the book is taken up with introductions, notes, bibliography and index, which are not only valuable for the student but thought-provoking for the interested lay-person. I shall return to these later.

The bulk of the book is composed of Continue reading “Chronicles, cranks and the credulous”