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The Glastonbury Thorn Lives On....



15 JANUARY 2013






The Glastonbury Holy Thorn Lives On...


Planting in Glastonbury on 26thJanuary 2013 alongside World Peace Pole


Glastonbury, Somerset - Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre announced today that a Glastonbury Holy Thorn 'World Tree', a descendent of the Holy Thorn that stood on Wearyall Hill is to be planted in the heart of Glastonbury alongside a World Peace Pole on 26th January. The tree has been grown from the severed branches of the iconic thorn that once stood on Wearyall Hill. The thorn was said to have sprung from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, uncle of Jesus, more than 2000 years ago when he came to Britain following the crucifixion. Joseph's story is now the subject of a major Hollywood film - Glastonbury: Isle of Light, due for release in 2013.


In 2010, shock waves rippled around the world when the Glastonbury community woke to find the tree had been brutally vandalised and reduced to a stump in the early hours of a December morning. But all was not lost and Morgana West, Manager of the Pilgrim Reception Centre in Glastonbury arranged with Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew to collect cuttings from the severed branches. These were grafted onto common hawthorn rootstock and nurtured at Kew so that new trees could be provided for the Glastonbury community and continue the lineage of the Wearyall Holy Thorn.


Daniel McNicoll, Writer and Producer of Glastonbury: Isle of Light says; "We are all very grateful to Morgana and Tony for their work in preserving the original Wearyall Holy Thorn, a spiritually beautiful tree that is quite precious to our film script and to the overall story of Somerset."


John Turner. Vice Chairman of Visit Somerset says: "We are delighted that the Pilgrim Reception Centre and Glastonbury has come together in working so hard to reinstate with the help of Kew Gardens this incredibly important piece of Somerset history and to give it the prominence that it deserves within Glastonbury. The eyes of the world are soon to be on Somerset, with the film development Glastonbury: Isle of Light focusing on, in particular Glastonbury and to have this important part of our counties heritage reinstated will be of huge comfort I am sure for all spiritual and religious beliefs and will hopefully attract a great deal of positive and constructive interest in the coming months.


Tony Kirkham,Head Arboretum at the Royal BotanicGardens,Kew says: "The Glastonbury thorn is one of our iconic trees in the British Isles, with legends relating to the arrival of Christianity and traditions of sending flowering sprigs to the Queen on Christmas day and Easter. We were extremely pleased to be able to assist with preserving the original tree at Wearyall Hill by propagating it using the damaged branches in our woody plant nursery at Kew. With the new tree planted back in Glastonbury along with several others in different locations, we hope that the Glastonbury story will continue for the monarchy and many others to enjoy".


The event is being organised by the Pilgrim Reception Centre, an organisation supportive of all faiths and beliefs.  Tatomir Ion-Marius, Romanian World Peace Ambassador visited the organisation recently and raised awareness of the Peace Pole Project. Morgana felt that by placing one alongside a new Glastonbury Thorn, a strong message of Peace and Unity through Diversity will be conveyed to the town and its visitors and says; "More than 70 faiths and beliefs are upheld in Glastonbury,a greater concentration per capita than anywhere else in the world. Following the success of our event ‘Glastonbury2012: Unity through Diversity' devised by the former Mayor of Glastonbury Bill Knight, where many representatives of our diverse community gathered together in celebration, Glastonbury is now being given the opportunity to send this message out into the world.


The Glastonbury Thorn is an internationally significant tree to many people and the event, which will be attended by our diverse community, offers a simple but key message showing that the branches of the Glastonbury Thorn all grow from one stem. The message of Unity through Diversity recognises that whilst we might all be different and go in our own direction, we are all part of the same source, stretching towards the same sky with our roots in the same earth.


The Glastonbury Thorn World Tree and the Peace Pole will be planted in front of a ‘Glastonbury Bench' in an open, public place close to Glastonbury Abbey, ensuring that all visitors and residents have the opportunity to see and feel the message right in the heart of the town.




An Opening Ceremony involving the internationally renowned Glastonbury Candle will take place in Glastonbury Town Hall at 2.30pm. Representatives of Faiths, Paths and Organisations in Glastonbury will be invited to be in attendance.  Members of the community and other interested organisations outside of the Glastonbury community will also be warmly welcomed.


A procession will lead from the Town Hall to the planting site where a short, simple Planting Ceremony of the Glastonbury Thorn World Tree and the Peace Pole will take place.






Manager- Morgana West

Mobile: 07708 239 155






Glastonbury reached its peak as a centre of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages with the needs of pilgrims being met by the monks of the Benedictine Abbey. Today in the twenty-first century, there has been a huge resurgence of interest in the town as a centre for spiritual seekers. However, instead of a centre of Christian pilgrimage, Glastonbury has  now fully emerged as a place that recognises and honours all faiths, beliefs and paths.


The increasing number of visitors, interested in the spiritual and healing aspects of the town, led to an awareness that a centre specialising in informing and supporting ‘pilgrim' visitors would be of value to both visitors and the community alike.


In 2008, Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre (The PRC), an organisation supportive of all faiths and beliefs, first opened its doors. Since those early beginnings, the PRC has gone from strength to strength with its activities continuing to expand as more and more areas of need are identified. Both its unique position of supporting and welcome all beliefs and its community focussed work have meant the PRC has established itself as an essential Glastonbury organisation.


Staffing The PRC has five volunteer management team members, all of whom coordinate the running of the organisation. There are two part-time paid staff members and the Centre is kept open by twenty-five volunteers, all of whom have experience in meeting the needs of pilgrim visitors and all of them from many different spiritual/religious backgrounds.





Legend tells us that following the crucifixion of Christ, his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, arrived at Glastonbury with twelve companions. Tired and weary, Joseph thrust his staff into the ground on Wearyall Hill, where it took root and flourished. During the time of the English Civil War, between 1642 and 1651, the Thorn that stood on the hill at the time was cut down by one of Cromwell's soldiers on the grounds that it was a relic of superstition. It is said that as it fell, its thorns blinded the axe man in one eye.


The Thorn was once believed to blossom on Christmas Day. In 1753, the British Calendar was altered to bring us into line with Europe and eleven days were dropped from the month of September. The Glastonbury Thorn, which flowered on Christmas Day Old Style, was closely observed and it was rumoured that thousands of people flocked to the town to see whether it would stick to its principles and blossom on the old day, or cave in to Parliament and blossom on the new one. ‘The Gentleman's Magazine' a publication of that time, reported:"A vast concourse of people attended the noted thorn on Christmas-day, new style; but, to their great disappointment, there was no appearance of its blowing, which made them watch it narrowly the 5th of January, the Christmas-day, old style, when it blowed as usual.

"Gentleman's Magazine January 1753


A sprig of the winter blossom is traditionally cut from the Thorn in St. John's churchyard and sent to the reigning monarch, maintaining the continuation of an old tradition initiated by James Montague, bishop of Bath and Wells, when he sent a branch to Queen Anne, consort of James I (1566 - 1625). At the end of term, the pupils of St. John's School gather round the tree and sing carols, including one specially written for the occasion. The oldest pupil has the privilege of cutting a sprig of the Thorn which is then taken to London and presented to the Queen, where it resides on her Christmas Day breakfast table.


The thorn is a variety known asCrataegus monogyna var, biflora, (or Crataegus oxyacantha praecox)usually seen in the Middle East. It is unusual in that it flowers twice a year, in spring and again in winter, when the fruits of the spring blossoms are still the tree. The average life span of the tree is approximately 100 years and this particular one, a direct descendant of the original, was planted on Wearyall Hill in 1952. A previous one had been planted in 1951 to commemorate the Festival of Britain. However, it didn't take and was replaced a year later.


Other descendants can also be found in St. John's churchyard, the Abbey, the gardens of Chalice Well, the grounds of the Abbey Barn (Rural Life Museum) and in private gardens around the town. Many have tried to grow the Glastonbury Thorn from seed and direct ctings, but it can only be grown by being grafted onto the common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna.




The previous iconic Glastonbury Holy Thorn, which had stood on Wearyall Hill since 1952, was vandalised with a chain saw during the night on 8th December 2010 and reduced to a stump. Shock waves rippled around the world at the attack and Glastonbury Abbey was asked to safeguard the branches on behalf of the community.


But all was not lost and Morgana West, Manager at Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre arranged for Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, to visit Glastonbury and take cuttings from the severed branches that had been entrusted to Glastonbury Abbey for safekeeping.


Despite the severe snow and hazardous road conditions, Tony and his Head of Nursery, Tony Hall, travelled from London on a flying visit to Glastonbury. They returned to Kew with several scions and grafted them onto Hawthorn rootstock so that new Glastonbury Thorns could be grown from the severed branches on behalf of the community. Several of the scions have now grown into healthy saplings and will soon be ready for planting.


On 22nd March 2012, concerned they were going to rot, the severed branches were handed over by Glastonbury Abbey into the custodianship of Morgana West. The Abbey felt that the PRC was the most suitable organisation to represent the community in that it will recognise and honour the spirituality of all the people of Glastonbury and the importance and significance of the tree to many people from all walks of life.


A replacement Holy Thorn was quietly planted on Wearyall Hill on 1st April 2012 by the landowners working with Glastonbury Conservation Society and blessed by Revd. David MacGeoch, Vicar of Glastonbury, linking the tree to its historical past. Whilst not from the 1952 - 2010 tree, the new Thorn came from a Devon nursery, whose parent tree came from Glastonbury Abbey via Oxford Botanic Garden. > The Glastonbury community awoke on 16th April to find the new tree had also been severely damaged. The stem was snapped off about 18 inches from the ground and has not survived. A quote from Morgana went worldwide stating; "Mindless at it seems, they can never damage the ‘Glastonbury Thorn'. More than just a tree, it is a symbol of the good things in our community and in the wider world around us. Whilst there are those who might ‘hack away', they can never destroy what is in people's hearts and hopes.>> >> >> >On 15th December 2012, another new Glastonbury Holy Thorn was planted on the slopes of Bere Lane recreational park - owned by Glastonbury Town Council. In attendance were Ian Tucker - Mayor of Glastonbury, Revd David MacGeoch - Vicar of Glastonbury, Morgana and the Glastonbury Unity Candle, Dreow Bennett - Archdruid of Ynis Witrin, Cllr Denise Michell and Cllr. John Brunsdon. Members of the community were also in attendance, including children carrying lanterns from Glastonbury Abbey's Lantern Parade and all had processed through the town to the planting site. Everyone was invited to help plant it into the ground by adding a handful of the soil. The new tree has been nurtured and donated by Cllr. Brunsdon. Whilst it is not one of those being cultivated by the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew and Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre (from scions of the vandalised Wearyall Thorn) it is a strong and healthy tree and planted in a position felt to help it become the 'Town Tree'.




Peace Poles are four sided poles standing six feet high displaying the message‘May Peace Prevail On Earth'in different languages on each side and are now recognised as the most prominent international symbol and monument to peace. The Peace Pole Project started in 1976 to spread the message ‘May Peace Prevail On Earth.' and symbolise the oneness of humanity and our common wish for a world at peace. They remind us to think, speak and act in the spirit of peace and harmony and stand as a silent visual for peace to prevail on earth. They are planted wherever people wish to see this message radiate out into the world, in parks, schools, places of worship, hotels, gardens and even on mountain tops. There are now over 250,000 around the world.




The Glastonbury Unity Candle is a 12x2" blue candle and produced by Starchild in Glastonbury. Held in a large glass lantern, it travels all over the town to different organisations and events.  It arrives unlit so that each can re-ignite the flame and recall that we all come from the same spark.   Infused with herbs, trees and flowers, including the Glastonbury Thorn, its striking colour recalls the livery of the town's Pilgrim Reception Centre. The Candle is the brainchild of Morgana West, manager of the PRC who says it ‘communicates a message of harmony, understanding and healing straight from the heart of Glastonbury and out into the world.'