Another little piece of alternative history… the story of one of the most elegant yet enigmatic great houses to be found on the wilds of Exmoor.
The original Glenthorne estate was created by the Rev Walter Stevenson Halliday, son of a Scottish naval surgeon and banker, who made a fortune during the Napoleonic Wars and died in 1829. Having resigned from the Church on inheriting his father’s fortune, Halliday chose to invest in a country estate and eventually settled near Countisbury, where he gradually bought the entire parish – some 7,000 acres in all – and became the local squire.
Less well known is a possible reason for the spot that he chose to build his home, the seat of the estate on the Devon/Somerset border. A magnificent mansion standing totally isolated on the cliffs looking out over the Bristol Channel to the far coast of Wales, twenty miles distant. It is well known that William Blake’s dramatic poem ‘Jerusalem‘, familiar nowadays as an oft-sung hymn, was based on the myth that Christ himself may have visited Glastonbury with Joseph of Arimathea and ‘walked on England’s mountains green‘.
The myth on which the Reverend Halliday may have been relying on was as follows. Nowadaysit is seldom repeated but it was well known on 19th century Exmoor.
Joseph of Arimathea did indeed visit Glastonbury with the boy Jesus. As their boat sailed up the channel the crew complained that they were running low on water and becoming parched. They put in to the shore on a shingle beach at the base of a high cliff. The same landing spot as would be suitable and utilised for the delivery of the building materials used to build the mansion.
Not finding any form of stream from which to replenish their water barrels, either Joseph or Jesus himself drove their staff into the ground and a stream started to flow. The staff itself proceeded to flower and does so every year around Christmas time, still believed to be growing, unlike the rather better-known Glastonbury equivalent. Hence the name, “Glenthorne,” and the choice of site for the building. despite the difficulty of supplying the men and materials for such an undertaking at that time.
About the author
Originally from North Devon I moved to a place I was not even aware of located in the Heart of England. I found, to my surprise a beautiful county where all the things in which I was interested were within easy reach thus giving me inspiration to indulge my numerous hobbies and provide nutritious fodder for my writing attempts. Notes and ideas picked up and jotted down whilst walking to and around our wonderful panoply of sacred sites, places of beauty and country pubs provide ample inspiration. My camera, notebook and pen my constant companions. I have an eclectic taste in music and literature and each day is charted for me by a daily personal Tarot spread. Every week I read and enjoy the posts of my followed writers and one day hope to emulate their fascinating works of the word-conjuror’s art.
How did your granny predict the weather? What did your great uncle Albert tell you about the little green men he saw in the woods that night? What strange creature stalks the woods in your area?
So many of these old stories are slipping away for want of being recorded. legendary creatures, odd bits of folklore, folk remedies and charms, and all the old stories that brought our landscape to life…
Tell me a story, share memories of the old ways that are being forgotten, share the folklore of your home. I am not looking for fiction with this feature, but for genuine bits of folklore, old wives tales, folk magic and local legends. Why not share what you know and preserve it for the future?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put ‘Living Lore’ in the subject line. All I need is your article, bio and links, along with any of your own images you would like me to include and I’ll do the rest.