Southwest from the town is WEARYALL-HILL, an eminence so called (if we will believe the monkish writers) from St. Joseph and his companions sitting down here all weary with their journey. Here St. Joseph stuck his stick into the earth, which, although a dry hawthorn staff, thenceforth grew, and constantly budded on Christmas-day. It had two trunks or bodies, till the time of Queen Elizabeth, when a puritan exterminated one, and left the other, which was of the size of a common man, to be viewed in wonder by strangers; and the blossoms thereof were esteemed such curiosities by people of all nations, that the Bristol merchants made a traffick of them, and exported them into foreign parts. In the great rebellion, during the time of King Charles I. the remaining trunk of this tree was also cut down; but other trees from its branches are still growing in many gardens of Glastonbury, and in the different nurseries of this kingdom. It is probable that the monks of Glastonbury procured this tree from Palestine, where abundance of the same sort grow, and flower about the same time. Where this thorn grew is said to have been a nunnery dedicated to St. Peter, without the pale of Weriel-Park, belonging to the abbey.
Besides this holy thorn, there grew in the abbey-church-yard, on the north side of St. Joseph’s chapel, a miraculous walnut-tree, which never budded forth before the feast of St. Barnabas, viz. the eleventh of June; and on that very day shot forth leaves and flourished like its usual species. This tree is also gone, and in the place thereof stands a very fine walnut-tree of the common sort.
It is strange to say how much both these trees were sought after by the credulous, and though the former was a common thorn, and the latter not an uncommon walnut, Queen Anne, King James, and many of the nobility of the realm, even when the times of monkish superstition had ceased, gave large sums of money for small cuttings from the original.
Alleged offspring of the thorn, a long way from Wearyall Hill, but still in Somerset, just west of Crewkerne.
"Pulman's Weekly News says that a piece of the original Glastonbury Thorn is growing in the garden of a cottage between Hewish and Woolmingston. For several years past, the tree - or, rather, a small bush - has been visited at midnight on Old Christmas Eve by people who vow that the bush actually blossomed while they were watching it, and became bare again shortly afterwards.
On Friday night, the number of 'pilgrims' to this shrine was at least 200 - from Crewkerne, Misterton, and other places - and those who came to scoff remained - if not 'to pray' at least to be convinced of the wonderful phenomenon. They say that at half-past eleven not a sign of a flower could be seen, but that at midnight every twig of one side of the bush was covered with delicately-tinted May light blossoms."
This paragraph appeared in a Crewkerne paper, and was copied, among others, by a Yeovil paper having a circulation of some 25,000 copies in Somerset and the neighbouring counties. Strange to say, however, it has not been contradicted nor even queried so far as I have been able to ascertain. The natives seem quite capable of "swallowing" the above and a great deal more about "the holy thorn." This notice in a scientific journal may be the means of causing some of your curious readers to endeavour to throw a little light on this superstition or phenomenon - whichever they may decide it to be. -- W. Macmillan, Castle Cary.
My Curiosity having led me twice to Glastonbury within these two Years, and inquiring there into the Antiquity, History and Rarities of the Place, I was told by the Inn-keeper, where I set up my Horses,who rents a considerable Part of the Inclosure of the late dissolved Abbey, "That St. Joseph of Arimathaea landed not far from the Town, at a Place, where there was an Oak planted in memory of his landing, called the Oak of Avalon: That he and his Companions march'd thence to a Hill, near a Mile on the South side of the Town, and there being weary rested themselves, which gave the Hill the Name of Weary all Hill [...]"
and in the very Place where they rested there sprung up a miraculous Thorn Tree, which every Year at Christmas in the coldest Year and Weather, Frost, Snow or what ever else, never failed budding forth Leaves and Flowers [...]
The Holy Thorn of Glastonbury, mentioned [..] to bud and blow Yearly upon Christmas Day, grew on the South Ridge of Weary all Hill, at present called Werrall Park, a Ground now, or lately belonging to William Stroud, Esq. Whether it sprung from St. Joseph of Arimathaea's dry Staff, stuck by him on the Ground, when he rested there, I cannot find; but, beyond all dispute, it sprung up miraculously.
It had two Trunks or Bodies till the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, in whose days a Saint like Puritan, taking offence at it, hewed down the biggest of the two Trunks, and had cut down the other Body in all likelyhood, had he not bin miraculously punished (saith my Author) by cutting his Leg, and one of the Chips flying up to his Head, which put out one of his eyes.
Though the trunk cut off was separated quite from the Root, excepting a little of the Bark, which stuck to the rest of the Body, and laid above the Ground above thirty years together; yet it still continued to flourish, as the other Part of it did which was left standing; and after this again, when it was quite taken away and cast into a Ditch, it flourished and budded as it used to do before. A Year after this, it was stolen away, not known by whom or whither; as many old Persons affirmed to Mr. Broughton, who went on purpose to Glastonbury to see this, and the other Curiosities and Antiquities of the Place.
The remaining Trunk and the Place where it grew Mr. Broughton describes, and says, "That it was as great as the ordinary Body of a man; That it was a Tree of that kind and species, in all natural respects, which we term a White Thorn; but it was so cut and mangled round about in the Bark, by engraving Peoples Names resorting thither to see it, that it was a wonder, how the Sap and Nutriment should be diffused from the Root to the Boughs and Branches therof, which were also so maimed and broken by Comers thither, that he wondred, how it could continue any Vegetation, or grow at all, yet the Arms and Boughs were spread and dilated, in a circular Manner, as far or farther, than other Trees, freed from such Impediments of like Proportion, bearing Hawes (Fruit of that kind) as fully and plentifully as others do. In a word, That the Blossoms of this Tree were such Curiosities beyond Seas, that the Bristol Merchants carried them into Foreign Parts; That it grew upon (or rather neer) the Top of an Hill, in a Pasture bare and naked of other Trees, and was a Shelter for Cattle feeding there, by reason whereof, the Pasture being great and the Cattle many, round about the Tree the Ground was bare and beaten as any Highway, Floor, or any continued trodden Place: yet this Trunk was likewise cut down by a Military Saint, as Mr. Andrew Paschal calls him, in the Rebellion which happened in King Charles the first's time;
however, there are, at present, divers Trees from it by grafting and Inoculation preserved in the Town and Countrey adjacent. Amongst other Places, there is one in the Garden of a Currier named [blank] living in the principle Street; a second at the White Hart Inn; and a third in the Garden of William Strode, Esq. There is a Person about Glastonbury, who has a Nursery of them, who (Mr. Paschal tells us, he is informed) sells them for a Crown a peece, or as he can get.