Originally owned by the abbots of Glastonbury, The Meare Fish House is located on a small hill 3.3 miles to the northwest of Glastonbury Abbey. It used to overlook the ponds that once provided fish for the monastic order however the lake was drained between 1530 and 1718 and is now farmland. A few surviving earthworks reveal the sizeable extent of the boundary. The Abbot’s Fish House was constructed between 1322 and 1335 – largely during the administration of Abbot Adam de Sodbury who was also responsible for the vaulting in the nave of Glastonbury Abbey and the gift of a statue of the Virgin Mary. As construction may have started as early as 1322 it is likely that the building was conceived on the instructions of the previous abbot, John of Kent. It is believed to be the only remaining structure of its kind in England and is currently recognised as both a Scheduled Ancient Monument and as a Grade I listed building.
The Fish House provided a dedicated facility where fish and eels from the nearby lake could be salted, dried and prepared for storage. When not in use, nets and other fishing equipment were stored on the ground floor while the upper level was used as a residence by the abbot’s water bailiff and chief fisherman – a person tasked with the responsibility of protecting the lake and its environment from poachers and other threats. The position of water bailiff still exists today at many locations around Britain.The size and quality of the building reflects the importance that the Benedictine monks placed on this resource that was often admired and on occasions became the subject of ownership disputes. The creation of the Abbot’s Fish House may have also been a way for the Glastonbury order to assert their ownership of the lake. Fish that were commonly prepared at the building included pike, bream, doctor fish and eels of all sizes.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1547 the Meare (lake) was granted to Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector. It remained in his family until the 18th century. During this time the lake was slowly drained and the land converted to farming. The building fell into ruin over the centuries. It was originally restored in 1911 by the Ministry of Works and is now looked after by English Heritage.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Mendip Heights, Townsend Lane, Priddy Wells
Somerset, England, BA5 3BP
+44 (0)1749 870 241
- Address: Porter's hatch Rd. (Off) St. Marys Road, Meare, Glastonbury, Somerset, England, UK, BA6 9SB
- GPS: 51.17220833,-2.776597222
- Phone: 0044 (0)117 9750 700
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: BA6 9SB
- Entrance Fees: Free
- Disabled Access: Wheel chair access limited due to narrow gate
- Visibility from Road: Excellent
- Image Credits: Header Image: Mark Eastment