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The chapels on Beckery island have been uncovered again for the first time in 50 years. Glastonbury Abbey sources from the 12th century link the chapel to King Arthur, who had a vision of Mary Magdelene and the infant Jesus there, and to the Irish Saint Brigit, who is said to have visited in 488 AD and left some items behind. In the Medieval period the chapel was dedicated to Brigit and became a place of pilgrimage to visit her relics.
The new investigations were undertaken by the South West Heritage Trust as a community training excavation, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership.
The early Norman and late 13th century (poss. 1274 AD rebuild) chapel walls were exposed and human remains excavated from the earlier cemetery. Analysis of those remains will provide the first precise dating evidence for the cemetery, which is thought to be part of a small Saxon monastery. Study of isotopes may also reveal if they had come to the site from distant areas. Other trenches investigated things seen on a geophysical survey (by Geoflo Ltd) – another medieval stone building, which looks to be 13th-14th century in date, and an enclosing ditch which proved to be of similar date.
Several hundred people visited the dig open day. Interim results will be presented on a special day at the nearby Red Brick building in the autumn and a local lecture given in 2017.
SWHT manage the site on behalf of Somerset County Council who own the land. It is intended to mark out the site of the chapel on the ground surface and show a revised plan of what we know on the interpretation board beside it. On the former tip site to the south an orchard has been planted and we had just grafted some traditional varieties onto the root stock.