top of page

Our  History & Heritage

Our countryside demesne.
A land of legend.

Charlton House Hotel & Spa sits within an ancient landscape steeped in Pagan mythology and Arthurian legend. There are low-lying levels, untouched expanses of heathland, reedbeds, and rolling hills rich in black peat and cloaked in dense, green vegetation. Much of the landscape was engineered to improve navigability in centuries past, the shallow waters of the Avalon Marshes being traversed first by a Neolithic trackway (arguably the world’s oldest), then drained by the industrious monks of the ruinous Abbey. Some features, including the remarkable Cheddar Gorge, are the products of protracted geological and hydro-meteorological changes since the last Ice Age. The most iconic aspects of this famous panorama are a blend of the two.


The more perceptive visitor may spy Glastonbury Tor on a walk starting and ending at our countryside retreat: its prominent hill-like silhouette is visible for miles around. To many this is not only a fascinating natural feature, however - an ancient island marooned in a long-lost sea - but a source of spiritual and psychological release. Topped by the Gothic St. Michael’s Tower - a monument to the archangel watching over Christendom -  and hewed by medieval strip lynchets, traditional Somerset cider orchards, and working farmland, it tells the story of dramatic social and economic change. It also stands testament to the many fabled exploits of the Celtic King Arthur and his knights, the oft-cited Isle of Avalon where he and Queen Guinevere were laid to rest, along, some say, with the fantastical Holy Grail.


Head down to the low-lying damps at the foot of the Tor and you might just experience an optical phenomenon known as Fata Morgana, where its silhouette appears to rise from the earth. Science attributes this to rays of light being tensed as it passes through atmospheric layers of different temperatures. Its etymologist, however, duly attributed it to the powerful local sorceress Morgan le Fay, who sought her monarch's downfall. 


It is understandable to think that the Neo-Pagan movements of the Victorian, Edwardian, and interwar periods sprung from this fruitful spring. Theories around lay lines and spiritual energy have long-standing roots in Somerset lore. What is perhaps more surprising is the scale to which the Wicca and Spirualist element of the New Age movement would eventually mushroom.


Vestiges of the Neo-Pagans of the 1960s are reflected in the focus of  local shops and business, and in Glastonbury Festival, which even to this day boasts Stone Circle and Healing Field sections. With its notorious Pyramid Stage hosting musicians of international renown, it is by some measures the largest festival in the world, but it remains tied to its ancient surroundings.


Why not stay with us and take the plunge into the depths of Glastonbury’s unusual heritage? With a relaxing thermal spa offering a range of treatments, we can help you relax and detox in preparation for your modern-day pilgrimage into Avalon and beyond. World-class local attractions include the Roman Baths, Wells Cathedral, and the old East Somerset Steam Railway.

Image by Nik

Our Grade II listed hotel makes an interesting contribution to the unique architectural heritage of Somerset. It’s not much like the Classical townhouses in spectacular Bath, the planned Georgian city laying claim to two UNESCO World Heritage inscriptions which lies only a short car journey away. Nor does it bear a resemblance with the Gothic gatehouses, churches, and cottage buildings in more local, medieval Wells. Rather, it has been noted that it is of a style quite particularly its own.


In a characteristically succinct entry to the South Somerset edition of his Buildings of England series, Pevsner speculates on the origins of the unusual piece of architecture, but he doesn’t get far. Starting with the knowledge that a manor house was erected on the site under the Tudors, he sets about making assertions about the origins of various parts of the building.


Much of the fabric dates from the beginning of the nineteenth-century, he recommends, when the bulk of the exterior was rebuilt, as well as the interior dividing walls, the fireplaces, and the staircase. The ornate, iron-forged orangery dates from this period, and might therefore also be designated as Georgian. The porch is Victorian. All the same, there are elements that contradict the view that the house was rebuilt in its entirety.


The north front appears to be Elizabethan, some of the string-coursing is recycled Jacobean, and a wall on the east wing dates from the reign of Henry VIII. It is possible to see evidence of timber-framed construction in some of our rooms, but the structure of the house remains something of a mystery, even to more esteemed architectural historians and archaeologists.


What we do know is that, in the years since Charlton House was converted from an aristocrat's residence to a luxury hotel in 1965, we have hosted a number of illustrious guests. The Duke of Edinburgh visited on more than one occasion; Sir Cliff Richard is thought to have been a regular guest. Interestingly and perhaps most fittingly, the then King of Thailand is purported to have been impressed by the place. The southeast Asian connection is manifestly not as novel as it seems.

Our storied manor house
A place of mystery.

Private Photography
bottom of page