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History of the Glastonbury Pilgrimage

Before the annual Pilgrimage started in 1924, there were three great occasions in Glastonbury, all worth recalling. After the 1897 Lambeth Conference, when the Abbey was still owned by the Austin family, 130 Bishops including 32 from the United States came to Glastonbury, many taking the 0940 from Waterloo on the 3rd August at the cost of a guinea, and arriving three and a half hours later.

After lunch, they repaired to St John's to robe and at 3.15 processed to the Abbey for Evensong. The Archbishop of Canterbury presided and the Bishop of Stepney preached. After tea with the Austins at what is now the Abbey Retreat House, their hosts collected them for the night and next day attended services at Wells Cathedral.

The next occasion in 1907. followed the purchase of Abbey House, Ruins and Gardens for £30,000 by Mr Jardine, Tory candidate for East Somerset, on behalf of the Bishop of Bath & Wells. On the 11th October, 1908 after the money had been raised by Dr Kennion, a service of Thanksgiving before a congregation of 2000 was held in the Abbey, following a procession from St John. The last great pre-Pilgrimage event was on 22nd June 1909 when the Prince and Princess of Wales, (later King George V and Queen Mary) visited Wells to celebrate the millennary of the founding of the Diocese.

In Wells it rained. After lunch they came across to Glastonbury and the sun shone. The Prince and Princess opened the 'new' Abbey entrance. Following the procession from St John, a service was held in the Choir and Nave, seats in the former costing 10/-, 5/-, and 2/6d or in the Nave at a 1/-. Standing room was 6d. The deeds of the Abbey were formally presented by Dr Kennion to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Davidson, before their Royal Highnesses, 30 Bishops and a large congregation.

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