The Tribunal in Glastonbury, Somerset, England, was built in the 15th century as a merchant’s house. It has been designated as a Grade I listed building. The history of the building is not well documented, although the majority of the present stone house was constructed in the 15th century on the site of a 12th-century wooden building. The current front wall was added in the 16th century. It has been used as a merchant’s house and possibly a shop and school. It was thought that it was the venue for court proceedings, hence the title Tribunal, however there is no evidence this ever occurred. One of the ground floor rooms still has the window and ceiling panels from the Elizabethan era. The front room upstairs has an arched braced, wooden, truss roof. . . . The house owes its name to the fact that it was formerly mistakenly identified with the Abbey’s tribunals, where secular justice was administered for Glaston Twelve Hides. The name may have been first used by John Collinson in his History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset in 1791, however when investigated by Richard Warner in 1826 he could not identify where the name had originated. It was also thought to be the site of trials by Judge Jeffreys for the Bloody Assizes after the Monmouth Rebellion.
The current building was constructed in the 15th century on the site of a wooden building dating from the 12th century. In the 16th century a new facade was added to the original building. It is possible that the stonework and window of the front wall were removed from the abbot’s lodgings behind the great kitchen of the Abbey as similar features can be identified in a 1712 engraving, and it is known that the building was ruined and without its front wall by 1723. The door is original and above it are a Tudor rose and the arms of Richard Beere who was Abbot of Glastonbury from 1493 to 1524.
The well-preserved Glastonbury Tribunal is thought to have been a 15th-century merchant’s house and a residence for one of Glastonbury Abbey’s officials.
The name ‘Tribunal’ comes from the belief that the building once housed the abbey’s tribunals, a courtroom where justice was administered for managing the abbey’s vast estates. More recent historical research suggests that the building was not, in fact, used as a tribunal, but the name is so well-established that it will probably be known as the Glastonbury Tribunal as long as it stands.
The facade facing onto the High Street is typical of late medieval and Tudor houses at ground level. A projecting bay was added at first-floor level in the early years of the 16th century and you can clearly see where the addition joins to the older medieval stonework. Over the doorway are heraldic shields carved with symbols of the Tudor rose and the arms of Abbot Beer, who died in 1524. The ground floor has internal divisions added in the centuries following construction. One ground-floor room retains its fireplace and you can see linenfold panelling below the window opening. You can easily spot places where corbels helped support an upper floor, and where the medieval stairs stood. The rear ground-floor chamber has a panelled ceiling.
The building is a typical late medieval house, with a separate kitchen block at the rear. A passage leads from the front door through to the courtyard at the back. The present façade with its projecting first-floor bay was added in the early 16th century: the construction joints are clearly visible in the masonry. The Tudor rose and the badge of Abbot Beer (died 1524) have been reset over the entrance to the passage. Within the house, several internal partitions were added when the building was let to different tenants later in its history.
The ground-floor front room retains its arched fireplace with recesses on either side, and below the window the wooden panels, carved to imitate linen folds, date from the 16th century. Scars on the wall show the location of the medieval stairs, and corbels or supports mark the position of an upper floor. The room at the back was the main chamber and has a fine panelled ceiling; the four-light window in the north wall is original, while those in the east and west walls were inserted in the 17th century. The kitchen block at the back of the house is a separate building added in Elizabethan times. The first floor, which now houses the Lake Village Museum, repeats the arrangement of the ground floor. The main room at the front extends over the entrance passage and retains its fine original open roof.