The most visibly historic building in the parish is the Abbots Fish House. It sits all alone in a field at the Eastern end of Meare and is the only medieval monastic fish house surviving in the UK.
Built between 1322 to 1355 around the same time as the current church building and Manor Farm House next door, it was commissioned by Adam of Sodbury, the Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, as part of the manorial complex which made up his summer residence.
The building has two storeys. The upper level is an apartment for the chief fisherman. The basement stores the tools, nets, and equipment for fishing on the adjacent Meare Pool, and barrels of salt for the storage of the catch.
Between the building and the pool once ran a short cutting so that boats could pass right up to the building to unload. Its just about visible on the picture below running left of the Fish House. Around the building were several smaller pools used to hold live fish. Next to the fish house used to be a boat house and a shed, but these features no longer exist except as bumps in the ground.
The building fell into disrepair and had a fire which gutted the original roof. From the 1850’s repairs were made and in 1911 it was transferred to state ownership, had a new roof put on it, and is now in the care of English Heritage.
It can be visited at any reasonable time. To go inside, you can ask for the key from the Manor Farm House next door.
The Manor Farm House is a private grade I listed dwelling now. The stone figure wearing robes and a mitre carved above the porch is believed to represent the Abbot Richard Whiting who was the last Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey before it was dissolved, ruined and the Abbot executed on top of Glastonbury Tor. The numerous architectural changes around the windows are easily visible.
(content and image: S.Edwards)