Not on display
The profile of the distant Tor and the position of the church tower towards the left of its summit indicate that it is seen from the north-west across the Somerset Levels, probably from the hills around Cheddar Gorge (extensively recorded on the same tour in the Stonehenge sketchbook: Tate; Turner Bequest CXXV b), about ten miles away. There is a westwards view towards the coast from Cheddar on folio 121 recto (D08592; CXXIII 118), and possibly another view of the Tor on folio 158 verso (D08659; CXXIII 155a).
Turner’s inscription ‘Avalon’ or a close variation shows an awareness of the traditional identification of Glastonbury as the Isle of Avalon in Arthurian legend. He could have read of it in Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion, in the comprehensive 1795 Anderson edition of British Poets, which he may have owned as early as 1798.1 In the ‘Third Song’, first published in 1612, Drayton’s Muse travels to ‘Avalon to Arthur’s grave’, later described as ‘aged Avalon’ and footnoted as Glastonbury, while in his accompanying explanatory ‘Illustrations’ John Selden gives an account of the supposed medieval discovery there of the remains of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.2