River Brue originates in the parish of Brewham in Somerset, England, and reaches
the sea some 50 km west at Burnham-on-Sea. It originally took a different route from
Glastonbury to the sea, but this was changed by the monastery
in the twelfth century.
Brue originates in the same hills as King Alfred's Tower and the sources of the River
Wylye and the Dorset
Stour. It falls quickly in a narrow valley to a
point just beyond Bruton where it is
joined by the River Pitt. Here is takes a meandering route through a
broad, flat-bottomed valley between Castle Cary and Alhampton. By the time it reaches Baltonsborough it is only some 10m above sea level and the
surrounding countryside is drained into it by way of numerous
rhynes. It passes Glastonbury before flowing in a largely artificial channel
across the Somerset Levels and into
Channel at Highbridge.
It is joined by the North Drain, White's
River (which takes the water of the River
, Cripps River (an artificial channel that connects it
to the River Huntspill
) and many
drainage rhynes. It is tidal below the sluices at New Clyce Bridge
The River Brue has a long history of flooding. Its lower reaches
are close to sea-level, and the river above Bruton drains an area
of 31 km2
into a steep and narrow valley. In 1768
the river rose very rapidly and destroyed a stone bridge in Bruton.
In 1984 a protective dam was built 1 km upstream from the
includes several Sites of Special Scientific
Interest including Westhay Moor.
At the time of King Arthur
formed a lake just south of the hilly ground on which Glastonbury
stands. This lake is one of the locations suggested by Arthurian legend
as the home of the
Lady of the Lake
. Pomparles Bridge
stood at the western end of this lake, guarding Glastonbury from
the south, and it is suggested that it was here that Sir Bedivere
into the waters after King Arthur fell
at the Battle of Camlann
noted in the
16th century that the bridge had four arches, while W.Phelps in an
1839 illustration as having only two arches, one pointed, probably
C14-15, and the other round. Excavations in 1912 found the remains
of a second round arch regarded as C12 work. The current concrete
arch bridge was built in 1911 and extended in 1972. It carries the
over the Brue.
Alteration of route
Prior to the 13th century the direct route to the sea at Highbridge
was prevented by gravel banks and peat near Westhay. The course of the
river partially encircled Glastonbury from the south, around the western side (through
Beckery), and then
north through the Panborough-Bleadney gap in the Wedmore-Wookey Hills, to
join the River Axe just north of
Bleadney. This route made it difficult for the
officials of Glastonbury Abbey to transport produce from their outlying estates to
the Abbey, and when the valley of the river Axe was in flood it
backed up to flood Glastonbury itself. Sometime between 1230
and 1250 a new channel was constructed westwards into Meare Pool north of Meare, and further
westwards to Mark Moor.
divided into two channels, one the Pilrow cut
flowing north through Mark to join the
Axe near Edingworth, and the other directly west to the sea at Highbridge.
1774 and 1797 a series of enclosures
took place in the Brue valley between the Poldens and Wedmore.
In 1794 the annual floods filled the whole
of the Brue valley. Work by the Commissioners of Sewers led to the
1801 Brue Drainage Act which enabled sections at Highbridge and
Cripp's Bridge to be straightened, and new feeder channels such as
the North and South Drains to be constructed. In 1803 the clyse
at Highbridge, which had been built before
1485, was replaced and moved further downstream.
Both Galton's Canal
and Brown's Canal
once connected to the river. The Glastonbury Canal
used the course of the
River Brue from Highbridge to Cripp's Bridge, and part of the South
Drain to Ashcott Corner.
Second World War
During the Second World War
Brue was incorporated into GHQ Line
were constructed along the river.
Gants Mill at Pitcombe, near Bruton, is a
watermill which is still used to mill
A 12 kW hydroelectric
turbine was recently installed
at the site. There has been a mill here since the 13th century, but
the current building was built in 1810.
During monastic times, there were several fish weirs
along the lower reaches of the
river. They used either nets or baskets, the
fishing rights belonging to the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the
will find pike
in excess of 20 lb, with good stocks
, and gudgeon
. There are trout
in the upper reaches.
There are several access points along the river suitable for
, and the river has been paddled as
far up as Bruton, but above West
only after recent rain. There are public footpaths
alongside many stretches of the river.