Donations in Focus – Glastonbury Thorn

Report by Karen the Curator

In March 2023, CLAN staff took Karen the Curator around Geelong to look at the sites and premises which were once children’s Homes and Orphanages. One such premises is now the junior campus of the Christian College in Belmont. Geelong and Western District Protestant Orphanage was originally in Herne Hill and in 1934 the Orphanage moved to a new premises in Belmont. Then in 1955 its name was changed to Glastonbury Children’s Home.

We were given several items for the Australian Orphanage Museum (AOM) including this branch which to all appearances, looks like an ordinary branch from a tree or bush. Accompanying this branch, were many articles about an item called the “Glastonbury Thorn.”

This ordinary-looking branch not only has a history associated to one of the oldest orphanages in Geelong, but a fascinating religious story connected to the birth and death of Jesus Christ. Over the years, the children who lived in the Glastonbury Children’s Home may have seen the bush from where this branch came from, but never knew of its importance.

What is the Glastonbury Thorn?

The Glastonbury Thorn has an association with the story surrounding Joseph of Arimathea. He was the man who allowed Jesus’ body to be put in his own tomb after the crucifixion. It is said that Joseph travelled to England after the death of Christ to spread the word of Christianity.

He carried a wooden staff made from a white thorn bush. Legend has it that Joseph and his followers went to Glastonbury in Somerset, where he pushed the staff into the earth where it miraculously took root and began to grow and blossom. Joseph left the staff there where it grew into a thorn bush and flowered every Christmas and spring. Cuttings from this bush were taken to Glastonbury Abbey, where it grew and continued to bloom yearly at the same time as Christ’s death and birth.

Many other cuttings were taken from this original bush to propagate; consequently, the Glastonbury Thorn grew elsewhere.

James Austin from Glastonbury in Somerset had a Glastonbury Thorn bush he had grown from a gutting from the original bush. He brought a cutting from that bush to his estate in Geelong, where it took root. Three generations of Austin men supported the Geelong Orphanage, and the tree that is now growing on the school grounds is from the cutting transported from England. So, this little branch at the AOM can trace its roots way back to the original Glastonbury Thorn bush in Glastonbury Abbey.

The school gave us this article with the Glastonbury Thorn (Left). The article is from the Mid Somerset Series, March 29, 2007, and explains the connection of the original bush Glastonbury in the UK with the school in Geelong!

The second article (Right) from the College describes how the Glastonbury Thorn tree in their school is a descendant of the original thorn tree in Glastonbury, England.

We were given five other articles from different sources describing Glastonbury Thorn’s history. If you are interested in the other articles, go to and type Glastonbury Thorn in the search bar to read about the items discussed in this report.

The Glastonbury Thorn bush at Glastonbury Abbey, Summerset, UK.