Reprinted from Newsletter 100, dated 2001 August–September

The Crown survives! Thriving result of the society’s genesis

Jim Nagel

A 3-storey building painted a cream colour, with a banner showing the word “Backpackers”. Hanging from four places on the building are flower baskets. To the left, slightly more towards the foreground, is the Market Cross monument. To the right, in the foreground, a man with short hair wearing a light blue short-sleeved shirt, blue jeans, and brown shoes stands facing the camera. He is holding up some papers in his right hand. Above him, closer to the camera, are some flowers.

Ben Butterell, begetter of the Backpackers, waves his freshly completed green form to sign up for Conservation Society membership. Photo by Jim Nagel, 2001

Three decades after the Glastonbury Conservation Society was founded to save it, the 16th-century Crown Hotel, in the heart of the Market Place, not only survives but is thriving.

For the past four years it has been the Glastonbury Backpackers: dormitories for young travellers for as little as £10 a night — an idea borrowed from Australia, and now a network across Britain.

The Crown even has the only sushi restaurant this side of Bath, with delivery service (83 3353, and sushi does not mean raw fish, it simply means “with rice”).

After all that, it’s only appropriate that we sign up Ben Butterell, proprietor, as a member of the Conservation Society (with photographic evidence).

Update, 2005

Since the above item was printed, The Backpackers has painted itself blue, and its overnight fees have gone up a bit (dorms start at £12). The sushi restaurant proved too exotic for deepest Somerset; it’s now the Pax Lunch sandwich bar and internet café, and the menu can be downloaded.

Update, 2018

Ben Butterell sold the business and moved away about 2010. The Backpackers continued for a few years. By 2015 the building — still the Crown — needed serious repairs, including the roof, and was eventually boarded up for many months. The property, a listed building, was by then owned by a national brewery chain, who at last carried out statutory repairs. Sadly, though, the Crown is still boarded up, apparently awaiting a tenant.