Did Jesus visit England (Albion) in his youth
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land
The words to the popular hymn "Jerusalum" originally formed part of the preface to William Blake's poem "Milton" and written between 1804 and 1810. It was not until 1916 that Sir Hubert Parry wrote the accompanying music and towards the end of the First World War, quickly gained popularity, partly due to it's patriotic theme. The hymn is now widely regarded as England's unofficial national anthem, sung at Rugby matches, England cricket matches and although not official, widely associated with the Women’s Institute (WI) where it is often sung at meetings .
The inspiration for the words and the legend itself, is that Jesus Christ visited England (or Albion) as a youth (during his missing year) , accompanying his Great Uncle Joseph of Aramathea on a metal trading voyage to the West of England and had visited West Cornwall and also the areas of Glastonbury and Priddy in the Mendip area of what is now Somerset. The basis of this evidence certainly raises a possibility as it is believed that Joseph of Aramathea was a metal merchant and West Cornwall is one of the few areas in the world where large Tin deposits can be found. Mining has been known to have occurred as far back as the Bronze Age (tin along with copper being the main ingredients of Bronze) and mining was very active during the Roman period and prior to this, the tin export trade was actively controlled by the Phoenicians. The area of the Mendip hills was rich in Lead and Iron Ore and this would have brought outside traders to Priddy and nearby Glastonbury, which although land locked now due to drainage of marsh land on the Somerset levels, it was a Roman Sea Port.
The legend of Jesus’ visit had persisted in folklore of West Cornwall for centuries and references to this have been indicated in the naming of rich tin veins from earlier times (Body of Christ & Wheel of Jesus) and "Tunic crosses" which depict a Christian cross on one side and an image of a young boy on the reverse in a short tunic. Also, legends abound of the visits in Falmouth, St.Just-In-Roseland and Penzance. The town banner for East Looe in Cornwall depicts a young boy Jesus in a signle masted boat along with a figure indicated as Joseph of Arom
Priddy is a small village in the Mendip hills which was at the heart of the Iron and Lead Ore mining and smelting trade, there is a very old local saying "As sure as our Lord walked in Priddy". Although the "dark satanic mills" referred to in Blake's poem are thought to be a reference to the Industrial revolution, some speculate it may refer to the smelting process of lead and iron ore that produce black acrid smoke that would have prevailed in the Mendip hills.
Glastonbury is inextricably linked with the early Christian Church and believed to be the site of the first Christian church in England, which survived until being destroyed in a fire in 1184, the legend is that this was established by Joseph of Aramatheas and other disciples fleeing Judea from persecution and settling in Glastonbury, with him he carried the Holy Grail (which in turn has linked Glastonbury with the King Arthur legend). One nice anecdote is that Joseph on his return, the ship ran aground on an island (supposedly now Wearyall Hill) and on climbing to the safe ground on the top, Jospeh and the fellow disciples rested for a while, Joseph had thrust into the ground a staff which had been grown from the same tree as the crown of thorns and it immediately took root and the thorn bush can still be seen today (There is said also to be a thorn bush in the grounds of the nearby ruined abbey which is believed to be of Eastern Mediterranean origin and is said to flower twice a year – Christmas and Easter).
There are many today who believe that Jesus Christ did visit England's shores and it is a story that has persisted for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. We will never know for sure but it is a fascinating story nonetheless.