WHATEVER you think of tomorrow's European elections, some voters in Somerset can combine casting their vote with a visit to a historic abbey at what is believed to be the country's oldest polling station.

On Thursday (May 23), Muchelney Abbey will open its doors as a polling station for the elections.

People will be marking their ballot papers in the remaining medieval buildings of the Benedictine Monastery, originally founded in the 7th century.

A monastery was first founded on the site as early as 693AD and for centuries it has been a landmark of the Somerset Levels.

The Abbey is no stranger to elections and the world of politics.

As the home of wealthy Benedictine monks, Muchelney saw many Abbots voted into office and its final years as a monastery read as a tale of bribery and corruption...

Site manager Stephen Honey said: “Many people are surprised to discover Muchelney's murky political past.

"The last Abbot, Thomas Inde, is said to have ensured his electoral success with a comprehensive smear campaign against his opponent – as well as a substantial bribe to the king’s agent, Thomas Cromwell.

"Thankfully things have moved on since then!

"I hope the villagers will be out in numbers to record their votes, we’ll be well stocked with ice creams for anyone who needs longer to mull over their ballot paper."

Throughout election day the site, now in the care of English Heritage, will remain open to visitors throughout normal opening hours and there is much to see.

The Abbey is the second oldest religious foundation in Somerset, and although many of the principal buildings were demolished as part of the dissolution by Henry VIII in 1538, visitors can still see the clearly laid out foundations, parts of the richly decorated cloister walk, and the thatched monks’ lavatory - the only one of its kind in Britain.

This is The West Country: