Shepton Mallet

Shepton Mallet

infobox UK place

country = England
latitude= 51.1925
longitude= -2.5458
official_name= Shepton Mallet -
population = 6,340cite web|url=|title=Population estimates for Mendip parishes|date=2002|publisher=Somerset County Council|accessdate=2008-09-30]
shire_district= Mendip
shire_county = Somerset
region= South West England
constituency_westminster= Wells
postcode_district= BA4
dial_code= 01749
os_grid_reference= ST619438

Shepton Mallet is a small rural town in Somerset, England. It is situated five miles (8 km) to the east of Wells, and lies just south of the Mendip Hills. The town has a population of 6,340 (As of|2002|alt=2002 estimate).cite web|url=|title=Population estimates for Mendip parishes|date=2002|publisher=Somerset County Council|accessdate=2008-09-30] Shepton Mallet contains the administrative headquarters of Mendip District Council.


Following the discovery of a lead coffin in 1988 archaeologists uncovered a significant number of Roman artefacts in the early 1990s at a site adjacent to the nearby Fosse Way, including a cemetery, well and several villas. A key find was the "Chi-Rho" amulet, held to be among the earliest evidence of Christianity in England,cite book|last=Leach|first=Peter|title=Shepton Mallet: Romano-Britons and Early Christians in Somerset|publisher=Birmingham University Field Archeology Unit|location=Birmingham|date=1991|isbn=0704411296] which is now in the Somerset County Museum. [cite web|url=|title='Roman' amulet adopted by archbishop is a fake|last=Morris|first=Steven|date=2008-09-19|work=The Guardian|publisher=Guardian Newspapers|accessdate=2008-09-19] In honour of this the town's underused 1970s entertainment complex, generally held to be a white elephant, was renamed "The Amulet". In 2008, following analysis at the Liverpool University, using Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy, this was discovered to be a hoax as the silver only dated to the nineteenth century. [ [ New Evidence Solves Ancient Riddle] , Somerset County Museum Service press release 18 September 2008] [cite news|url=|title='Ancient' Christian amulet declared a fake|last=Savill |first=Richard|date=2008-09-18|work=Daily Telegraph|accessdate=2008-09-18] [cite news|url=|title=New tests challenge age of amulet |date=2008-09-18|work=BBC News|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-09-18] [cite news|url=|title=Romano-British silver Christian cross may be fake|last=de Bruxelles |first=Simon|work=Times Online|publisher=The Times|accessdate=2008-09-18]

Shepton Mallet was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Sepeton", meaning 'The sheep enclosure' from the Old English "scoep" and "tun". [cite book |last=Robinson |first=Stephen |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Somerset Place Names |year=1992 |publisher=The Dovecote Press Ltd |location=Wimbourne |isbn=1874336032] The town's first name derives from the Anglo-Saxon for sheep fold, pointing to the original source of the town's wealth. It was part of lands given to the Malet family by Henry I in 1100, making it one of the first double place names in the country.

Shepton Mallet was a site of one of the original gatherings of the Monmouth Rebellion, after the Duke of Monmouth rallied troops there in 1685 after landing at Lyme Regis. The Duke stayed in Longbridge House [ [ Images of England: Longbridge House, Shepton Mallet] ] on Cowl Street on the night of 23 June 1685, before setting out for Bristol the following day. Many rebels joined the cause, but Monmouth had to return to Shepton after failing to take Bath or Bristol. Following the Bloody Assizes, a number of rebels were hanged from the market cross.

HMP Shepton Mallet is England's oldest prison that is still in use. National treasures such as the Domesday Book were kept safe here in World War II.

The traditional wool and silk industries, powered by the waters of the River Sheppey, were joined by brewing in the 19th century. The Anglo-Bavarian Brewery, [cite web | title=Anglo Trading Estate (former Brewery now warehouses) | work=Images of England | url= | accessdate=2006-10-25] still a local landmark, was reputedly the first in England to brew lager and is now home to Brothers Drinks. The town, home to Babycham, is still an important centre for cider production.

On 27 April 2006 a plan was unveiled to transform the centre of Shepton Mallet with "The Amulet" becoming a base for the [ Bristol Academy of Performing Arts] and the centre of the town returned to a "more traditional form".

In 2007 Shepton Mallet came to international attention when Westcountry Farmhouse Cheesemakers broadcast the maturation of a round of cheese called Wedginald, an event that attracted more than 1,5 million viewers. [cite web | url = | title = Famous cheese faces website probe | publisher = BBC | author = | date = 2007-09-16 | accessdate = 2007-11-16]


Shepton Mallet is in the Mendip local government district which is part of the county of Somerset.

It falls within the Wells represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election. The current MP is David Heathcoat-Amory, a member of the Conservative Party. [cite web | url= | title= Alphabetical List of Constituencies and Members of Parliament | publisher= House Of Commons Information Office | accessdate= 2008-01-19]

It is within the South West England (European Parliament constituency) which elects 7 MEPs using the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation.

Shepton Mallet is twinned with the following European towns:
* Misburg, Germany
* Oissel Sur Seine, France
* Bollnäs, Sweden


To the north of the town are several Caves of the Mendip Hills including Thrupe Lane Swallet which is a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest.


Shepton Mallet has become a centre for cider making and is home to two international drinks producers. One is owned by Constellation Brands and is Europe's largest cider plant. This produces Blackthorn Cider and Gaymer's Olde English cider, and Babycham. The other is family run Brothers Drinks, producers of Brothers Cider and runs a contract bottling operation for many other drinks companies.

In recent years there has been the addition of hi-tech services from companies such as the ISP UK Online. A factory that once made Clarks shoes and later Doc Martens boots has closed and the site has been reveloped as the Townsend Retail Park, not without local misgivings.

Tesco and Townsend Retail Park

Shepton Mallet became home to a group of roughly 30 protesters in February 2006, as they fought a planning decision by the town council to allow construction of a Tesco store nearer the town centre to replace the existing Tesco supermarket on the edge of the town. The development, on a brownfield site that previously housed a shoe factory and plastics factory, required the felling of an avenue of mature trees, present since the 19th Century. (cf the very similar controversy in Stroud some years earlier). After the group were evicted by bailiffs following a court order, a second group established themselves just outside the planned development, to help protect a second avenue of trees, seemingly not scheduled for destruction but ultimately reduced in number by about 75% after the second group's eventual eviction.

It was widely believed that very few of the protesters were local to the area, many coming from as far afield as Brighton and Nottingham. Some observers felt that they had completely missed the point that the full planning process had been followed for two or more years prior to the granting of planning permission. Many of the townsfolk were quoted as being dismayed and disgusted by the protests - especially those who had given up their free time during the planning process to attend meetings and press for changes to the original plans, though the group had some supporters from the local community. The counter-argument was that many of the trees being "protected" by this protest were scrubby Norfolk Pines that were (and had been in the past) in danger of falling in high winds. Tesco argued that the total number of trees being removed was around 180, many of which were in urgent need of maintenance, and that 210 new trees would be planted to replace them, an argument that ultimately won the Council's support.


The convert|50|ft|m|0 market cross in the town centre dates back to the 1500s, [cite web | title=Market Cross | work=Images of England | url= | accessdate=2006-10-25] and was restored in 1841. Several participants in the Monmouth Rebellion were executed at the market cross in 1685.cite book |title=The hidden places of Somerset |last=Scott |first=Shane |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1995 |publisher=Travel Publishing Ltd |location=Aldermaston |isbn=1902007018 |pages=56 ]

Religious sites

The church of St Peter and St Paul dates from the 12th century but the current building is largely from the 15th century, with further rebuilding in 1836. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building. [cite web |url= |title=Church of St Peter & St Paul |accessdate=2008-03-02 |format= |work=Images of England ] The timber roof includes 350 panels of different designs and 36 carved angels along the sides.cite book |title=Curiosities of Somerset |last=Leete-Hodge |first=Lornie |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1985 |publisher=Bossiney Books |location=Bodmin |isbn=0906456983 |pages=20 ]

The former St Michael's Roman Catholic Church which was built in 1804 is now a warehouse. [cite web |url= |title=former St Michael's Roman Catholic Church |accessdate=2008-03-02 |format= |work=Images of England ]


Two annual agricultural shows are held close to the town: the four-day Royal Bath and West of England Society Show which is held on the society's showground near Evercreech, and the one-day Mid-Somerset Show, on fields on the town's southern edge.

The Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music was held at Shepton Mallet in 1970.

The Glastonbury Festival, the largest music festival in Europe, is held in the village of Pilton, approximately convert|2.5|mi|km|0 from the town.

The New Wine and Soul Survivor festivals are held at the nearby Royal Bath & West Showground every summer. The Shepton Mallet International Antiques & Collectors' Fair is also held several times a year here.

The town's weekly newspaper, part of the Mid Somerset Series, is called the [ Shepton Mallet Journal] .


Shepton Mallet had railway stations on two lines, both now closed. The first station, called Shepton Mallet (High Street) in British Railways days, was on the East Somerset Railway branch line from Witham and opened in 1859. The line was extended to Wells in 1862 and later connected to the Cheddar Valley line branch of the Bristol and Exeter Railway from Yatton to Wells via Cheddar. Through services between Yatton and Witham started in 1870. The line was absorbed into the Great Western Railway in the 1870s.

A second station, later called Shepton Mallet (Charlton Road), opened in 1874 with the building of the Bath extension of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. This station was some distance east of the centre of the town and was approached on the long Charlton Viaduct , which still remains. [cite web |url= |title=Charlton Viaduct |accessdate=2008-03-02 |format= |work=Images of England ] Both stations closed in the 1960s as part of the Beeching Axe. Shepton Mallet (High Street) closed with the withdrawal of passenger services on the Yatton to Witham line in 1963, though part of the former East Somerset line remains open for freight and as a heritage railway. Shepton Mallet (Charlton Road) closed in 1966 with the closure of the Somerset and Dorset line. Nowadays, the nearest Network Rail station is Castle Cary, some eight miles to the south of Shepton Mallet.


There are several primary schools within the town.

Education for 11-16 year olds is provided by Whitstone Technology College.


On the 30 May 2008 Shepton Mallet suffered from flash flooding when the River Sheppy burst its banks due to torrential rain, which in some cases left people stranded in cars and faced with 3 feet of water inside their homes. The flooding was the worst the town had seen in 30 years.


External links

* [ Shepton Mallet Online] Town Council Website
* [ The Somerset Urban Archaeological Survey: Shepton Mallet] , by Clare Gathercole
* [ Photos of Shepton Mallet in 3d (Anaglyphs)]

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