Buildings of Interest
Shepton Mallet can boast a number of historic buildings and places of interest. Here are just a few of the more notable examples.
The Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
This beautiful church, with its imposing tower dates from the 15th century.
It is the first of the so-called 'Somerset Perpendiculars', a group of some thirty 15th century towers, a tribute to the wealth of the wool trade.
The distinctive cap to the tower was the base for a spire that was never built.
Inside, look upwards and see the glory of the best waggon ceiling in the country, with 350 individual panels.
Shepton Mallet Gaol is the oldest operational prison in the country. Despite its imposing stone walls, it blends almost unobtrusively into the town. It is remembered by many as the Glasshouse military prison. During the Second World War, it not only housed the Magna Carta and Domesday Book for protection, but was also used by the American Services. Several of their miscreant soldiers were executed by firing squad in the prison.
The full history of the prison has been chronicled by local resident Francis Disney who has produced a CD charting nearly four centuries of history. Further details can be found on Francis's website.
Leg Square and Garston Street
The unique Shepton muddle of manors, mills and cottages crowded into the narrow valley can be seen in Leg Square and Garston Street.
The Kings Arms is an old inn locally better known as the Dusthole, dating from the time when it was frequented by the quarrymen who worked at the nearby Quarr quarry.
On the south side of the square is an excellent example of a spite wall, built to stop neighbours overlooking an adjacent property.
The River Sheppey now runs in a culvert under Leg Square, but comes to the surface a hundred yards further on in Back Lane by the old packhorse bridge.
The Market Cross and Shambles
Every Friday morning the market square has, for centuries been alive with the bustle of the local market.
In it midst stands the 15th century Market Cross, as always at the heart of the history of the town. Here during the English Civil War, the Parliamentarians of Shepton Mallet fought off the Royalists from Wells. The Duke of Monmouth passed through the town in his 1685 rebellion. Afterwards, Judge Jeffries held a bloody assize in the town and 12 rebels were hung, drawn and quartered in the market square. Some of the rebels descendants still reside in the town. (Some say they are still rebelling!)
A 'Shambles' stands in the market square a rare example of an ancient market stall.
The Anglo-Bavarian Brewery (now known as the Anglo Trading Estate)
Built in the 1860s, this magnificent building stands out proudly overlooking the valley.
During its troubled history it reputedly became the first brewery in England to brew lager.