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Shepton Mallet is a small rural town and civil parish in the Mendip district of Somersetmarker, Englandmarker. It contains the administrative headquarters of Mendip District Council.

The town is approximately south of Bristolmarker and east of Wellsmarker. The Mendip Hillsmarker lie to the north, and the River Sheppey runs through the town.

Shepton Mallet lies on the route of the Fosse Way, the principal Roman road into the south-west of England, and there is evidence of Roman settlement. In medieval times, the wool industry was important in the town's economy, although this declined in the 18th century to be replaced by other industries.

The town has a population of 8,981. There is a local perception that the Shepton Mallet is in economic decline, although the District Council argues that this is not borne out by the figures.


The historic marketplace, with the Market Cross
Archaeological investigations have found evidence for pre-historic activity in the Shepton Mallet area, with Neolithic artefacts being found, as well as evidence of bronze age burials and iron age roundhouses.

Shepton Mallet is situated approximately half-way between the Roman towns of Bathmarker and Ilchestermarker on the Fosse Way, and, although there are no visible remains (apart from the line of the roman road itself), there is archaeological evidence for both early military, and later civilian, settlement lasting into the 5th century. Pottery kilns identified on the site of the Anglo-Bavarian Brewerymarker suggest military activity in the 1st and 2nd centuries, and several hoards of roman coins ranging from the 1st to 4th centuries have been found, as well as a large number of fibula brooches, potsherds and other artefacts.

In 1988 a lead coffin was discovered and led archaeologists to undertake more extensive excavations at a site adjacent to the Fosse Way in the 1990s. They were able to identify a number of buildings including wooden and stone houses and workshops, streets, industrial areas, cemeteries, and a well. These indicated occupation from the late 1st or early 2nd century to the late 4th or early 5th century. Items of jewelry, tools and coins were also found.

A key find was a Chi-Rho amulet, thought to be from the 5th century, and so held to be among the earliest evidence of Christianity in Englandmarker. This prompted the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, to wear a copy. The amulet is now in the Somerset County Museummarker, however in 2008 analysis at Liverpool Universitymarker using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy demonstrated that the amulet was a hoax, as the silver dated to the 19th century.

There is a small amount of evidence of saxon settlement, including some saxon stonework in the parish church, and an 8th century charter which granted the area in which Shepton Mallet is now situated to Glastonbury Abbeymarker. The Domesday Book of 1086 lists a settlement known as Sceaptun, meaning 'the sheep enclosure' from the Old English scoep and tun. The second part of the name derives from that of the Malet family who took a lease from the Abbey around 1100. Charters of 1235, 1260 and 1318 granting the right to hold markets and fairs indicate that the town was developing and prospering at this time.

When Glastonbury Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII, the land reverted to the Crown and was granted to the Duchy of Cornwall. In the 17th and 18th centuries the wool industry continued to thrive, and was joined by silk manufacture, both powered by the waters of the River Sheppey.

In 1625, a House of Correction was establish in Shepton Mallet and, today, HMP Shepton Malletmarker is England's oldest prison still in use.

During the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685, the Duke of Monmouth passed through Shepton Mallet, staying in Longbridge House on Cowl Street on the night of 23 June, before setting out for Bristol the following day. Many rebels joined the cause, but Monmouth had to return to Shepton after failing to take Bathmarker or Bristolmarker. Following the Bloody Assizes, a number of rebels were hanged from the market cross.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, brewing became one of the town's major industries, and the Anglo-Bavarian Brewerymarker, still a local landmark, became the first in England to brew lager. The town, which is also home to Babycham, is still an important centre for cider production.

Governance and public services

Shepton Mallet is in the Mendip local government district which is part of the county of Somersetmarker. In the 80 years prior to 1974, the town had fallen within Shepton Mallet Urban District.

The town elects one councillor to Somerset County Council; at the last election in 2008, a conservative was elected. Shepton Mallet has two councillors on Mendip District Council, elected by the two Town Council wards. Following elections in 2008, both were conservatives.

The civil parish of Shepton Mallet has adopted the style of a town, and there is a Town Council of 16 members. Councillors are split equally between the two wards: Shepton Mallet East and Shepton Mallet West. The most recent elections were in May 2008, following which the council is made up of eight Conservatives, three Liberal Democrats, two members of the Labour Party and three independent councillors.

Shepton Mallet is twinned with three European towns: Misburg in Germanymarker, Oissel sur Seine in Francemarker and Bollnäsmarker in Swedenmarker.

The town falls within the Wells parliamentary constituency. The current Member of Parliament is David Heathcoat-Amory, of the Conservative Party.

Shepton Mallet is within the South West England European Parliamentary constituency which elects seven MEPs.

The town has a National Health Service community hospital, operated by Somerset Primary Care Trust, and is also host to an independent sector treatment centre which carries out a range of surgical procedures. The nearest general hospital is the Royal United Hospitalmarker in Bath.


Shepton Mallet lies in the southern foothills of the Mendip Hillsmarker. The town is approximately to above sea level. The area is geologically founded on Forest Marble, Blue Lias and Oolitic limestone.

The River Sheppey flows through much of the town through underground culverts. On 20 October 2006, and again on 29 May 2008, heavy rainfall resulted in the river flooding the lower-lying parts of the town, around Legg Square, Lower Lane and Draycott Road, due to the culverts being unable to cope with the amount of water. Some houses were submerged to a depth of three feet. A study by the Environment Agency identified that the current standard of flood protection in those parts of the town was insufficient, being of a 5-10 year event standard; current guidelines require protection of a 50-200 year standard.

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

Within Shepton Mallet there are several distinct areas (approximately clockwise from north of the town centre): Lower Lane and Garston Street, Charlton, Field, Tadley Acres (a new housing development), West Shepton, Darshill and Bowlishmarker, and Hillmead (a council housing estate).


In the 2001 census, the population was 8,981, comprising 4,482 (49.9%) males and 4,499 (50.1%) females. 1,976 (22%) residents were aged 16 or below, 5,781 (64.4%) between 16 and 65, and 1,224 (13.6%) aged 65 or over.

Of the population aged between 16 and 74, 4,200 (66%) were in employment, with only 224 (3.5%) unemployed (the remainder being economically inactive). About 69% of those in employment were in service industries, with the remainder in manufacturing. 1,459 people were employed in managerial or professional occupations, 522 were self-employed, and 1,888 in routine and semi-routine occupations.

3,714 households were recorded in the town, of which 2,621 (70.6%) were owner-occupied, 515 (13.9%) rented from private landlords, and 578 (15.6%) rented from the local authority or other social landlords. 3,688 (99.3%) heads of households were white.


The High Street shops

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

There is a local perception that Shepton Mallet has been in economic decline for some time. Some 350 manufacturing jobs were lost in the late 1990s and early years of the 21st century, and the town centre is small and has only a small number of shops, with a considerable number of empty premises.

However, the District Council asserts that, despite the loss of the manufacturing jobs on which Shepton Mallet has been historically dependent, more jobs in distribution, business services and public administration, health, education, quarrying, construction and hi-tech services (from companies such as the ISP UK Online) have been created, thereby creating a more balanced economy. In 2001, there were slightly more jobs in the town than economically active people, resulting in a small in-flow of workers.

There has also recently been an increase in retail jobs. In 2006-2007 a new shopping development was constructed on the site, just south of the town centre, of a factory which once made Clarks shoes and later Doc Martens boots. This development attracted national media attention when protesters occupied the site to try to prevent the felling of an avenue of trees dating back to the 19th century. It has also divided opinion in the town, between those who hoped it would help to revitalise the town, and others who feared that local traders would be unable to compete, leading to a further decline of Shepton Mallet's high street.


The A37 road, which follows the line of the Fosse Way, passes through Shepton Mallet from north to south. From east to west, the A361 from Fromemarker becomes the A371 to Wellsmarker.

Charlton Viaduct seen from Kilver Court Gardens
Shepton Mallet had railway stations on two lines, both now closed. The first station, called Shepton Mallet marker in British Railways days, was on the East Somerset Railway branch line from Withammarker and opened in 1859. The line was extended to Wellsmarker in 1862 and later connected to the Cheddar Valley line branch of the Bristol and Exeter Railway from Yattonmarker to Wells via Cheddarmarker. 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 marker, opened in 1874 with the building of the Bathmarker 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 Charlton Viaduct.

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 Carymarker, some eight miles south of Shepton Mallet.


The market cross
There are 218 listed buildings in Shepton Mallet and the town is in receipt of funding for the restoration of chosen town centre historic buildings from the English Heritage Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme and the National Lottery Townscape Heritage Initiative.

The hexagonal, tall, market cross in the town centre dates back to the 1500s, and was rebuilt in 1841. Also in the market place is The Shambles, a medieval market stall, although it has been much restored. Shepton Mallet's historic prisonmarker is located close to the town centre, adjacent to the parish church.

There are a number of fine houses in the older parts of the town around Lower Lane and Legg Square, as well as in the outlying suburbs such as Bowlishmarker and Charlton.

The former Anglo-Bavarian Brewery
The Anglo-Bavarian Brewerymarker was built in the 1860s and still dominates the western parts of Shepton Mallet. Two now-disused railway viaducts are to be found in the town, including the Charlton Viaduct which has 27 arches.

The market cross, the prison and prison wall, The Merchants House marker, Anglo-Bavarian Brewery, Charlton Viaduct, Park House (Forum Lane) and the former St Michael's Roman Catholic Church (Townsend). Bowlish House and Old Bowlish House in Bowlishmarker are the town's nine grade II* listed buildings.

When the town centre was remodelled in the 1970s, a new entertainment complex called The Centre was built, in concrete, on the eastern side of the market square. When the allegedly Roman Chi Rho amulet was found in the Fosse Lane excavations in the 1990s, the complex was renamed The Amulet in honour of the find. It has recently been renamed again as The Academy.

Shepton benefits from a sizeable park, a gift of land from a local man, John Kyte Collett. As a boy he was thrown out of the grounds of local estates for trespass so in later life he purchased and gave land to the town to provide a public space; this is called Collett Park in his honour.

Religious sites

Parish church of St Peter and St Paul
The grade I listed parish church of St Peter and St Paulmarker dates from the 12th century, but the current building is largely from the 15th century, with further rebuilding in 1836. The timber roof includes 350 panels of different designs and 36 carved angels along the sides, which was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as "the finest 15th century carved oak wagon-roof in England".

The former St Michael's Roman Catholic Church which was built in 1804 is now a warehouse. A modern Catholic Church is located in Park Road.


There are several primary schools within Shepton Mallet. Education for 11-16 year olds is provided by Whitstone Technology Collegemarker.


Collett Park on Collett Day

A town fete called Collett Day is held in June in the town's Collett Park.

Two annual agricultural shows are held close to the town: the four-day Royal Bath and West of England Societymarker Show is held on the society's showground near Evercreechmarker, south-east of the town, while the one-day Mid-Somerset Showmarker is held on fields on Shepton Mallet's southern edge.Other events held at the Bath & West Showground include the New Wine and Soul Survivor festivals, the Shepton Mallet International Antiques & Collectors' Fair, the National Amateur Gardening Show and the National Adventure Sports Show.

The Academy, home of the Bristol Academy of Performing Arts
The Glastonbury Festivalmarker, the largest music festival in Europe, is held in the village of Piltonmarker, approximately south-west of Shepton Mallet.

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

In 2007 The Amulet complex in the town centre became the base for the Bristol Academy of Performing Arts.

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

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.


  1. New Evidence Solves Ancient Riddle, Somerset County Museum Service press release 18 September 2008
  2. Images of England: Longbridge House, Shepton Mallet
  3. A Vision of Britain Through Time : Shepton Mallet Urban District
  4. Somerset County Council Councillors
  5. Mendip District Council councillors
  6. Shepton Mallet Town Council councillors
  7. Somerset PCT Shepton Mallet Community Hospital
  8. United Kingdom Specialist Hospitals Shepton Mallet Treatment Centre
  9. Presentation by the Environment Agency to the Central Mendip Community Partnership at Mendip District Council, 9 December 2008
  10. Tree Protest Camp established at Shepton Mallet, Somerset
  11. For example and
  12. Images of England: Old Bowlish House
  13. Images of England: Bowlish House; Images of England: Bowlish House Gate Piers and Mounting Block
  14. Bristol Academy of Performing Arts
  15. Shepton Mallet Journal

External links

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