This week I am dedicating the column to Shepton Mallet. In many ways the town is in the process of a successful transformation. The centre is in the midst of major resurfacing works and the Town Council is leading on a rebranding and updating of town signage. Even its own logo has changed which now includes the Glastonbury Festival Pyramid, which of course is just on Shepton’s doorstep.
The town is looking forward to the reopening of the lively Art Bank and Shepton’s increasingly vibrant artisan shops and cafés. The Library has been saved in its town centre site and is about to go through an extensive remodelling. During the construction works at the Market Cross and Town Street, Mendip’s Friday Market has moved until the summer to a temporary home in Great Ostry Car Park. The next market will be held this Good Friday.
When you look at Shepton’s history, it’s not the first time the town has reinvented itself. It sits on the Fosse Way which connected Exeter and the Southwest, with Lincoln in the East Midlands. The town has a colourful and rich history going all the way back to Neolithic times. It became a waystation for the Romans, was granted its Market Charter 700 years ago, then thrived with its medieval wool trade and silk mills giving way to brewing in the 18th Century and still is a centre for cider production today.
It is also the main base for Mendip District Council and although the majority of our staff are working from home during Covid, our offices have stayed exceptionally busy over the past few months. We have become a vaccination hub where officers and councillors have been working closely with NHS partners. Also, just last week, a lateral flow testing centre opened in our car park on Commercial Road.
There are over 200 listed buildings in Shepton, including the old Cornhill Gaol, which closed its doors to prisoners in 2013. Plans to regenerate the town centre with new homes in this Grade II listed building are currently on hold. But in the meantime, this extensive historic complex has been home to the world’s largest escape game where contestants attempt a real-life prison break. It’s also been a filming location for TV and feature films, and guided tours and ghost hunts have attracted many visitors and other events are planned as the town emerges from lockdown.
Shepton Mallet Town Council hold a yearly celebration of its much-loved Green Flag park in June. Like so many events, Collett Park Festival has had to be cancelled this year but I believe the organisers are keen to bring this community celebration back bigger and better in 2022.
Support is growing to open the old Strawberry Line rail track for walkers, cyclists and even riders, to connect Shepton North-West to Masbury, linking to Midsomer Norton, Bath and Frome, and West to Wells and Cheddar. There is even work underway to try to build a case for the creation of a new "Shepton Parkway" railway station to provide a much-needed connection from Mendip to the national rail network.
With so many active community groups looking to reinvigorate the centre and the wider area, and Mendip District Council working closely with the Town Council giving support to local artists and businesses, Shepton is gaining a new confidence and energy.
Finally, I wish you all a lovely, safe Easter break – do get in touch if you have any questions or even suggestions for this column. My Facebook page is: @Ros.Wyke, and my email is: [email protected]
Written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council
Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: [email protected].