Great Shepton!

Tremendous to plug into the wide diversity of active groups in Shepton last evening at the Art Bank. Thanks to Dominic, Robert and Tim for organising the Shepton Showcase on behalf of Future Shepton. Great to see Fay, Kai and Caroline there, too.

Lots of interest in linking into what we’re doing and let’s hope that the current burst of energy across the town bears fruit. Hope you can feel it too!

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Old Manor, Ham Lane – Part 2

An issue in researching old buildings is what they were called in past times. Today we are accustomed to house numbers and names but before the introduction of the postal service and censuses in the mid-19th century, buildings were identified by their locality, previous owners, and the adjacent properties and their owners.  And, of course, all of these changed over time!

A case in point is the property today known as Old Manor on the Ham Lane/Back Lane junction in Ham.  Centuries ago its ownership and purpose (including the main house which burnt down in the 1920’s – see blog of 3rd October) was intimately mixed up with the adjacent Ham Manor (a.k.a Ham Manor Farm, Ham Eastern Farm, or Lower Ham Farm) and Cleevers (previously a barn or outbuilding for Ham Manor Farm).  So mixed up in fact, that it’s not been possible to separate out which family lived where with any confidence until the 19th century.

And a century ago it had another name, Ivy House, as the rare photo below shows.

Ivy House, Ham, pre-1929 (a.k.a. Old Manor)

Cleevers, Ham Lane – Part 1

One of the fascinating things about the three hamlets is how, over time, buildings have been repurposed. Much of this conversion happened in the twentieth century, as the traditional industries declined and the buildings were converted into dwellings.

Sometimes, we’re lucky to find ‘before and after’ images, but more often than not, before photographs either were never taken or still remain to be uncovered. So, it’s exciting when we do find what we’re looking for and we struck gold with Cleevers.

Cleevers is one of the really interesting properties in Ham and often prompts comments about how old it is and how nice it looks. In all of the following photos, Ham Lane is to the right.

This is the building today:   

However, don’t be fooled; the building was once a working outbuilding of Ham Manor Farm (or Ham Eastern Farm: today Ham Manor) complex as this earleir photo shows:

Where the architectural features that have been installed came from still remains to be established, but comparing these images shows what was achieved…

And this photo, how it was achieved:

Batty postponed – again!

Well, how unlucky are we?

The weather got the better of us on the last date and the evening bat walk had to be posponed. Postponed until…tonight.

As you can see, the weather has got the better of us again and tonight’s rescheduled walk has had to be posponed, too.  We will try again the other side of the foul weather, in spring 2019.

Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)

Old Manor, Ham Lane – part 1

The Old Manor on the junction of Ham Lane and Back Lane has long been something of an enigma. In part, this is due to the very fine pedestrian entrance and mounting steps (for horses) on Back Lane not being easily matched with today’s residential property. Local folklore has it that the main property burnt down and was demolished in the 1920’s leaving the building visible today which was subsequently converted into a dwelling and extended over the years.

A deed from 1905 confirms much of this as it specifies and shows a ‘dwellinghouse’ and ‘outbuilding’ on the site and that the property owned the ‘garden’ and ‘orchard’ opposite. It was the dwellinghouse which was demolished and, presumably, the its status was such that the pedestrian entrance and steps were in keeping. What happened to the fine features of the house (e.g. window and door surrounds) remains to be uncovered.

Old Manor estate 1905



Our natural world

We’ve been working on our schedule of biodiversity surveys and in addition to the rearranged bat walk on 6th October (weather permitting!), that month we’ll be identifying and recording invertebrates and trees and starting an extended survey of garden birds which will last into 2019.

As the weather warms next spring we plan to tackle mammals and amphibians; bumblebees; birds, butterflies and moths and have an expert-guided botany walk.

Our area has long been rich in natural diversity as this clip from an edition of the Bristol Mercury from May 1870 shows. Whether there are any nightingales singing in the three hamlets today remains to be seen!


Coombe Lane works

In the 13 September blog, we mentioned the employment of children at the silk crape works of Nalder and Hardisty at Coombe Lane. This factory didn’t have water power and was worked by hand in 1833.

Five years later, the factory had a new occupant in William Richardson, velvet manufacturer. He probably used hand-loom weaving and at that time and the building was known as the Coombe Lane weaving shops. Whether, like his predecessors, he employed children as young as eight remains to be researched.

Source: Wiltshire and Somerset Woollen Mills, Kenneth Rogers




Going batty

Local residents supported by the Somerset Small Mammals Group have been spending late evenings together. A pleasure, we’re sure, but there is another purpose – listening and looking for bats!

The results of their survey will form part of the Biodiversity part of the Heritage Project and will complement other surveys looking at ornithology; flora; trees; insects; small mammals; and invertibrates, crustaceans, amphibians and reptiles.

If bats interest you then why not join us for the last Bat Walk of the season this Saturday, 22nd September? We meet at 7pm in the Darshill car park and warm clothing and a torch are advisable.

In May seven types of bat were heard on the provided bat detectors, so lets hope we will be as lucky this time!!!

We’d like to get some idea of numbers attending, so please let Jane Williams know you’ll be there by Friday 21st by email at

Please note the Bat Walk will be postponed to Saturday October 6th, if the weather is bad on September 22nd. So do keep an eye on this blog!!

Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)





Darshill factories

Around 1820 there were three factories or mills at Darshill: two rented by William Gaite from the Pippett family and another occupied by John Rossiter, the property of William Serle.

Gaite probably occupied the factory formerly run by Jenkins and Green, which was by far the largest concern in Shepton, whose trade in 1810 was rated three times larger than its nearest rival. That factory in 1793 occupied buildings which were insured for £2000. The firm gave up in 1811 and the factory was offered for sale including machinery and two wheels, one nearly 30 feet in diameter and the other, an overshot wheel, 20 feet. The fall of water for the latter was 23 feet.

By the 1830’s, all three factories were owned by Nalder and Hardisty, silk cloth and silk crape manufacturers. Their evidence to the 1833 Commission (see last post) says that they had four factories at Darshill: one at Lower Darshill in Pilton parish, one at middle Darshill and two at Upper Darshill. The Lower (ex-Jenkins and Green/Gaite) was located on the site of the present-day water treatment works and burnt down in 1843; the Middle is repurposed today as Silk Mill Barn adjacent to Darshill House; and the first of the two at Upper Darshill is today repurposed as Lower Silk Mill housing and the second – pictured on the blog home page – remained in operation until 1913. Derelict, it was demolished in the 1970’s and is today housing with a reminiscent external appearance.

At the Lower Darshill and Lower Silk Mill sites, water power was supplemented in summer by steam engines of ten and four horse power respectively. The other two mills used water power only.

Sources: Kenneth Rogers, Wiltshire & Somerset Woollen Mills and Turnpike Map 1852 (shows buildings, the river and mill leats in preparation for the construction of the new Shepton to Wells road)