In 2008, Mendip District Council was pleased to secure a Townscape Heritage Initiative area-based grant scheme for the market town of Shepton Mallet. With a common fund of over £½ million, the scheme, in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund and the town and county councils, has helped to regenerate the town centre by repairing buildings and restoring lost architectural features. As a part of this scheme, HLF requires the engagement of the local community and for initiatives to be launched that will ensure a lasting legacy after the building work has been completed. It is for this reason that alongside the building repair program a number of complementary initiatives have been established with a total budget £70,000 over 4 years.
To date a variety of events have been held:
Traditional Buildings Fair
Two fairs have been held with over 25 exhibitors from the historic building field, including local suppliers of traditional building materials, architects and contractors, taking part. The events were free although the exhibitors were charged a nominal amount to offset some of the costs. The first event was held in the centre of the town and opened by local architectural commentator Kevin McCloud. Alongside the exhibition, guided tours were available of a neighbouring newly restored Grade II* former merchants house. The second event was held at Kilver Court in Shepton Mallet. This is the former Head Office of the Showering brewing family who invented Babycham. This event was opened by Roger Saul, the founder of the Mulberry fashion and interiors group, who runs his new business from Kilver Court. Access was provided to the wonderful gardens and the overhead grade II* viaduct. Approximately 500 visitors attended each fair - it is hoped these will become stand alone bi-annual events.
Through the THI, Mendip District Council have provided a series of free workshops on traditional building and repair techniques. Subjects covered have included the use of lime in old buildings, traditional lead working, roofing repairs, the conservative repair of sash windows and the identification and sourcing of local stone, with each topic hosted by an expert in the field. The days have been well attended by local tradesmen, architects and surveyors. Sessions covered theory and practical demonstrations as well as more hands on activities. Numbers have been generally limited to 25 with events held at the Bath & West showground just outside of Shepton Mallet. Alongside contractor training we are also hoping to send a member of our Building Control team and our Development Control team on the SPAB: Repair of Old Buildings Course to ensure that we have a ‘heritage champion’ in both of these departments.
Having benefited from an apprenticeship some 40 years ago the local Chairman of the Shepton Mallet THI Steering Group, Cllr John Parham, was very keen for local school leavers to have the same opportunity. Working with a local conservation contractor, Ellis & Co, two local youths have been taken on to embark on a career in traditional building repair, one as a carpenter and the second as a stone mason. The THI has paid for the start up tools for both apprentices and contributes £1,000 a year to their wages for the first 3 years. It is hoped that this will ensure local people are trained to look after the historic buildings of Shepton Mallet well after the THI has ended.
An education co-ordinator has been commissioned to work with local schools in order to organise a series of hands-on sessions connected with historic building repairs. To date the use of lime in old buildings, traditional plasterwork, stone carving and thatching have all been held and have been well received by the children. An annual art competition is also held with a theme relating to the historic buildings in the town. Winning entries are exhibited and prizes distributed at the town's Collet Park Day. For the younger children a professional storyteller has been recruited to work with the infants to help them understand the historical development of the town, and in particular its buildings.
Urban Design Study
Consultants were commissioned to produce a report on the public realm of the town centre and to highlight opportunities for enhancement. The report will be used as a blueprint for any future works and covers topics including public realm surfaces, signage, street furniture and lighting. The report is intended to ensure that when money is available or opportunities arise work will be carried out in a homogenous fashion with a suggested and limited palette of materials.
We had also hoped to offer a free gutter clear service to the owners of properties in Shepton Mallet High Street. The plan was to utilise the cherry picker used by the contractors who put up the annual Christmas decorations to clear out the gutters and to report any high level maintenance issues. However, whether because of geography, lack of trees or other another reason Shepton’s gutters were in remarkably good condition and roof issues were limited so the initiative was abandoned after the first year. Nevertheless we do ensure that every grant recipient receives a copy of the SPAB publication A Stitch in Time to highlight the importance of maintenance.
Overall the Shepton Mallet THI is well on course to allocate the entire common fund within the next 12 months and as demonstrated above, will leave a lasting legacy beyond the grant-aided repairs to individual properties. For more information on the scheme please visit our website. www.sheptonthi.co.uk