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Our church is located in the centre of Shepton Mallet close to the Market Cross, High Street and the famous Shepton Mallet Gaol. The original Saxon church was extended about 1170 - 1180 by piercing the side walls with two pairs of arches, constructing side aisles, adding a third pair of arches at the west end, building a tower and enlarging the chancel. The tower was reconstructed about 1380 to its present shape, and with its pyramid cap was probably the first of the classic Somerset towers. A clerestory was built about 1450 and also the magnificent wagon roof constructed in hand carved English oak with 350 panels, each different from the others.
During the early and mid 1800s the transepts and side chapels were removed, and galleries were constructed, but these were dismantled in 1966 for safety reasons. The organ, originally at the west end, was removed to the north east corner and rebuilt in 1859 enabling the west windows to be reconstructed in coloured glass in memory of a previous Rector. Box pews were replaced by the present oak pews in 1887-9.
Marks of alterations over the centuries are clearly visible and evince more interest than many other churches. Notable features include a fragment from the doorway of the Saxon church, a Saxon font, both circa 1000; the double piscina (c 1220) and the pulpit (c 1550) carved from a single piece of Doulting stone. Two stone effigies of Knights are early 14th century, possibly of Robert and William Mallet. Brass memorials of benefactors to the Church and the local community include those of the Strode and Barnard families dated to the early 1600s.
The list of known incumbents starts at 1274.
The churchyard, surrounded by lime trees planted in 1733, was previously an open space used for games, meetings and other activities. In 1990, during excavations near the route of the Roman Fosseway to the east of the town, the remains of forty Roman citizens was discovered. Buried in the 4th century, facing east as is customary in Christian burials, they were re-interred in the churchyard in July 1994 near the Garden of remembrance. In addition, the excavations revealed a Christian relic made of silver and decorated with the 'chi - rho' symbol, formed by superimposing the Greek letters chi (x) and rho (p), being the first and second letters of the Greek Christos. A replica was given to the Most Reverend George Carey, then Bishop of Bath and Wells on his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury. Copies in various sizes are available for purchase from the local Tourist Information Centre in Shepton Mallet's High Street.
Since 1993, as a result of structural problems at their Church, the Methodists have shared our building and a plaque to the right of the pulpit stairs records this fact. John Wesley preached in Shepton Mallet many times between 1745 and 1790. John Yeo, a local artist, designed and created a stained glass window at the end of 1999 to commemorate the Millennium and over 1000 years of Christian worship on this site. It was installed in the south east corner of the Church.
No visit to Shepton Mallet is complete without coming to see our beautiful church, the oldest building in the town. We should be pleased to welcome you and hope that if you do drop by you will perhaps be able to spend a little time looking for the various features mentioned above. An illustrated booklet giving the long and complex story of the Church is available on entering the West Door.
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