James Kingston discovers a distinct air of elegance and an enviable history in this lovely market town
A stroll through Sherborne's shopping centre will show you just what sort of town Sherborne really is. The smart, and often historical, shops reflect popular involvement in traditional country activities and sports, together with a widespread appreciation of classic and contemporary fashions, catholic tastes in literature and classical music, and a love of fine wines, locally produced food and hand-made chocolates.
Close to the Conduit on pedestrianised Cheap Street, Sherborne's open-air market is held every Thursday and Saturday, and every third Friday is the Farmers' Market. Every month, there are antiques and collectors' fairs and book markets, held in Digby Hall, Hound Street or Church Hall, Digby Road.
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Celebrating 1,200 years since St Ealdhelm founded the bishopric town of Sherborne, the 'Mother of all Pageants' was held at the Old Castle in June 1905. An audience of 30,000 watched 800 local people and 50 horses perform the historical pageant. The proceeds, with donations and subscriptions, funded the Pageant Gardens.
Installed in 1869 at Castleton, the 26ft diameter waterwheel, with its 72 buckets, powered pumps bringing clean water to Sherborne until it was decommissioned in 1959. After years of voluntary effort, the station and the huge wheel have been restored, with a new sluice gate and a fascinating collection of artefacts.
A bit of history
Steeped in learning
With historic links to such literary masterpieces as the 15th-century Sherborne Missal and Sir Walter Raleigh's History of The World, Sherborne's incomparable colleges and ecclesiastical buildings have literature and the love of learning steeped into their sandstone walls. When you visit Sherborne, stop and look around. There's even more to Sherborne than its smart boutiques and restaurants.
St Johns' Almshouse
Near the Abbey, fronting onto Trendle Street, is the 15th-century chapel and main hall of the original Almshouse of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. The little tiled courtyard is usually very cheerful with colourful and decorative plant pots.
The Conduit 'washroom'
This attractive structure was first employed as a lavatory in Sherborne Abbey cloisters in the early 1500s but, at the Dissolution it was removed to Cheap Street for use as a market house. The windows on five of its six sides have been cut down to form open arches, the west side being its original entrance from the cloisters.
The Town Museum
Underneath 15th-century Bow Arch in Church Lane, where 12 Monmouth rebels are said to have been hung, is Sherborne Museum. Discover Sherborne's history back to the Romans. There's a model of the Old Castle before the siege, the famous Sherborne Missal, and lots of changing exhibitions. Contact (01935 872267
The spectacular Abbey
Much has been written about the Abbey Church of St Mary but clearly we can't visit Sherborne without mentioning this glorious building. It's very pleasant to settle on a convenient bench by the Digby Memorial and soak up the atmosphere. Don't miss the Sherborne Abbey Festival from 1-5 May.
Sherborne New Castle was built by Sir
Walter Raleigh in 1594. He had never really liked Roger de Caen, Bishop of Salisbury's cold and draughty 12th-century Old Castle that Queen
Elizabeth gave him two years earlier.
The 'new' Castle has been home to
the Digby family since 1617, the year
before Raleigh was executed.
Things to do and see
10th Sherborne Abbey Festival - Friday 1 May to Tuesday 5 May includes The Sixteen, Dame Emma Kirkby and Julian Lloyd Webber
Sherborne Castle Country Fair - 25 May. Tickets (01749 813899. Details (01749 814041
Castleton Waterwheel Museum Open Days - Sunday 3 and 31 May, 11am-5pm
Open access between Sherborne's Old Castle and New Castle grounds - Sunday 3 May and Bank Holiday Monday 4 May. Details
(01935 813182) or www.sherbornecastle.com
Sherborne Market Thursdays and Saturdays. Farmers' Market - 15 May, 9am-1pm.
Antiques Fairs (01460 75069),
Book Markets (01935 841148)
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