Village Life: Mells

A view of Mells, taking in Mells Manor, St. Andrews Church and the Walled Garden (c)

A view of Mells, taking in Mells Manor, St. Andrews Church and the Walled Garden (c) - Credit: sub

This month Andrea Cowan visits Mells - a village in the Mendips which is full of character

Steeped in history, Mells is a beautifully preserved estate village west of Frome. It ticks all the quintessential English boxes: meandering river, manor house, church, ancient streets, popular village school, pub, shop and café.

The finest building has to be Mells Manor, dating from the early 15th century when it belonged to Glastonbury Abbey. The manor and land was later acquired by the Horner family following the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Sir John and Lady Horner’s connections with the country’s artistic elite in the late 19th century and early 20th century are evident throughout the village. You can find commissioned works from the architect Edwin Lutyens, stone mason Eric Gill and artists and craftsmen such as William Morris and Alfred Munnings.

The male line of the Horner family died with World War One, but daughter Katharine married Raymond Asquith and it remains the home of the Earl and Countess of Oxford and Asquith. Katharine attracted many literary figures to Mells, including JM Barrie, Evelyn Waugh and the war poet, Siegfried Sassoon, who is buried in the graveyard of the beautiful, 15th century St Andrew’s Church.

The village has a population of approximately 700 residents, and enjoys a thriving community spirit. This was put to the test when the village shop and post office was under threat of closure in 2008. A group of villagers formed a community social enterprise and, having secured funds and local donations, opened a newly-refurbished shop and post office in 2009.

It was an immediate success, along with the subsequent opening of an adjoining café. It is frequented by the plethora of walkers and cyclists visiting the village but has also become a social hub for residents; the local policeman visits once a month to listen to any concerns and I saw a notice regarding a free computer session to be held in the week.

There is a foodie theme in Mells. Just up the road is the Walled Garden which combines a small plant nursery with an outdoor café. Open during the summer months, you can enjoy home-cooked food under the trees in an almost Mediterranean setting.

Opposite is the refurbished coaching inn, the Talbot Inn, arranged around a cobbled stableyard and welcoming travellers as it has for the past six centuries.

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With this combination of history, community and food, Mells is well worth a visit, but I’d hazard a guess that it’s an even better place to live.

Property Prices: According to local estate agents Allen & Harris, the average house price over the past 12 months was £415,000

Did you know...The award-winning Mells Café was opened by Mary Berry in 2011

Why not take a look at more of our Somerset villages...