Shapwick, Somerset

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Shapwick Church.JPG
Church of St Mary
Grid reference: ST418382
Location: 51°8’28"N, 2°49’59"W
Population: 520  (2001)
Post town: Bridgwater
Postcode: TA7
Dialling code: 01458
Local Government
Council: Sedgemoor
Bridgwater & W. Somerset

Shapwick is a Somerset village, standing in the Somerset Levels, to the west of Glastonbury, within the Whitley Hundred.[1]

From the plan of its roads and streets academics have described it as a "typical English village",[2] which is as fine a tribute as can be paid to a place.

Shapwick is one of the nine Thankful Villages in Somerset; those few places in the kingdom which suffered no casualties in the First World War.


Shapwick is the site of one end of the Sweet Track, an ancient causeway dating from the 39th century BC.

In 1998 a hoard of 9,238 silver denarii (the second largest hoard ever found from the Roman Empire, and the largest in the United Kingdom) was discovered in the remains of a previously unknown Roman villa near Shapwick.[3] Following a Treasure Inquest in Taunton, the hoard was valued and acquired in its entirety by Somerset County Museums Service for the sum of £265,000.[4] It became known as the Shapwick Hoard.

Shapwick originally belonged to Glastonbury Abbey, forming part of its Pouholt (Polden) estate in 729.[5] The manor house (which was previously known as Down House) dates to around 1475; originally it was moated but the moat was filled in during the rebuilding in the first quarter of the 17th century.[6]

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries the manor passed to Thomas Walton and then to the Rolle family.[5] Sir Henry Rolle remodelled Shapwick House in 1630.[7]


The parish church is the Church of St. Mary, which was consecrated in 1331, but has some anachronistic style: its central tower is a style that was at least a century out of date. It underwent some alteration in the 15th century, particularly to tower and West end, with further restoration in 1861 by George Gilbert Scott. It has been designated as a Grade II* listed building.[8]


Shapwick Heath is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserve[9] It is a former raised bog lying in the basin of the River Brue.

The site supports a diverse community of terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates. National rarities are the Large Marsh Grasshopper (Stethophyma grossum) found on Sphagnum moss bogs, the Greater Silver Diving Beetle (Hydrophilus piceus) and the Lesser Silver Diving Beetle (Hydrochara caraboides) which is now confined nationally to the Brue Basin Peat Moors.[10]

The adjoining Shapwick Moor has been bought by the Hawk and Owl Trust and will be their first reserve in the Southwest. The land will be farmed traditionally in order to recreate the habitats of the past.[11] The management plan for the site is being overseen by Natural England. The first steps in the creation of the nature reserve are to reseed the land and then reintroduce Devon ruby red cattle cattle to the site. The priority is to encourage wildlife, not human visitors and there will be no visitor centre or permanent structures, but a public footpath which crosses the site will be improved and hides built along the footpath at key vantage points.[12] Birds identified at the site include: buzzards, sparrowhawks, kestrels, hobbies,[13] red kites, barn owls, lapwings, pheasants, cuckoos, woodpeckers and skylarks.[12]

Shapwick in popular culture

In 2012, the musician Jon Brookes (aka 'The Advisory Circle' of the Ghost Box record label)[14] released an electronica album entitled 'Shapwick' (on the Clay Pipe record label) based on "an imaginary impression of" the village and its surrounding countryside, following an unplanned car journey through the area one autumn evening: "I felt a certain energy around the place. The images created by the trees in the dark conjured inspiration and it struck me that an album could be based on an imaginary impression of this area. I had already recorded some pieces that were in search of a home and the idea formed within seconds."

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Shapwick, Somerset)


  1. Somerset Hundreds
  2. AD 900 - The Origins of the English Village – Mick Ashton, in Current Archeology
  3. The Shapwick Coin Hoard, Somerset County Council website
  4. The Shapwick Coin Hoard and Photos -
  5. 5.0 5.1 Robin Bush (historian) (1994). Somerset: The Complete Guide. Dovecote Press. p. 178. ISBN 1-874336-26-1. 
  6. National Heritage List 1190512: Shapwick Manor
  7. National Heritage List 1190480: The Granary and Shapwick House Hotel
  8. National Heritage List 1058962: Church of St Mary
  9. "Shapwick Heath NNR". Natural England. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  10. "Shapwick Heath". English Nature. Retrieved 2006-08-19. 
  11. Chris Sperring - Latest News]
  12. 12.0 12.1 Adler, Mark (November 2007). "Where wildlife rules". Mendip Times 3 (6): 7. 
  13. Shapwick Moor Newsletter (The Hawk and Owl Trust - North Somerset and Bristol Group)
  14. Ghost Box Records