The Dorset walk 2: Sherborne – a town stroll
Teresa Rabbetts takes a gentle stroll around a town rich in sights
Published in April ’16
Sherborne is often referred to as one of the most beautiful towns in Dorset; popular silent star of TV and film – most recently The Imitation Game, Far From the Madding Crowd and the BBC drama Wolf Hall; this mellow yellow ham-stone town is filled with a wealth of medieval buildings, two castles, an Abbey, Almshouses and quirky architectural features wherever you look. 1905 saw Sherborne celebrate the 1200th anniversary of its founding as a bishopric by holding a great pageant – the money raised by this event was used to lay out the Pageant Gardens around a bandstand on Half Moon Field, on land donated by Mr F J B Wingfield-Digby.
How to get there: Enter Sherborne from A352 on New Road (B3145) and follow the signs for Sherborne station; the road goes down Gas House Hill and over a railway crossing. Either take the first turning left after crossing the railway line and park in Station Road or take the first turning right after the crossing and park in Ludbourne Road (Sainsbury Supermarket).
Parking & start: Car parks at Station Road or behind Sainsbury – off Ludbourne Road. The walks begins at Pageant Gardens.
Terrain: Streets around Sherborne – some uneven cobbles & slight incline, but otherwise a slow and pleasurable route with plenty of excuses to stop and enjoy the sights, tea rooms or coffee shops.
Maps: OS Landranger 183 Yeovil to Frome, OS Explorer Outdoor Leisure 129 Yeovil & Sherborne
Refreshments & Toilets: Numerous tempting coffee & tea shops, pubs & restaurants. WC in car park off Ludbourne Road & at the beginning of the walk in Digby Road.
1 Leave the Gardens on the far-side and walk down Digby Road. Pass the Digby – this magnificent building built in 1869 was formerly the Digby Hotel but has been a School boarding house since 1962. Briefly turn left down Cooks Lane to see the Digby Tap pub which stands on the site which housed the work house between 1749 and 1838. The pub was used for filming the 1962 thriller Murder of Quality starring Denholm Eliot and Glenda Jackson. Walk to the end of Digby Road (passing the Tourist Information Centre on the left) to reach the junction of Trendle Street and Half Moon Street.
2 Looking to the left is the Almshouse of St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist, founded by the Licence of King Henry VI in 1437 to house 17 poor men and women. In exchange for full board, lodging and clothing, the residents had to surrender their possessions and abide by the religious rules of the house. Continue around Abbey Close into the Abbey Church. On exiting, continue to the right of the Abbey beneath the 18th-century vertical sundial and follow the path as it veers left along Church Lane and under the Abbey Gate. Walking under the arch, Sherborne Museum is on the right. Continue onto the Parade, formerly called the Shambles referring to the stalls or standings in the Market Place.
3 Turn left after the conduit and walk up the west (left) side of Cheap (Cheap meaning Market) Street. Opposite Barclays Bank and set back through an alleyway is Cheap Street Church. Built as the Methodist Wesleyan Church in 1841, originally there was no entrance from Cheap Street until, in 1851, the previous house and garden were demolished and replaced with a pair of purpose built shops to form a gateway through. Today, the grounds offer a few moments of peace a few steps away from the bustling shops. Back on Cheap Street look out for the 16th-century Abbeylands house – a rare surviving example of a period half-timbered house with an over-hanging first floor.
4 Walking to the top of Higher Cheap Street, the road opens out to The Green. Although not actually a green area, this vicinity has long been of importance to the town; developed during the medieval period, the New Inn was built here in the 15th century to relieve the monastery of its duty to provide hospitality to travellers. It was the site of St Thomas’ Fair also known as the ‘Green’ or ‘Gooseberry’ Fair until it was abolished in 1888.
5 Returning back down Cheap Street, on the left side pass the George pub built on the site of a Tudor inn; an adjoined Tudor archway survives connecting the George to the Julian – a medieval ham stone building which was originally the Hospice of Saint Julian of Norwich. Before heading back down Cheap Street turn left into Newland. A few paces along, on the left is the Manor House, the remnants of a 15th-century building which now houses Sherborne Town Council. Much of the front of the building is 19th-century but on the first floor is a mediaeval oriel window.
6 Cross the road from the Manor House to The Paddock Gardens – originally the tennis courts for Lord Digby’s School which closed in the 1990s. In 2005 the area was turned into a tranquil garden to celebrate 1300 years since the founding of Sherborne. Return to Cheap Street, turn left and continue downhill past the Gold Post Box. Royal Mail celebrated UK Olympic and Paralympic gold medal winners by painting their local post box gold. Peter Wilson MBE from Sherborne was the Gold Medal winner for his performance in the Double Trap shooting. Continue to the bottom of Cheap Street and follow the road as it veers right into Half Moon Street to see Church House Gallery, a long-house built between 1530 and 1534 with a row of shops at street level and Parish Hall above on the first floor – The Queen’s Majesties’ players performed here in 1587 to an audience of dignitaries.
Return to parking by walking along Half Moon Street and back into Digby Road.