Local charity wins Lottery bid to uncover heritage

The Darshill and Bowlish Conservation Society (DBCS) is delving into the lost history of the three west Shepton Mallet hamlets of Darshill, Ham and Bowlish.

The hamlets were centres of farming and cloth production (amongst other things) from medieval times until the turn of the 20th century and made a vital contribution to the local economy over hundreds of years, employing thousands of local people – and supporting their families – throughout that time.

Stretching from the current-day Shepton water treatment works (built on the site of the biggest woolen cloth mill complex) at Lower Darshill, through current-day Darshill, Ham and Bowlish to Longbridge in the town centre, the mills drew their power from the River Sheppey via a series of mill ponds, channels and tunnels to drive mill wheels as large as 30 feet in diameter.

For the next two years, the heritage project aims to study and understand the physical remains, both the historic and present day environment, and to try and revive something of the lives of the people involved. “We want to know what traces our forebears have left through the centuries of their toil, strife, birth, marriage and death. We owe it to them to make their legacy known and available to all,” said project leader, Ian Keys of Bowlish.

The initial phase of the project is to research documentary evidence and carry out surveys of the architectural, archaeological and environmental heritage. During year two, a two-part major outreach programme is planned taking the results of the project into participating local schools to support their curriculum, and into the wider Somerset community through a series of public events. Up-to-date progress reports appear on the project blog at www.dbhp.org.

“Overall, we plan to improve the environment of the hamlets and make a real and lasting difference to the understanding of our exceptional town,” Keys added.

We have been successful in gaining crucial financial support from the National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund, the Medlock Charitable Trust and other donors, but the project still needs additional financial contributions. To find out more, please contact us via either the Society’s website or the project blog.