About Mere and Districts

Mere is a town lying on the southern tip of Salisbury Plain. Mere is part of Wiltshire, but is situated close to both Somerset and Dorset. The A303 passes just to the north of town and the steep slopes of Castle Hill can clearly be seen from this roadway.

Mere features an attractive high street with stone-fronted properties mixed with pubs and shops. The town clock rings out the hour and forms the focus for commemoration events and town celebrations.

The Anglican church of St Michael the Archangel dates from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries and still retains evidence of an earlier building. The church has a 124 feet tower with commanding views over the area, there are eight bells that ring out from the tower.

Besides St Michael’s there is a United Reformed Church (built in 1868) and St Mary’s Roman Catholic church built in 1946 (using a surplus Nissen hut).

Other notable buildings in Mere include Woodlands Manor, a Grade 1 listed manor house and 14th century chapel. The Grade II listed Old Ship Hotel, formerly a house listed 1711 and then known as the Ship Inn. The Chantry, a 15th century house for priests. Dewes House from the 17th century.

Mere has a thriving primary school and feeds the local secondary school in Gillingham.

Mere boasts a fine library and museum, housed in the 1839 National School building. The town centre has two pubs, the George Inn and the Butt of Sherry. The Walnut Tree Inn is situated just to the south of town.

Mere town is fairly compact, but there are several hamlets near town including Charnage and Barrow Street. Close by are the communities of Zeals (Wiltshire), Bourton (Dorset) and Penselwood (Somerset).

A little history…

Around Mere is the evidence of prehistoric activity with Neolithic barrows at various sites and a causewayed camp at White Sheet Down. These date from c.3000 and c.2000, while the round barrows, including 21 on Long Hill are from 2000BC onwwards. A ridgeway across Mere Down provided a east-west route that would have been used throughout prehistory and later.

On White Sheet Hill there are the remains of an Iron Age hill fort. The fort encloses about 14 acres and indicates an economy of agriculture, cattle and sheep in the final centuries BC.

Richard, the Earl of Cornwall and the son of King John, built a castle in Mere in 1253. Richard was granted timber from Blackmore Forest and the castle was built using Chilmark stone. The castle covered the whole of the top of the hill, 390 feet by 102 feet deep. There were six towers, a chapel, a deep well and a dungeon. Richard built the castle in anticipation of the troubled times that pitted the king against the local barons. Over time it fell into disrepair and much of the stone was used in houses around the town. On Castle Hill there are no visible remains to be seen, but the hill is worth climbing to survey the surrounding area.

The 17th century saw the introduction of the stagecoach and with it the demand of accommodation. Mere became a staging post for weary travellers using the Exeter route.

In the 1700’s Mere was a centre for linen weaving, the importing and exporting of cloth was carried out from a house in The Square. The spinning of silk had replaced linen by the 1800’s and this continued in Mere until 1891.

658 – A battle fought near Penselwood by Cenwalh, King of Wessex, against the Britons.

1016 – Edmund Ironside defeated Canute and the Danes near Mere. Later in 1016 it was agreed that Edmund should rule Wessex and Canute the rest of England.

12th Century – First church built on the site of St. Michael’s

1253 – Earl of Cornwall builds Mere Castle on Long Hill

14th Century – Castle abandoned

c.1370-80 Woodlands Manor built

1408 – Henry, Prince of Wales, holds Mere and granted a Wednesday market and two fairs.

1424 – Chantry House built, accommodation for three charity priests

1580 – Church House built, The George Inn built.

1592 – Francis Potter born, philosopher, scholar, writer, Bible interpreter and an inventor of mechanical appliances.

Civil War – Churchyard cross, coloured glass and monuments in the church damaged by Cromwell’s soldiers.

1645 – Local vicar, Dr Thomas Chafyn imprisoned and badly treated. Later died of his wounds.

1651 – Charles II spent a night in Mere, fleeing from a defeat in the Battle of Worcester.

1823 – 1835 William Barnes, the noted poet, lived in Mere and ran a school.

1834 – Temperance Movement formed, encouraged by the Quakers

1839 – Town lit by gaslight

1863 – The medieval Market Hall demolished and replaced by the clock tower in 1868

1881 – A great storm that left snow as high as the hedges, Mere was cut off from the world for several days.

1899 – George Burden, former gardener to John Rutter, started a nursery. This business still operates as H. Burden & Sons Ltd.

1899 – the new Town Hall, or Assembly Rooms, were built.

First World War – Australian troops were stationed nearby and were frequently in town. The Grove Building was used as a Red Cross Hospital.

1922 – Hill Brush Company was formed.

1928 – First Mere Carnival was held.

1931 – Electricity supply arrived in Mere

Second World War – a camp established beyond Manor Farm, this was occupied in succession by the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Military Police and the Americans. Mere local ladies organised a canteen for the troops in the Triangle. There was an active Home Guard and ARP. Polish troops came to Manor Road Camp and remained there until 1947.

1970 – Library moved to the former National School building and joined by the Mere Museum.

1973 – Robin Yapp buys the former brewery and milk factory and starts Yapp Brothers Wine Merchants.

1976 – Bypass built for the A303