Cranmore is a small village and a civil parish located in the Mendip district of Somerset in close proximity to Shepton Mallet and encompasses Dean, Waterlip and both East and West Cranmore. The village of Cranmore is 3.5 miles from Shepton Mallet and 7 miles from Frome, on the A361, a thriving community with various clubs and societies.
The origin of the name Cranmore comes from the Old English Crane Mere meaning ‘Cranes/herons’ pool’; which is still appropriate as at the centre of the village is a lovely pond that attracts many different birds, with an inviting public house, The Strode Arms overlooks the pond for your enjoyment. The village also has a Memorial Hall which was built to commemorate the First World War, with a dedicatory tablet over the entrance; today the Hall is used for all public events including coffee mornings. In recent years The Jubilee Room has been added to one end of the Memorial Hall and serves as a small meeting room or 2nd entrance to the hall.
The listed buildings in the area include Cranmore Hall, a large 17th century country house with landscaped gardens; part of which now forms a portion of All Hallows Preparatory School. Southill House is a small country house dating from the early 18th century; and in the hamlet of Dean is the Dean farmhouse that dates from the 17th century, with the Old Smithy that is now a residential dwelling. There is also a tall Victorian folly from the 19th century, Cranmore Tower, on a hill north of the village. The tower, built for John Moore Paget of Cranmore Hall has a viewing area around the top and is designated as a Grade II listed building by English Heritage. The tower served the Home Guard and the Royal Corps of Signals as a lookout tower during World War II. An interesting note is that during some repairs in the 1980’s, a Roman fort with a hoard of coins was discovered next to the tower. The tower is now privately owned.
One of the oldest buildings is the Church of St Bartholomew, part of the Shepton Mallet Benefice, (See Church information for more details on services and bell ringing), which dates from the 15th century and has been designated as a Grade I listed building. The church had additional work during the 16th to early 19th century, with each century leaving the mark of its architectural times. St. Bartholomew contains tombs of the Chetham family of Southill House who held their manor during the 17th century and beyond. The former Church of St. James in East Cranmore is believed to be on the site of an earlier Saxon chapel. St James, a Grade II listed building was deconsecrated and is presently used as a private dwelling. The structure has been slightly modernized but it is believed to have had few alterations. The building and the grounds are no longer consecrated, yet when one walks by it is difficult to believe that this is no longer a church.
One of the most unusual landmarks in this agricultural atmosphere is what has been described as the biggest hole in Europe. The reference is directed to the Torr Works quarry which is located just outside of East Cranmore. This is one of several ancient quarries in the Mendip hills which supplied the stone to build Wells Cathedral and Glastonbury Abbey. Torr Works is by far considered the largest of the quarries. The limestone is carried by rail from Cranmore and the mainline is used for heavy quarry traffic to the nearby Merehead Quarry. The quarry has been landscaped to blend with the surrounding countryside and although it is quite visible from a birds-eye view, the company has endeavoured to do whatever they can to camouflage the location at ground level; oddly enough there was even a bridle path running through the grounds.
With all of these points of interest, the most interesting is that of the East Somerset Railway (ESR) located at the southern edge of Cranmore. What was once an almost defunct railway station was purchased for the purpose of preservation during the latter part of the 1900’s, and one might say, the rest is history. From operating a steam-hauled train for tourists wishing to see the sights and sounds of an old style branch line through the Mendip Hills, the station has become the base of a permanent collection of trains and engines both steam and diesel, as well as playing host to “visiting” engines. Close to the station is an engine shed and workshop that was built in 1973. Originally the line operated from Cranmore to the Mendip Vale. What began as a preservation of the past has expanded into the delight of tourists and residents alike. In 1991 a new station building was constructed, offering Cranmore visitors all the amenities needed to enjoy their trip by adding a cafe and gift shop to browse, among other additions. The new building adjoins the old station which now serves as a museum and old relics such as the signal box from 1904. The railway hosts several public events throughout the year.