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Village Life: West Pennard

PUBLISHED: 12:34 25 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:52 26 March 2019

A view of Glastonbury Tor from behind the Church of St Nicholas at West Pennard

A view of Glastonbury Tor from behind the Church of St Nicholas at West Pennard

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In our special series Andrea Cowan takes a look at village life in Somerset. This time she visits West Pennard...

West Pennard is a rural village in the Mendips, situated on the A361 between Glastonbury and Shepton Mallet and nestled on the lower slopes of Pennard Hill, from which it takes its name.

With a population of approximately 700, West Pennard is made up of a series of hamlets linked primarily by family dairy farms. The village grew around the 15th century parish church, The Church of St Nicholas, which includes an intact medieval preaching cross in the churchyard built by the English Benedictine abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Beere. The church is also noted for its 19th century stained glass windows, no doubt partly due to the fact that the vicar at the time was married to the daughter of a French glass manufacturer. One of the windows is dedicated to her memory.

Next to the church is the school, located in beautiful surroundings overlooking fields and situated at the foot of Pennard Hill. Built in 1843, West Pennard CofE Primary School has approximately 210 pupils and boasts an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating.

In 1937, Lady Mostyn of West Pennard House gifted the village hall to West Pennard in memory of her husband. It is a busy village hall extensively used for a wide mix of clubs and societies. A proactive committee organises regular fund-raising events towards the ongoing restoration of the building.

Displayed in the hall is a memento of one of the village’s remarkable stories. In 1837 a group of farmers decided to present the new Queen Victoria with a gigantic cheese on the anniversary of her coronation, using the milk of 700 cows. An octagonal ‘follower’ or mould was made from Spanish mahogany and it is a replica of this that is in the village hall. Weighing a half ton, the cheese was taken to Buckingham Palace, but Queen Victoria declared she preferred her cheese ‘mature’, not new, and sent them away.

The village is also home to a medieval tithe barn, owned by the National Trust. It is the smallest of the surviving barns that fell within The Hundred of Glaston Twelve Hides, named after the hides who gave food rent to Glastonbury Abbey, often one tenth of a farm’s produce. It can be visited but by appointment only.

The shop and post office might no longer exist, but the village has a garage, a residential home and a family-run, dog-friendly country pub, The Red Lion. This is close to the heart of the village and offers great pub food and bed and breakfast. A little further out is The Apple Tree, situated close to the old West Pennard railway station, a stone’s throw from the Glastonbury Festival site on the border between West Pennard and Pilton.

Did you know...? The Red Lion, a quintessential English country pub, featured in the 2015 television advert promoting the Rugby World Cup.

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