is a large village
and civil parish
in the district of Sedgemoor
in the English
county of Somerset
. It is situated on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills
north west of Wells
Cheddar is a village. The adjacent settlement of Axbridge
, although only about a third the population of Cheddar, is a town. This apparently illogical situation is explained by the relative importance of the two places in historic times. While Axbridge grew in importance as a centre for cloth manufacture in the Tudor
period and gained a charter from King John
, Cheddar remained a more dispersed mining and dairy-farming village until the advent of tourism and the arrival of the railway
in the Victorian era
This situation is unlikely to change in the near future, with the residents of both Axbridge and Cheddar proud of their settlements' respective status and the inevitable friendly local rivalry between the two.
Cheddar is twinned with the following towns and has an active programme of exchange visits:
The village is famous for having given its name to Cheddar cheese
which is the most popular type of cheese
in the United Kingdom. Although the cheese is now made worldwide, only one producer remains in the village itself.
Cheddar's other main produce is the strawberry, which gave name to the now disused Strawberry Line railway that ran from Yatton to Wells. In the 1960s, when the rest of the line was closed and all passenger services ceased, the section of the line between Cheddar and Yatton remained open for goods traffic, to provide a fast link with the main markets for the strawberries in Birmingham and London. The former station has become housing and a trading estate, and is the starting point for a cycle path along the old track to Axbridge, passing the Cheddar Reservoir, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its large population of wintering waterfowl, and the home of a sailing club.
Cheddar Ales is a small brewery, based in the village, which produces beer for pubs in the local area.
Gorge and caves
Cheddar is also famous for Cheddar Gorge
, the largest gorge
, and for the Cheddar caves, including Cox's Cave
, Tyning's Barrow Swallet
and Gough's Cave
where the remains of Cheddar Man
were found. Nearby is Wookey Hole
and Ebbor Gorge
Sites of Special Scientific Interest
There are several large and unique Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) around the village including Cheddar Reservoir
and Cheddar Wood
. By far the largest is called Cheddar Complex
and covers of the gorge, caves and the surrounding area. It is considered important for both biological and geological features.
Close to the village and gorge are Batts Combe quarry
and Callow Rock quarry
two of the active Quarries of the Mendip Hills
is still extracted.
There is evidence of occupation from both the Neolithic and Roman periods in Cheddar. The remains of a Roman villa have been excavated in the grounds of the current vicarage. It was also the site of a Saxon
Royal palace which has been fully excavated. Its outline has since been laid out in the grounds of The Kings of Wessex School
, which was built on the site although not directly on the palace.
Cheddar was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Ceder, meaning 'Shear Water' from the Old English scear and Celtic dwr. An alternative possible meaning is from Ceodre or ceod meaning a pouch referring to the caves or gorge.
William Wilberforce saw the poor conditions of the locals when he visited Cheddar in 1789. He inspired Hannah More in her work to improve the conditions of the Mendip miners and agricultural workers.
Cheddar has a number of active service clubs including Cheddar Vale Lions Club
, Mendip Rotary
and Mendip Inner Wheel Club
. The clubs raise money for projects in the local community and hold annual events such as a fireworks display, duck races
in the Gorge, a dragon boat
race on the reservoir and concerts in the grounds of the nearby St Michael's Cheshire Home
There are three schools: Cheddar First School, Fairlands Middle School and The Kings of Wessex School, which has a leisure centre with an indoor swimming pool. Cheddar village also has a Youth Hostel and several camping/caravan sites, including several large ones with many facilities. There is a Church of England parish church with a tall tower in the typical Somerset style, and also churches for Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist and other denominations, including a community Church which meets at the Kings of Wessex, senior school.
Notable buildings and structures
In the 10th century the Witenagemot
met three times at the Saxon
palace in Cheddar. The ruins of the palace were excavated in the 1960s and are located in the grounds of The Kings of Wessex School
, together with a 14th century chapel dedicated to St Columbanus. Roman remains have also been uncovered at the site.
St Andrew's Church
The Church of England parish church is dedicated to St Andrew and dates from the 14th century. It was restored in 1873 by William Butterfield. It is a grade I listed building and contains some 15th century stained glass and an altar table of 1631. The chest tomb in the chancel is believed to be to Sir Thomas Cheddar and dated 1442. The tower, which rises to , contains a bell dating from 1759 and made by Thomas Bilbie of the Bilbie family.
The market cross in Bath Street dates from the 15th century, with the shelter being rebuilt in 1834. It has a central octagonal pier, socket raised on four steps, hexagonal shelter with six arched four-centred arch openings, shallow two stage buttresses at each angle, and embattled parapet. The shaft is crowned by an abacus with figures in niches, probably from the late 19th century although the cross is now missing. Rebuilt by Thomas, Marquis of Bath
. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument
(Somerset County No 21) and grade II* listed building.
It was recently restored after being seriously damaged in a road traffic accident.
Hannah More's Cottage
Philanthropist educator Hannah More
founded a school in the village in the late 18th century. Her first school, a 17th century house now named Hannah More's Cottage, is a grade II listed building that is used by the local community as a meeting place.