To an erstwhile South Londoner like myself there is something about the name Shepton Mallet that is quintessentially rural, and Iím pleased to say that The Playing Fields Ground at West Shepton lives up to that image and more besides.
Perhaps itís the old wooden stand, the tree-lined perimeter, or the grass banks - all of which lend the ground an undeniable charm that only a Non League grounds enthusiast could ever really understand - but the ground is actually much older that it appears at first sight, having first been used in 1956.
Up until then Shepton Mallet Town FC had played on a pitch in Whitstone Park, on the road from Frome to the town, until the local Council decided that it would be better served by a School on the site than a football ground! Fortunately (and perhaps remarkably given the problems that many Non League clubs experience today), the Council, together with a public subscription, raised £5,000 to purchase a new site off the Old Wells Road.
The original changing rooms stood roughly where the current facilities are today, but burned down in the early 1960s, forcing players to use a hut in the grounds of the Eye Hospital nearby.
The ricketty stand that stands on the near touchline, prevously saw service at Victoria Park, the former home of Street FC. However, when the latter moved to the Tannery Field in the 1960s, Shepton Mallet took the opportunity to re-erect one of two stands at the ground - the other being too fragile to be moved. Today its wooden steps provide a handy refuge from the elements, although the numerous roof supports obscure the view somewhat.
Opposite, is evidence of the type of ingenuity one only finds at this level of the Pyramid: a couple of old lorry trailers, cut in half and serving as additional cover for spectators (look closely inside and the weight restrictions are still visible).
Behind the far goal is a grass bank, providing a good vantage point when the ground is dry underfoot, although there is only hard standing part of the way Ďround the perimeter.
Floodlights were installed in 1977 in time for the Club to join the new Division One of the Western League, finishing runners-up in that inaugural season. In 1986 however the Club crashed with huge debts. A new club - Shepton Mallet FC - was formed to take the place of the Reserves in Division Two of the Somerset Senior League, and ultimately won promotion back to Division One of the Western League in 2001/01.
All in all, a delight and well worth a visit!
Take the Glastonbury road from Shepton Mallet town centre. After approximately half a mile (near the King William PH) turn right and the ground is 300 yards on the left.