Bruton is a funny town, enclosed in the valley of the swift-flowing River Brue, and almost totally dominated by its schools, of which there are five: three private, one state boarding, and one normal primary.
This gives the place a very 'town and gown' feel, with most of the shops, and eating establishments catering to the well-heeled parents rather than the hoi polloi.
The one-way system seems to be designed to ensures that most newcomers drive round the town at least twice, or perhaps that was just me.
Still the wealth of fine buildings means there is plenty to see as you search for the unsignposted Shepton Mallet road.
St Mary's Church
St Mary's Church dates mainly from the 14th century but was probably on the site of an earlier church. Apart from the impressive 'Somerset' tower, there are two outstanding features: the roof of the nave and the unusual chancel.
The later dates from about 1743 and was built in the classical style by a Sir Charles Berkeley to commemorate his late father.
Prior to that there was only a tiny chancel (possibly a remnant of the original church). So small, in fact that a rood screen was built across the eastern two bays of the nave to provide additional space.
There are 200 pigeon holes in this ancient Dovecote, some of which are still occupied despite the lack of a roof. It dates from the 16th century and would originally have supplied the monks of Bruton Priory with young squabs in the spring and summer.
Its position on top of a hill above the town is odd, and has led to speculation that it could also have been used as a watch tower.
Just off the High Street is Sexey's Hospital built in 1630 as a set of almshouses by the Trustees of the will of Hugh Sexey (1556 - 1619).
Although there is some doubt about Sexey's early life, It seems likely that he was the son of Richard Sexey, a rich Bristol Merchant and sometime mayor of that city.
In 1583 Hugh became Auditor General of the Bishopric of Bath and Wells. Then in 1599 he was appointed one of seven Auditors of the Exchequer of Queen Elizabeth I.
Originally housing 12 poor men and women, it was extended in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and now houses up to 28 elderly residents, many of who have close connections with the area
In addition to the main courtyard, the Jacobean chapel and the adjoining hall, are open to the public. Other areas are clearly marked as private.
External Links and References
There is a detailed history of the Hospital and its benefactor on display in the hall.