The Market Cross
In 1687 Philip, Lord Wharton, obtained a charter for a market to be held in Shap and the Market Cross was probably built soon after. The building was originally open at the sides with a central pillar and a loft above reached by a ladder which was used for keeping ling (heather). The arches were blocked up when the Boy’s school was built over the road, and the building became a Dame’s school for
During the 1930s the building was the Parish Rooms, and in the 1970s housed the village Library. When the library moved to the Old Courthouse in 2002 Eden District Council agreed to lease the building to Shap Local History Society for use as a Heritage Centre, and they were able to purchase it in 2004 with the aid of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is also the offices of Shap Parish Council.
The diamond pane windows are rare, the only other examples in Westmorland being found at St Peter’s Church, Askham and Levens Hall. They were recently restored by the History Society. The building is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as Grade II*.
Shap Local History Society was founded in March 2001, with the aim of collecting together and recording the vast amount of archive material relating to the parish – documents, maps, will, photographs, oral and family histories. The Society also has a monthly programme of talks from January to May, and in September and October. An annual social evening is held in November. In June and July there are outings to places of local historical interest – these have included walks round Shap, other villages such as Keld, Askham, Orton and Clifton and visits to Shap Abbey, Appleby Castle and the Mayor’s Parlour at Kendal amongst many others.
In 2002 Eden District Council leased the Market Cross building in the Main Street, Shap (formerly the library) to the Parish Council, who agreed to share the building with the Society as a Heritage Centre. A grant from the Lottery Awards for All enabled the purchase of a computer and digital recording equipment.
In 2006 a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund enabled the Society to purchase the freehold of the building, which the Parish Council continue to share. The computer equipment was upgraded and internet access for family history research was provided.
The Heritage Centre is open on Thursday afternoons during the summer, and on Shap Farmer’s Market days (the fourth Saturday in the month) and at other times by personal request.
The current exhibition has displays which reflect the wide range of archives held, in the past exhibitions have featured Shap in Victorian Times, Shap at Work and Leisure, the Railway through Shap, the most popular have been Mardale in 2004 and Mardale Homesteads in 2010.
The Society became registered as a Charity (number 1117146) in 2006.