Street's population has made a living through quarrying, knitting, weaving until Clarks shoe makers brought much needed employment to the village. Today Street is known for Clarks Village shopping outlet and attracts visitors from all over the South West. It is a handy base from which to explore the Polden Hills, Glastonbury and the Mendips.
Street is a functional centre with two swimming pools, the outdoor pool installed by the Clarks is still in use, sports club and theatre. Strode Theatre stages drama, music and dance productions as well as showing mainstream and independent cinema. The foyer has exhibition space showcasing photography, painting and textile art from artists in the area. Street Theatre is based at Strode Theatre and was founded in 1966 and aimed to bring quality drama to Street.
Hecks Cider is also made in Street and has been since 1840. You can visit and tour the farm where cider, perry and apple juice is made from the apples in the farm's own orchards. There is a farm shop selling the products as well as gifts. It is open all year round seven days a week.
Street is a modern large village which is most famed for its association with C & J Clark, makers of Clarks Shoes. Clarks started out as a sheepskin and shoe making business set up by brothers Cyrus and James Clark, local farmers and Quakers. Using out-workers from the village the businesses soon grew to become known as a global shoe brand.
Several factories were built in Somerset to cope with demand. The company had a paternalistic attitude towards its workers and provided them with housing, education and leisure activities including its civic hall, library, open-air swimming pool and theatre. In line with their religious beliefs, they were also keen to keep Street "dry".
Ironically many of the Clark family children were often seen running around barefoot - not because they couldn't afford shoes but because the Clark shoe experts believed shoes to be bad for the development of children's feet - that might go some way to explain why traditionally Clarks shoes came in a variety of fittings to accommodate all different sizes and widths of feet.
The twentieth century saw the closure of the British factories as it became increasingly cost effective to take production abroad. Clarks headquarters have remained in Street and the former factory buildings were converted in 1993 to form Clarks Village - the first purpose built factory outlet in Britain. It now houses a Clarks Factory Shop as well as other outlet shops including Next and Marks and Spencer as well as over 75 other household-named shops. Clarks Village is open every day of the week throughout the year.
Given the industrial history of Street it is fitting that it should have a Shoe Museum. The Museum tells the history of shoemaking since Roman times up to the present day through a display of shoes spanning that period - including a good selection of twenties and thirties dance shoes. You can also see the machinery that was used to make shoes and find out more about the Clark family and its connection with Street. The Shoe Museum is based in the Clarks Headquarters buildings opposite the Bear Inn.
The Polden Hills is the ridge that runs parallel to the Mendips but separated by the Somerset Levels in between. Street lies at the eastern end of the Polden Hills which run all the way west to Puriton near Bridgwater. The underlying geology is largely blue lias limestone, which has yielded marine fossils, alternating with bands of clay. This geology means that a diverse range of flora covers the rocks from calcareous grassland to mature ash woodland that has traditionally been managed as coppiced woodlands.
The Polden Hills are criss-crossed with footpaths and once at the top you get some fantastic views of Somerset Levels, the Mendip and Quantock Hills and out to the Bristol Channel. A good vantage point is Ivythorn Hill south of Street. This is an estate managed by the National Trust as well as being a nationally protected site for its unimproved calcareous grassland, scrub and broadleaved woodland. This habitat mosaic is excellent for a wide range of insects and nearby Collard Hill is particularly good for large blue butterflies. There is a National Trust car parks opposite the Youth Hostel on Ivythorn Hill.