Taunton /ˈtɔːntən/ is a large regional town in Somerset, England.
The town currently peaks at a population of 69,570 as of 2018. The
town itself has over 1,000 years of religious and military history,
including a monastery dating back to the 10th century and Taunton
Castle, which has origins in the Anglo Saxon period and was later the
site of a priory. The
Normans then built a stone structured castle,
which belonged to the Bishops of Winchester. The current heavily
reconstructed buildings are the inner ward, which now houses the
Somerset and the
Somerset Military Museum.
The town is undergoing a regeneration project with redevelopment of
the town centre. It has various transport links which support its
central role in economy and commerce. These have included the Grand
Western Canal which reached
Taunton in 1839 and arrival of the railway
Taunton is the site of
Musgrove Park Hospital
Musgrove Park Hospital and
Cricket Club's County Ground and is home to 40 Commando, Royal
Taunton is part of the annual
West Country Carnival
circuit. It hosts the
Taunton flower show, which has been held in
Vivary Park since 1866. The
United Kingdom Hydrographic Office is
located on Admiralty Way.
2.1 Borough Council
2.2 County Council
United Kingdom Parliament
2.4 European Parliament
3.2 Nature reserves
7.2 Public parks
M5 motorway crash
8.3 Buses and coaches
10 Health Services
11 Religious sites
12.1 Popular culture references
14 Notable residents
17 External links
The War Memorial and town centre, Taunton
The town name derives from "Town on the River Tone" — or Tone
Cambria Farm which is now the site of a Park and ride
close to Junction 25 of the
M5 motorway was the site of a Bronze and
Iron Age settlement and Roman farm. There was a Romano-British
village near the suburb of Holway, and
Taunton was a place of
considerable importance in Saxon times. The Saxon town was a burh
with its own mint. King
Ine of Wessex
Ine of Wessex threw up an earthen castle
here about 700, but it was destroyed by his queen Æthelburg of Wessex
in 722, to prevent its seizure by rebels.
Taunton Cross c. 1770
A monastery was founded before 904. The bishops of Winchester owned
the manor, and obtained the first charter for their "men of Taunton"
from King Edward in 904, freeing them from all royal and county
tribute. At some time before the
Taunton had become a
borough with very considerable privileges, and a population of around
1,500 and 64 burgesses, governed by a portreeve appointed by the
Somerton took over from
Ilchester as the county town in the
late thirteenth century, but it declined in importance and the
status of county town transferred to
Taunton about 1366. Between
1209 and 1311 the manor of Taunton, which was owned by the Bishop of
Winchester, increased two and a half times. The parishes of
Staplegrove, Wilton and
Taunton itself were part of the
In 1451 during the
Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
Taunton was the scene of a
skirmish between Thomas de Courtenay, 13th Earl of Devon, and Baron
Bonville. Queen Margaret and her troops passed through in 1471 to
defeat at the Battle of Tewkesbury. In the Second Cornish Uprising
of 1497 most of the Cornish gentry supported Perkin Warbeck's cause
and on 17 September a Cornish army some 6,000 strong entered Exeter
before advancing on Taunton. Henry VII sent his chief general,
Giles, Lord Daubeney, to attack the Cornish and when Warbeck heard
that the King's scouts were at
Glastonbury he panicked and deserted
his army. Henry VII reached
Taunton on 4 October 1497 where he
received the surrender of the remaining Cornish army. The ringleaders
were executed and others fined a total of £13,000.
Taunton Castle changed hands several times during the Civil War of
1642–45 but only along with the town. During the Siege of
Taunton it was defended by Robert Blake, from July 1644 to July 1645,
with the town suffering destruction of many of the medieval and Tudor
buildings. After the war, in 1662, the keep was demolished and only
the base remains. On 20 June 1685 the Duke of Monmouth crowned
himself king of
Taunton during the
Monmouth Rebellion and
in the autumn of that year
Judge Jeffreys lived in the town during the
Bloody Assizes that followed the Battle of Sedgemoor.
A road map of
Taunton from 1948
The town did not obtain a charter of incorporation until 1627,
which was renewed in 1677. The charter lapsed in 1792 owing to
vacancies for the members of the corporate body, and
Taunton was not
reincorporated until 1877. The medieval fairs and markets of Taunton
(it still holds a weekly market today), were celebrated for the sale
of woollen cloth called "Tauntons" made in the town. On the decline of
the woollen industry in the west of England, silk-weaving was
introduced at the end of the 18th century.
In 1839 the
Grand Western Canal
Grand Western Canal reached
Taunton aiding trade to the
south, which was further enhanced by the arrival of the railway in
A permanent military presence was established in the town with the
completion of Jellalabad Barracks in 1881.
In World War II the
Bridgwater and Taunton Canal
Bridgwater and Taunton Canal formed part of the
Taunton Stop Line, designed to prevent the advance of a German
invasion. Pillboxes can still be seen along its length.
Taunton was named as a 'Strategically Important Town or City' in the
government's Regional Spatial Strategy, allowing
Council to receive funding for large-scale regeneration projects.
In 2006, the council revealed plans which it called "Project Taunton".
This would see the regeneration of the areas of Firepool, Tangier, the
Retail town centre, the cultural quarter, and the River Tone,
aiming to sustain
Taunton as a central hub for business in the South
The new bridge under construction in the Tangier district. Taken in
The Firepool area on the northern edge of
Taunton town centre,
adjacent to the main line railway station, currently includes a high
proportion of vacant or undeveloped land. The Council is promoting a
sustainable, high quality, employment-led mixed-use development. The
Firepool project is set to attract 3,000 new jobs and 500 new
In Tangier, a brownfield area between
Somerset College of Arts and
Technology and the bus station, the project proposes to build small
offices and more riverside housing.
The "Cultural Quarter" is the area along the river between Firepool
and Tangier. The proposals have plans to extend riverside retail,
an aim to attract more smaller, boutique businesses, such as those
already found in the Riverside shopping centre.
Plans for the town centre include greater pedestrianisation and an
increase in size and number of retail units.
Several sites along the
River Tone are set to undergo renovation.
Firepool Weir lock — long silted up — will be dredged
during 2011 to allow boats to pass from the navigable section of
the Tone through
Taunton to the
Taunton Canal. Goodland
Gardens has received a makeover and a new cafe, The Shed, has opened.
Projects to develop
Somerset Square (the paved area next to the
Brewhouse Theatre) and Longrun Meadow (country park near to SCAT) have
already been delivered.
The government sees Taunton's traffic congestion problems as a serious
obstacle to its continuing economic growth. An important part of
its growth strategy for the town is new road infrastructure consisting
of a new £7.5 million link road to ease traffic in the town centre
(Taunton's 'Third Way') which was completed in 2011 and a Northern
Inner Distributor Road linking Staplegrove Road, the railway station
Priory Avenue at a planned cost of £21 million opened in
Taunton includes an area named Holway which was once a village in its
own right. Holway was originally one of the Five Hundreds of Taunton
Dean, the Infaring division or district of the three districts that
Taunton Dean. The parish of Staplegrove is situated in the
northern suburbs of Taunton. The parish, largely built by Monsell
Youell Construction Ltd in the 1970s, has a population of 1,889.
Taunton is the main settlement and administrative centre of the local
government district of
Taunton Deane. The district was formed on 1
April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, by a merger of the
municipal borough of Taunton, Wellington urban district,
District, and Wellington Rural District.
Taunton Deane was granted
borough status in 1975, perpetuating the mayoralty of Taunton. The
district was given the name of an alternate form of the Taunton
Taunton Deane Borough Council consists of 55 councillors, of whom 20
are elected for wards in the town of Taunton. The wards are:
Blackbrook & Holway; Eastgate; Fairwater; Halcon; Lyngford; Manor
& Wilton and Pyrland & Rowbarton. Eastgate ward returns two
councillors, with the remaining wards each returning three.
County Hall, The Crescent
Somerset County Council is based at County Hall in Taunton, and
consists of 58 councillors. The town of
Taunton is included in six
electoral divisions, each returning a single county councillor:
Taunton South; Taunton
Trull (which also includes rural areas). Five
councillors are members of the Liberal Democrats, and one is a
United Kingdom Parliament
Taunton Deane is a county constituency represented in the House of
Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member
of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election. It
is based on the town of
Taunton but extends to include Wellington,
many small villages and parts of Exmoor. The current MP is Rebecca
Pow, a member of the Conservative Party.
Taunton also form part of the electorate for the South
England constituency for elections to the European
Taunton lies on the
River Tone between the Quantock, Blackdown and
Brendon hills in an area known as the Vale of Taunton.
It is surrounded by many other large towns and cities which can be
seen on this directional compass:
Destinations from Taunton
Bridgwater, Weston-super-Mare, Cardiff
Glastonbury, Wells, Bath, Bristol
Wiveliscombe, Dulverton, Barnstaple
Langport, Somerton, Yeovil
Wellington, Tiverton, Exeter, Plymouth
Ilminster, Chard, Crewkerne, Weymouth
Permian (295–250 million years ago) red
sandstones and breccia outcrop, while rocks of
Triassic age (248–204
million years ago) underlie much of
Somerset and form the solid
geology to the
Somerset Moors and Levels.
There are several local nature reserves in and around Taunton, which
are protected under a statutory designation in Section 21 of the
National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. South Taunton
Streams is an urban wetland, and in the northern suburbs is the
Children's Wood riverside reserve which provides a movement corridor
for animals including otters along the banks of the River Tone. Birds
occurring at the site include: kingfisher, dipper, grey wagtail, mute
swan, grey heron and reed warbler. It is also home to butterflies such
as the small and large skipper, marbled white, small heath and small
copper, and to dragonflies and damselflies.
Weirfield Riverside is a linear nature reserve along the bank of the
River Tone providing alder and willow woodland, bramble, scrub and
rough grassland. The wetter areas which are sometimes flooded include
hemlock water dropwort, and yellow flag. Silk Mills Park and Ride
includes landscaping and ponds in three areas next to the River Tone
created when the park and ride was created. The woodland and grassland
supports aquatic and marginal vegetation. There are a variety of
birds, bats, reptiles and invertebrates. Frieze Hill Community
Orchard has been converted from allotments to rough grassland and an
orchard. The Kingston Black and
Yarlington Mill varieties of apples
are among those grown.
Along with the rest of South West England,
Taunton has a temperate
climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the
country. The annual mean temperature is approximately 10 °C
(50.0 °F). Seasonal temperature variation is less extreme than
most of the
United Kingdom because of the adjacent sea temperatures.
The summer months of July and August are the warmest with mean daily
maxima of approximately 21 °C (69.8 °F). In winter mean
minimum temperatures of 1 °C (33.8 °F) or 2 °C
(35.6 °F) are common. In the summer the
Azores high pressure
affects the south-west of England, however convective cloud sometimes
forms inland, reducing the number of hours of sunshine. Annual
sunshine rates are slightly less than the regional average of
1,600 hours. In December 1998 there were 20 days without sun
recorded at Yeovilton. Most of the rainfall in the south-west is
caused by Atlantic depressions or by convection. Most of the rainfall
in autumn and winter is caused by the Atlantic depressions, which is
when they are most active. In summer, a large proportion of the
rainfall is caused by sun heating the ground leading to convection and
to showers and thunderstorms. Average rainfall is around 700 mm
(28 in). About 8–15 days of snowfall is typical. November to
March have the highest mean wind speeds, and June to August have the
lightest winds. The predominant wind direction is from the
UK Census 2001
South West England
Over 75 years old
The town of
Taunton (which for population estimates includes the
unparished area – or former municipal borough – plus the
neighbouring parishes of Bishop's Hull, Comeytrowe, Norton Fitzwarren,
Trull and West Monkton) had an estimated population of
61,400 in 2001. It is the largest town in the shire county of
Taunton forms part of the larger borough of
Taunton Deane which also
includes the town of Wellington and surrounding villages. Taunton
Deane had an estimated population of 109,883 in 2010.
The figures below are for the
Taunton Deane area.
Population since 1801 – Source: A Vision of Britain through
Time & Inform Somerset
In 2011, the
Taunton built up area subdivision had a population of
60,479 compared with 110,187 for the surrounding borough of
Taunton Deane. 91.6% of Taunton's residents were White British
in 2011 compared with 93.4% for
Taunton Deane. Taunton's
ethnic composition is similar to that of the whole of South West
England which was 91.8% White British in the same year. It's also
average compared with other major towns in the same region including
Poole and Plymouth.
Taunton Carnival takes a route through the shopping
district in the centre of the town.
Taunton Deane had a low unemployment rate of 4.1% compared with the
national average of 5.0% in 2005.
Taunton is home to the
United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) which
is an organisation within the Ministry of Defence responsible for
providing navigational and other hydrographic information for
national, civil and defence requirements. The UKHO is located on
Admiralty Way and has a workforce of approximately 1100 staff. At
the start of the Second World War chart printing moved to
the main office did not move until 1968.
Taunton is also home to one of the head offices of Debenhams, Western
Viridor and CANDAC.
Moreover, the town is home to local offices for Defra, the Charity
England and Wales, and General Electric. The first
ever store of the multinational clothing retailer New Look opened in
Taunton in 1969.
Taunton is also famous for the production of
Between April 2015 and April 2016, Avon and
Somerset Police statistics
showed a rise of more than 50% in violent crime. The same statistics
also showed that approximately half of crimes committed did not result
in a charge, with 37,332 incidents in
Taunton over two years and
55,249 hours spent by officers at crime scenes.
Taunton has been noted for its growing drug abuse problems, with
Taunton Deane Borough Council noting the prevalence of narcotics such
as Krokodil in the community.
Taunton Deane has the highest number
of rough sleepers in Somerset, nearly double the number of West
Somerset, the second highest district. Drug abuse has been noted
as one of the leading causes of homelessness in
Taunton and has made
national news in recent years.
In 2017, a major police dawn raid operation arrested 27 drug dealers
across Somerset, mainly based in the Priorswood and Halcon areas of
Taunton. A significant number of weapons and class A drugs were seized
in the operation, with Chief Inspector Lisa Simpson commenting,
"People shouldn’t have to live in places where dealers freely sell
drugs on the streets, in parks or in areas where children play which
is what was happening in Bridgwater,
Glastonbury and Taunton."
In February 2018, the murder of Heather Jordan in the Priorswood area
Taunton caused debate among local residents concerning the urban
decay and rising crime in the town, questioning the success of the
regeneration projects of
Taunton Deane Borough Council as violent
crime and drug abuse incidents continue to rise.
Almshouses on East Street were founded by Robert Gray in 1615
for poor single women. The red brick buildings bear the arms of
Robert Gray, dated 1635, and another arms of the Merchant Tailors. A
small room is used as chapel and has original benches and a painted
ceiling. It has been designated by
English Heritage as a grade I
St Margaret's Almshouses
St Margaret's Almshouses was founded as a leper
colony in the 12th century.
Glastonbury Abbey acquired the patronage
of the hospital in the late 13th century and rebuilt it as
almshouses in the early 16th century. From 1612 to 1938 the building
continued to be used as almshouses, cared for by a local parish. In
the late 1930s it was converted into a hall of offices for the Rural
Community Council and accommodation for the
Somerset Guild of
Craftsmen. It later fell into disrepair until the
Preservation Trust with Falcon Rural Housing purchased and restored it
for use as four dwellings of social housing. It is a grade II*
The grounds of
Taunton Castle include the
Somerset County Museum
and The Castle Hotel, which incorporates the Castle Bow archway.
Together with the municipal buildings they form a three-sided group of
buildings just beyond the Castle Bow archway from Fore Street. The
centre of the square is used as a car park, and a plain brick edifice
of Mecca Bingo hall makes up the west side of it.
The frontage of the Tudor Tavern (now a branch of Caffè Nero) in Fore
Street dates from 1578 but the rest of the building is thought to date
from the fourteenth century.
Tudor Buildings, Fore Street
The area by the river north of the centre is surrounded by Morrisons
supermarket, retirement housing and the Brewhouse Theatre. Towards the
centre, is the Zinc Nightclub, Bridge Street and Goodlands Gardens.
Currently a regeneration programme is being executed, north of Bridge
Street, which will include redeveloping the County Cricket Ground. The
cricket ground has hosted large open-air music concerts for Elton John
in 2006 and 2012, and for
Rod Stewart in 2014.
Hankridge Farm is a retail park close to the M5 motorway, with large
stores including PC World, Currys, Mothercare, Halfords, B&Q, The
Range and Taunton's second
Sainsbury's store. In addition, there is a
'Venue' on the park, with restaurants, the Odeon cinema and Hollywood
Bowl bowling. Now known as Riverside Retail Park.
Taunton has three other retail parks. Belvedere Retail Park is
situated close to the town centre and consists of retailers such as
Bathstore, Laura Ashley and Johnsons Cleaners. St Johns Retail Park is
just off Toneway, going towards the motorway and consists of two
units. It is occupied by DFS and more recently joined by Go Outdoors,
where two vacant units were amalgamated into one for their opening in
April 2014. Taunton's second largest retail park is
Retail Park, located on
Priory Avenue. It consists of five units plus
an anchor store,
Wickes Extra. It was redeveloped in 2003 to modernise
the rather worn out appearance of the retail park and also to increase
The Old Market was a farmers market and took place on the Parade in
front of Market House but this eventually moved to the Firepool area,
although cattle trading on the site ceased in 2008. A large indoor
shopping centre to the east of the Parade was built on a site which
had, at one time been a pig market. Although its official name is now
Orchard, and before that the Old Market Centre, locals still refer to
it as "The Pig Market" as one operated on the site from 1614 to
County Walk is a small indoor shopping arcade in the town centre with
an anchor supermarket, Sainsbury's, plus several other large national
retailers such as Subway, Costa Coffee, Maplin and The Entertainer.
Victoria memorial water fountain, Vivary Park
There are a number of public parks around
Taunton including Vivary
Park, Goodlands Park and Victoria Park. The most notable is Vivary
Park, located on land that was formerly a medieval fish farm, or
Taunton Castle. Fronted by a pair
of cast iron gates made by the
Saracen Foundry of Glasgow, it
contains the Sherford Stream, a tributary of the River Tone, which
flows through the 7.5 hectares (19 acres) park, which is located
near the centre of the town. It contains two main wide open spaces, as
well as a war memorial dating from 1922, a miniature golf course,
tennis courts, two children's playgrounds, a model railway track which
was added in 1979, and an 18-hole, 4620-yards, par-63 golf course.
The park includes trees, rose beds and herbaceous borders, with around
56,000 spring and summer bedding plants being used each year. The
rose garden includes the
Royal National Rose Society
Royal National Rose Society Provincial Trial
Taunton Flower Show
Taunton Flower Show has been held annually in the park
since the 19th century. It has been described as "The Chelsea of the
West", and attracts around 24,000 visitors over its two days.
Goodlands Gardens, located in the centre of the town, is behind the
Debenhams department store and The Castle Hotel.
Taunton railway station
Taunton railway station is on the
Exeter line, the Reading
Taunton line, and the Cross-Country Route. It is served and
operated by Great Western Railway and served by CrossCountry, with
services to Manchester Piccadilly, Birmingham New Street, Cardiff
Bristol Temple Meads,
Plymouth and Penzance, as well as the rest of the West
Country. There are generally one fast and one slow trains each
hour to both
Bristol Temple Meads and
Exeter St Davids and one train
The former railway route to
Minehead is now a heritage railway known
as the West
Somerset Railway although services only operate between
Bishops Lydeard and Minehead. The Buses of Somerset's route 28 provide
a link between the railway stations at
Taunton and Bishops
In 2009, Project Taunton, the authority responsible for Taunton's
major regeneration project, revealed proposals for
Taunton metro rail,
as part of their transport sustainability plan.
Taunton also has good road links, having the
M5 motorway junctions 25
(Taunton) and 26 (Wellington) close to the town, as well as other
major roads such as the A38 and A358. The
Taunton bypass section of
M5, from J25-26, opened in April 1974, relieving the town of heavy
holiday traffic on the A38.
Taunton Deane services are located between
junctions 25 and 26 on the M5. However, with the flourishing local
economy, traffic is a problem with
Somerset County Council giving a
prediction of a significant increase based on 2001 levels. Two
major new road have been undertaken since 2010. The 'Third Way'
linking Bridge Street and castle Street opened in 2011 but the
Northern Inner Distributor Road (NIDR) between Staplegrove Road and
Priory Avenue, due to open March 2015, finally opened in July
M5 motorway crash
Main article: 2011
M5 motorway crash
On the evening of 4 November 2011, 34 vehicles were involved in an
accident close to junction 25 of the
M5 motorway northbound, on the
north eastern edge of the town at West Monkton. Seven people were
confirmed as dead, with a further 51 injured.
Buses and coaches
Taunton Bus Station
Many local bus services are provided by The Buses of Somerset. In
addition to town services, these run to destinations such as Minehead,
Bridgwater and Weston-Super-Mare. Other services are provided by
Stagecoach South West and Hatch Green Coaches. Services were
also operated by Webberbus, but these services ended when the company
closed on 12 May 2016.
Taunton Bus station is run by The Buses of
Somerset and is served by
National Express coaches.
A cross-town park and ride service is operated by The Buses of
Somerset linking the
Taunton gateway (near the M5 Motorway) and Silk
Mills on the north-west side of the town.
The nearest airports are
Exeter International Airport and Bristol
Airport; both are within 40 mi (64 km) of Taunton.
A single deck car in Fore Street
Taunton Tramway was opened on 21 August 1901. Six double deck cars
operated on the 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge line
between the railway station and East Reach where the depot was
situated. In 1905 the service was withdrawn for two months while the
track was improved; the cars were replaced at the same time by six
single deck cars and the old double deckers were sold to Leamington
Spa. A short extension beyond the station to Rowbarton was opened in
1909, making the line 1.66 miles (2.7 km) long. The price of its
electricity was due to increase in 1928 which the company refused to
pay so it offered to sell out but this was not accepted. The
electricity was cut off on 28 May 1921 and so the system
Bridgwater and Taunton Canal
Bridgwater and Taunton Canal is a navigable waterway which links
Taunton with Bridgwater, which first opened in 1827 and having been
closed to navigation in 1907 it re-opened following restoration in
State secondary schools in
Taunton include The Castle School,
Heathfield Community School,
Bishop Fox's School
Bishop Fox's School and The Taunton
Academy. Further Education is provided by Richard Huish College, The
Taunton Academy (which is sponsored by Richard Huish College) and the
Heathfield Community School
Heathfield Community School has a
post-16 Further Education college specialising in performing arts and
technical theatre called The SPACE (The
Somerset Performing Arts
Centre for Education).
Heathfield Community School
Heathfield Community School is also a Teaching
School and the base of
Taunton Teaching Alliance. The Taunton
campus of the
Taunton College is a partner college of
Plymouth University. There are three coeducational independent schools
in Taunton: Queen's College, King's College and
In March 2009, it was announced that Jim Knight, Minister of State for
Schools and Families, had approved plans that would mean the closure
Ladymead Community School
Ladymead Community School and the nearby St Augustine of
Canterbury RC/CoE School both in the Priorswood area of Taunton.
The schools closed in August 2010, and were replaced in September 2010
Provision for young people with special educational needs in Taunton
is provided by two
Special Schools and one Complex Pupil Referral Unit
(PRU). Sky College caters for boys aged 10 – 18 who have social,
emotional and mental health difficulties. Selworthy School has pupils
on roll between the ages of 4 and 19 who have complex and multiple
learning difficulties, whilst the
Taunton Deane Partnership
College is a complex PRU for children in Key Stages 2, 3 and 4 as well
as a Medical Tuition Service, Outreach & Advisory service and an
Area Access Team.
Taunton is within
Somerset Primary Care Trust and is home to Musgrove
Park Hospital, within
Somerset Foundation NHS Trust. This
is one of two district hospitals within
Somerset alongside Yeovil
District Hospital. A Nuffield Hospital is also situated within the
town, run privately by Nuffield Health. The town is also home to
several doctor's surgeries as well as a family planning clinic,
occupational health centre and chiropractic clinic.
Parish church of St. Mary Magdalene
Church of St John the Evangelist
The parish church of St. Mary Magdalene, built of sandstone more in
Somerset style, preserves an attractive painted interior,
but its most notable aspect is its 15th- and 16th-century tower
(rebuilt in the mid-19th century), which is one of the best examples
in the country and a 163 feet (50 m) tall landmark. It
was described by Simon Jenkins, an acknowledged authority on English
churches, as "the finest in England. It makes its peace with the sky
not just with a coronet but with the entire crown jewels cast in
red-brown stone." The tower itself has 12 bells and 3 bells "hung
dead" for the clock mechanism.
The parish church of St. James is also located near the centre of
Taunton quite close to St. Mary Magdalene. The oldest parts of St.
James Church are early 14th-century, and there are fragments of
15th-century glass in the west end. Like St. Mary's it also has a
sandstone tower but built to a much less impressive design. The tower
was also, like St. Mary's, rebuilt in the 19th century – in
this case thought to be due to building defects in the original
tower. The church backs onto the County Ground and forms a
familiar backdrop to the popular cricket ground.
St George's is the town's
Roman Catholic church and dates from the
mid-19th century. It was the second Catholic church to be built in
Taunton after the Reformation, replacing the much smaller St George's
Chapel. The main church building is designated by
English Heritage as
a Grade II* listed building, while the rectory is Grade II listed.
The Mary Street Unitarian Chapel, which dates from 1721, is
located on Mary Street in Taunton. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, while
Nether Stowey 16 miles (26 km) away, came to the chapel to
preach on several occasions. Dr. Malachi Blake, who founded the
Somerset Hospital in East Reach, Taunton, was also a
preacher at the chapel, attending in 1809 in celebration of the
fiftieth year of George the Third's reign. The Chapel still has the
original interior including Flemish oak pillars in the Corinthian
style. The pews and pulpit are also in oak, and there is an early
In the latter part of the 17th century,
Taunton had two dissenting
places of worship: "Paul's Meeting" and the Baptist Meeting.
Paul's Meeting was built at the top of Paul Street soon after 1672 on
part of a bowling green behind the Three Cups Inn, now The County
Hotel, and rapidly became one of the largest congregations in the
Mayor Timewell sacked both Paul's Meeting and the
Baptist Meeting in 1683, the dissenters were driven to worship in
private houses on the outskirts of Taunton, where their assemblies
were regularly raided by the Justices. Paul's Meeting survived
attempts to turn it into a workhouse and, with the coming of William
III and Mary II, followed by the Toleration Act 1688, was reopened.
Hugh Willoughby, 15th Baron Willoughby of Parham, was educated in
early life at
Taunton Dissenters' Academy. The Baptist Meeting
became the Baptist New Meeting was registered in 1691 and rebuilt in
1721 as Mary Street Chapel.
The theatre in
Taunton town centre is the Brewhouse Theatre. This
closed in February 2013 due to financial difficulties but was reopened
in April 2014 by the
Taunton Theatre Association (TTA) who were
granted the lease from
Taunton Deane Borough Council who had bought
the 61-year lease of the site and its contents from
administrator. Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre is a
professional theatre based at
Heathfield Community School
Heathfield Community School hosting
touring theatre, dance and comedy, as well as productions by South
West schools and colleges. Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre also runs
numerous community classes. The Creative Innovation Centre CIC has an
arts and culture venue in the town centre.
Several concerts are held each year Taunton's largest church, St Mary
Magdalene. In recent years The Sixteen, The
Tallis Scholars and
Gabrieli Consort have all performed to full capacity
Taunton is also home to several choirs and
orchestras who perform in the town's churches and independent schools'
chapels. Many local musical and drama groups are members of the
Taunton Association of Performing Arts (TAPA) which produces a diary
and anti-clash calendar of performances in and around the town.
Three radio stations, BBC Somerset, Tone FM and Apple
FM, broadcast from Taunton.
Popular culture references
Taunton is mentioned in
The Remains of the Day
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro,
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré, and Evelyn
Waugh's Scoop, and was given the fictitious name of "Toneborough" by
Taunton also features in
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by
Douglas Adams, part of
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series of
Bill Bailey mentions the town in his stand-up DVD Part Troll,
claiming to have taken part in a teleportation experiment sponsored by
Somerset playing Yorkshire at the County Ground
Taunton Rugby Football Club is an English rugby union club that is
based in Taunton. They currently play in National League 2 South,
having achieved back-to-back promotions in 2009 and 2010.
The County Ground was originally home to
Taunton Cricket Club, which
was formed in 1829 and played at the County Ground until 1977 before
moving to Moorfields,
Taunton in conjunction with
Taunton Vale Hockey
Club, after which the County Ground has been solely used by Somerset
County Cricket Club.
Somerset CCC was formed in 1875, but the
club did not achieve first class status until 1891. The County
Ground has a capacity of 8,500 and the ends are called the River
End and the Old Pavilion End. It is the current home of the
England women's cricket team. The
Somerset Cricket Museum is situated
by the County Ground.
Taunton Cricket Club have since 2002 been located at the new Taunton
Vale Sports Club Ground, in Staplegrove, which features two cricket
Taunton Vale ground is also a regular home venue for
Somerset's Second XI.
Taunton Deane Cricket Club have a ground
adjacent to Vivary Park, while
Taunton St Andrews Cricket Club are
located at the nearby Wyvern Sports and Social Club. All three clubs
play in the West of
England Premier League or one of its feeder
Taunton Town F.C.
Taunton Town F.C. are a football club, who play at Wordsworth Drive in
the town. They were formed in 1947 by a few local businessmen as
Taunton F.C., changing to the current name in 1968, and played their
first friendly fixture in 1948. For most of their history, Taunton
were members of the Western League. They spent a six-season spell in
the Southern League from 1977, and after a further period in the
Western League, returned to the Southern League in 2002, after winning
FA Vase in 2001. After the latest re-organisation of the
English football league system, the club are currently members of the
Southern League Division One South & West.
Somerset Vikings are a
Rugby League Club who were formed at the
beginning of 2003 as part of the Rugby Football League's plans to
develop the game further beyond the traditional areas in the north of
England. Initially the side was made up of a mixture of Royal Marines
Exeter together with a number of local rugby
union players keen to try the 13-man code. The Vikings play at Hyde
Park which is the home of the
Taunton R.F.C., a rugby union club,
which was formed in 1875.
Taunton Tigers is a semi-professional basketball team competing in
Basketball League Men's Division 1. The team play all
their home games at Wellsprings Leisure Centre, which has a capacity
of 500 seats.
The Grandstand at the racecourse
Taunton Racecourse is close to the
Blackdown Hills and about 2 miles
(3 km) from the centre of Taunton. Although racing had been held
in the area previously, the first race at the present site was held on
21 September 1927. The stands are called the
Orchard Stand and the
Paddock Stand which provide catering facilities and are used for
meetings and conferences on days when racing is not taking place.
Taunton are a local volleyball club that have played for a
number of years, more recently in the
Exeter & District League.
They train and play their home games at Wellsprings Leisure
There is an oval motor racing circuit at Smeatharpe which is close to
the Somerset/Devon border, it is frequently referred to as the Taunton
Banger racing circuit although it is around 11 miles (18 km) from
Local skateboarders raised £183,000 for a replacement skatepark at
Hamilton Gault Park which opened in May 2010.
Taunton Freeriders is a community mountain bike project in partnership
Forestry Commission who are developing a series of northshore
and downhill (DH) style mountain bike trails just outside the town.
Run by volunteers from the local close-knit riding community and
funded solely by kind donations, they are also involved with the
redevelopment of the "Norton Dirt Jumps".
The following people were born or have lived in Taunton:
Colin Addison (born 1940) – former professional footballer and
manager; born in Taunton
Jenny Agutter (born 1952) – actress; born in Taunton
Joseph Alleine (1634–1668) – English Puritan Nonconformist
pastor and author
William Larkins Bernard (1843–1922) – architect; born in
Andrew Bicknell (born 1956) – actor; born in Taunton
Pattie Boyd (born 1944) – actress and model; former wife of
George Harrison and Eric Clapton
Jos Buttler (born 1990) –
England and Lancashire cricketer,
known for his big hitting of the ball; born in Taunton
Deborah Criddle MBE (born 1966) – para-equestrian who won three
gold medals at the
2004 Summer Paralympics
2004 Summer Paralympics in
Athens and three medals
2012 Summer Paralympics
2012 Summer Paralympics in London; born in Taunton; currently
lives in Trull, a village on its outskirts
John Crockford – publisher
William Crotch – noted composer and Principal of the Royal
Academy of Music. Buried at Bishops Hull Church, Taunton.
Stephen Daldry – three-time Academy Award nominated and Tony
Award-winning theatre and film director and producer
Charles George Gordon – British general, known as Gordon of
Khartoum; educated at Fullands School, now a retirement complex off
Shoreditch Road; lodged in a house next to the Temple Methodist
Antony Hewish – astronomer and Nobel Prize for Physics
Rebecca Huxtable – British radio personality and producer,
The Scott Mills Show
The Scott Mills Show on BBC Radio 1; born in
Alexander William Kinglake
Alexander William Kinglake (1809–1891) – barrister, travel
writer and historian; born at Wilton House near Taunton
Scott Laird – English footballer currently playing for
Lee Martin (born 1987) – footballer who currently plays for
Millwall F.C.; born in Taunton
Deborah Meaden (born 1959) – business mogul, philanthropist,
star of TV series Dragons Den; born in Taunton
William Ellis Metford (1824–1899) – engineer, best known for
the Metford rifling in the .303 Lee-Metford service rifle of the late
nineteenth century; born in Taunton
Ciara Michel – member of
Team GB Olympic volleyball squad, the
first GB volleyball team to play in the Olympic games
Frank Montague Moore
Frank Montague Moore (1877–1967) – painter; first director of
the Honolulu Museum of Art; born in Taunton
Alfred B. Mullett
Alfred B. Mullett (1834–1890) – architect to Abraham
Lincoln; born in Taunton
Justin Pipe – professional darts player
James Purefoy (born 1964) – actor, one of the stars of the
joint HBO-BBC series Rome; born in Taunton
Gary Rhodes – celebrity chef; head chef at The Castle Hotel in
Viv Richards – former West Indies cricketer; born in Antigua;
Taunton while playing for Somerset, 1974–1986
Andy Robinson (born 1964) – former
England rugby union
international and head coach; now head coach of Scotland; born in
Miranda Shearer (born 1982) – author; born in Taunton, but
resident of Spaxton, later
Over Stowey and Taunton
Hugh Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard
Hugh Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard (1873–1956) – military
officer involved in establishment of Royal Air Force; born in
Marcus Trescothick –
England cricketer, recipient of the
Taunton Deane Citizenship Award in 2005
Sir Charles Trevelyan, 1st Baronet
Sir Charles Trevelyan, 1st Baronet (1807–1886) – Governor of
Madras; born in Taunton
Phil Vickery – celebrity chef
Frederick Porter Wensley
Frederick Porter Wensley (1865–1949) – chief constable of
Scotland Yard CID; born in Taunton
David Henry Wilson – English writer, known for his children's
stories such as the Jeremy James series
Jeremy Wright – born in
Taunton and attended
Attorney General for
England and Wales; Conservative Member of
Taunton is twinned with
Lisieux in France,
Taunton, Massachusetts in the US.
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