Taunton

  (Redirected from Taunton, Somerset)

Taunton /ˈtɔːntən/ is a town in Somerset, England, with a 2011 population of 69,570.[2] It has over 1,000 years of religious and military history, including a 10th-century monastery. Taunton Castle has origins in the Anglo Saxon period. It was later the site of a priory. The Normans then built a stone castle that belonged to the Bishops of Winchester. Today's reconstructed buildings are the inner ward, housing the Museum of Somerset and Somerset Military Museum. Events include the Second Cornish uprising of 1497, when Perkin Warbeck marched a 6000-strong army to Taunton, most of which surrendered to Henry VII on 4 October 1497.[3][4] On 20 June 1685 the Duke of Monmouth crowned himself King of England at Taunton during a rebellion that culminated in the Battle of Sedgemoor. Judge Jeffreys then lived in the town during the Bloody Assizes held in the Great Hall of the Castle.[5] The Grand Western Canal reached Taunton in 1839 and the railway in 1842. Today Taunton holds Musgrove Park Hospital, the Somerset County Cricket Club's County Ground]] and the headquarters of 40 Commando, Royal Marines. The Taunton flower show has been held in Vivary Park since 1866. The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office is located in Admiralty Way.[6]

Taunton
Town
Cricket ground in front of a church tower.
The tower of St James's Church rises over the County Ground
Taunton is located in Somerset
Taunton
Taunton
Location within Somerset
Population60,479 (2011 census)[1]
OS grid referenceST228250
District
Shire county
Region
CountryEngland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townTAUNTON
Postcode districtTA1, TA2, TA3
Dialling code01823
PoliceAvon and Somerset
FireDevon and Somerset
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
Websitesomersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk
List of places
UK
England
Somerset
51°01′08″N 3°06′00″W / 51.019°N 3.100°W / 51.019; -3.100Coordinates: 51°01′08″N 3°06′00″W / 51.019°N 3.100°W / 51.019; -3.100

HistoryEdit

 
The War Memorial and town centre, Taunton

The town name derives from "Town on the River Tone or Tone Town.[7][3] Cambria Farm, now hosting 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.[8] There was a Romano-British village near the suburb of Holway,[9] and Taunton was a place of importance in Saxon times.[10] The Saxon town was a burh with its own mint.[3] King 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.[3]

 
Taunton Cross c. 1770

A monastery was founded before 904.[11] 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 Domesday Survey Taunton had become a borough with very considerable privileges, and a population of around 1,500[10] and 64 burgesses,[3] governed by a portreeve appointed by the bishops. Somerton took over from Ilchester as the county town in the late 13th century,[12] but it declined in importance and the function of county town moved to Taunton about 1366.[13] Between 1209 and 1311 the manor of Taunton, owned by the Bishop of Winchester, expanded two-and-a-half times.[14] The parishes of Staplegrove, Wilton and Taunton itself were part of Taunton Deane hundred.[15]

In 1451, during the Wars of the Roses, Taunton saw a skirmish between Thomas de Courtenay, 13th Earl of Devon, and Baron Bonville.[3] Queen Margaret and her troops passed through in 1471 to defeat at the Battle of Tewkesbury.[3] 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.[3][4] Henry VII sent his chief general, Giles, Lord Daubeney, to attack the Cornish. 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.[16]

Taunton Castle changed hands several times in the Civil War of 1642–1645, but only along with the town.[17] During the Siege of Taunton it was defended by Robert Blake from July 1644 to July 1645, with the town suffering destruction of many medieval and Tudor buildings.[3] On 20 June 1685 the Duke of Monmouth crowned himself King of England at 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.[5]

 
A road map of Taunton from 1948

The town did not obtain a charter of incorporation until 1627.[10] It was renewed in 1677, but lapsed in 1792 owing to vacancies for the members of the corporate body. Taunton was not reincorporated until 1877. The medieval fairs and markets (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.[18]

In 1839 the Grand Western Canal reached Taunton, aiding trade to the south,[19] which was further enhanced by the arrival of the railway in 1842.[3]

A permanent military presence was established with the completion of Jellalabad Barracks in 1881.[20]

In World War II the 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.[21]

RegenerationEdit

Taunton was named as "strategically important" in the government's Regional Spatial Strategy, allowing Somerset County Council to receive funding for large-scale regeneration projects.[22] 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,[23] aiming to sustain Taunton as a central hub for business in the South West.

 
The new bridge under construction in the Tangier district. Taken in February 2011

The Firepool area on the northern edge of Taunton town centre, adjacent to the main railway station, includes much vacant or undeveloped land. The Council is promoting sustainable, high-quality, employment-led mixed-use development of this. The Firepool project is set to attract 3,000 new jobs and 500 new homes.[24]

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.[25]

The "Cultural Quarter" is the area along the river between Firepool and Tangier.[26] The plans are to extend riverside retail and attract more smaller, boutique businesses, such as those found in the Riverside shopping centre.[27]

Plans for the town centre include more pedestrianisation and an increase in the size and number of retail units.[28]

Several sites along the River Tone are set to undergo renovation. Firepool Weir lock, long silted up, was to be dredged in 2011[29] to allow boats to pass from the navigable section of the Tone through Taunton to the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal. Goodland Gardens received a makeover and a new café, The Shed, opened. Projects to develop Somerset Square (the paved area next to the Brewhouse Theatre) and Longrun Meadow (country park near to SCAT) have been put forward.[29]

Traffic congestion was identified as an obstacle to continuing economic growth.[22] Part of the growth strategy for the town was a new road infrastructure consisting of a £7.5 million link road to ease traffic in the town centre (Taunton's "Third Way"). This was completed in 2011[30] and a Northern Inner Distributor Road linking Staplegrove Road, the station and Priory Avenue at a planned cost of £21 million opened in 2017.[31]

GovernanceEdit

Taunton includes an area named Holway that was once a village in its own right, as one of the Five Hundreds of Taunton Dean, the Infaring division or district of three districts that made up Taunton Dean.[32] The parish of Staplegrove lies in the northern suburbs. The parish, largely built by Monsell Youell Construction Ltd in the 1970s, has a population of 1,889.[33]

Borough CouncilEdit

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, Taunton Rural District, and Wellington Rural District. Taunton Deane was granted borough status in 1975, perpetuating the mayoralty of Taunton.[34] The district was given the name as an alternate form of the Taunton hundred.

Taunton Deane Borough Council has 55 councillors, of whom 20 are elected for wards in the town of Taunton: Blackbrook & Holway; Eastgate; Fairwater; Halcon; Lyngford; Manor & Wilton and Pyrland & Rowbarton. Eastgate ward returns two councillors, with the other wards each returning three.[35]

County CouncilEdit

 
County Hall, The Crescent

Somerset County Council, based at County Hall in Taunton, consists of 58 councillors. The town of Taunton is included in six electoral divisions, each returning a single county councillor: Taunton East; Taunton Fairwater; Taunton North; Taunton South; Taunton West and Taunton and Trull (which includes rural areas). Five councillors are Liberal Democrats and one a Conservative.[36]

ParliamentEdit

Taunton Deane is a county constituency represented in the House of Commons. It elects one Member by the first past the post system. It is based on the town of Taunton but extends to Wellington and small villages and parts of Exmoor. The current MP is Rebecca Pow of the Conservative Party.[37]

GeographyEdit

Taunton lies on the River Tone between the Quantock, Blackdown and Brendon hills. The area is known as the Vale of Taunton.

It is surrounded by many other large towns and cities seen on this directional compass:

Taunton is 38 miles (61 km) south-west of Bristol, 28 miles (45 km) north-east of Exeter, 63 miles (102 km) north-east of Plymouth and 40 miles (64 km) north-west of Weymouth.

GeologyEdit

The Taunton area has Permian (295–250 million years old) red sandstones and breccia outcrop, while rocks of Triassic age (248–204 million years ago) underlie much of Somerset and form the geology of the Somerset Moors and Levels.[38]

Nature reservesEdit

There are several local nature reserves in and around Taunton, 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.[39] In the northern suburbs is the Children's Wood riverside reserve, offering a movement corridor for animals such as otters along the banks of the River Tone. Birds at the site include the kingfisher, dipper, grey wagtail, mute swan, grey heron and reed warbler. Its butterflies include the small and large skipper, marbled white, small heath and small copper, along with dragonflies and damselflies.[40]

Weirfield Riverside is a linear nature reserve along 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.[41] Silk Mills Park and Ride includes landscaping and ponds in three areas next to the River Tone created with the park and ride. The woodland and grassland support aquatic and marginal vegetation.[42] There are a various birds, bats, reptiles and invertebrates.[43] Frieze Hill Community Orchard has been converted from allotments to rough grassland and orchard. The Kingston Black and Yarlington Mill apple varieties are among those grown.[44]

ClimateEdit

Like the rest of South West England, Taunton has a temperate climate that is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the country.[45] The annual mean temperature is about 10 °C (50.0 °F). Seasonal temperature variation is less extreme than in most of the UK because of the adjacent sea temperatures. The summer months of July and August are warmest, with mean daily maxima of about 21 °C (69.8 °F). In winter mean, minimum temperatures of 1 °C (33.8 °F) or 2 °C (35.6 °F) are common.[45] In the summer the Azores high pressure affects the south-west of England, but 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.[45] 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 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 the sun heating the ground, leading to convection and 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 prevailing wind direction is from the south-west.[45]

DemographyEdit

Population profile[46]
UK Census 2001 Taunton Deane South West England England
Total population 102,299 4,928,434 49,138,831
Foreign born 4.1% 9.4% 9.2%
White 98.4% 97.7% 91%
Asian 0.4% 0.7% 4.6%
Black 0.2% 0.4% 2.3%
Christian 75.9% 74.0% 72%
Muslim 0.3% 0.5% 3.1%
Hindu 0.1% 0.2% 1.1%
No religion 15.7% 16.8% 15%
Over 75 years old 9.5% 9.3% 7.5%
Unemployed 2.4% 2.6% 3.3%

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, Staplegrove, Trull and West Monkton) had an estimated population of 61,400 in 2001.[47] It is the largest town in the shire county of Somerset.

Taunton forms part of the larger borough of Taunton Deane, which also covers the town of Wellington and surrounding villages. Taunton Deane had an estimated population of 109,883 in 2010.[48]

The figures below are for the Taunton Deane area.

Population since 1801 – Source: A Vision of Britain through Time & Inform Somerset
Year 1801 1851 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2010
Population Taunton Deane[48][49] 33,139 51,844 53,759 55,666 56,161 56,661 62,745 69,492 75,320 81,639 84,795 95,791 102,304 109,883

In 2011, the Taunton built-up area had a population of 60,479[1] compared with 110,187 for the surrounding borough of Taunton Deane.[1][50] 91.6 per cent of Taunton's residents were White British in 2011[1] compared with 93.4 per cent for Taunton Deane.[50] Taunton's ethnic composition is similar to that of the whole of South West England, which was 91.8 per cent White British in the same year. It is also average compared with other major towns in the same region including Poole and Plymouth. The larger urban area, which extends beyond the town's boundaries to include Monkton Heathfield, Norton Fitzwarren and Bathpool, had a 2011 population of 64,621.[51]

EconomyEdit

 
The annual 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 per cent compared with a national average of 5.0 per cent in 2005.[52]

Taunton is home to the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO), an organisation of 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.[53] At the start of the Second World War, chart printing moved to Taunton, but the main office did not move until 1968.[54] Taunton is also home to head offices of Debenhams, Western Provident Association, Viridor and CANDAC.[citation needed] Other professional services are based at Blackbrook near the motorway junction.

The first store of the multinational New Look (clothing retailer) opened in Taunton in 1969.[55] Taunton is also famed for cider.[56]

LandmarksEdit

 
Gray's Almshouses

Gray's Almshouses in East Street were founded by Robert Gray in 1615 for poor single women.[57] 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 a chapel and has original benches and a painted ceiling. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building.[58] 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 Somerset Buildings Preservation Trust with Falcon Rural Housing purchased and restored it for use as four dwellings of social housing. It is a grade II* listed building.[59]

The grounds of Taunton Castle[60] include the Somerset County Museum and The Castle Hotel, which incorporates the Castle Bow archway. With the municipal buildings they form a three-sided group just beyond the Castle Bow archway from Fore Street. The centre of the square is a car park, and the plain brick Mecca Bingo hall makes up the west side of it.

The frontage of the Fore Street Tudor Tavern (now a branch of Caffè Nero) dates from 1578, but the rest of the building is thought to date from the 14th century.[61]

 
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 hosted large open-air music concerts for Elton John in 2006 and 2012 and for Rod Stewart in 2014.

ShoppingEdit

Hankridge Farm is a retail park close to the M5 motorway, with large stores including Currys PC World, Oak Furniture Land, Hobbycraft, Halfords, B&Q, The Range and Taunton's second Sainsbury's. In addition, there is a Venue on the park, with restaurants, an Odeon cinema and a Hollywood Bowl bowling alley. It is now known as Riverside Retail Park.

Taunton has three other retail parks. Belvedere Retail Park is close to the town centre. St Johns Retail Park is just off Toneway, going towards the motorway and consists of two units. It is occupied by DFS, joined by Go Outdoors in April 2014. Taunton's second largest retail park is Priory Fields in Priory Avenue. It has eight units plus an anchor store, Wickes, and was redeveloped in 2003 to modernise the rather worn-out appearance of the retail park and to increase retail floor space.

The Old Market was a farmers' market in the Parade in front of Market House, but eventually moved to the Firepool area, although cattle trading on the site ceased in 2008.[62] 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 existed there from 1614 to 1882.[63]

County Walk is a small indoor shopping arcade in the town centre with an anchor supermarket, Sainsbury's, and several other large national retailers such as Subway, Costa Coffee, Savers and The Entertainer.

Public parksEdit

 
Victoria memorial water fountain, Vivary Park

Taunton's several public parks include Vivary Park, Goodlands Park and Victoria Park. The most notable is Vivary, located on land that was once a medieval fish farm or vivarium for Taunton Priory and Taunton Castle.[64] Fronted by a pair of cast iron gates made by the Saracen Foundry of Glasgow,[65] it contains the Sherford Stream, a tributary of the Tone, which flows through the 7.5 hectares (19 acres) park,[66] which is 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 added in 1979, and an 18-hole, 4620-yard, par-63 golf course.[67] The park includes trees, rose beds and herbaceous borders, with some 56,000 spring and summer bedding plants used each year.[66] The rose garden includes the Royal National Rose Society Provincial Trial Ground.[64] Taunton Flower Show held annually in the park since the 19th century. It has been described as "The Chelsea of the West",[68] and attracts around 24,000 visitors over two days.[69] Goodlands Gardens, located in the centre of the town, is behind the Debenhams department store and The Castle Hotel.

TransportEdit

RailEdit

Taunton railway station is on the Bristol to Exeter line, the Reading to 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,[70] Cardiff Central, Bristol Temple Meads,[71] London Paddington, Exeter St Davids, Plymouth and Penzance, as well as the rest of the West Country.[72] There are generally one fast and one slow trains each hour to both Bristol Temple Meads and Exeter St Davids and one train each hour to London Paddington.

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 Lydeard.[73]

In 2009, Project Taunton,[74] the authority responsible for Taunton's major regeneration project, revealed proposals for Taunton metro rail, as part of their transport sustainability plan.

RoadEdit

Taunton has good road links, having the M5 motorway junctions 25 (Taunton) and 26 (Wellington) close to the town, other major roads such as the A38 and A358. The Taunton bypass section of the M5, between the two junctions, opened in April 1974 and relieved the town of heavy holiday traffic on the A38. Taunton Deane services are on that section of the motorway.

However, with the flourishing local economy, traffic is a concern; in 2011 Somerset County Council predicted a marked increase from 2001 levels.[75] Two major new roads have been undertaken since 2010. The Third Way (A3807) linking Bridge Street and Castle Street opened in 2011[76] and the Northern Inner Distributor Road (NIDR, A3087) between Staplegrove Road and Priory Avenue opened in July 2017.[77][78]

2011 M5 motorway crashEdit

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.[79] Seven people were confirmed as dead, with a further 51 injured.[80]

Buses and coachesEdit

 
Taunton Bus Station

Many local bus services are provided by The Buses of Somerset: town services and routes to destinations such as Minehead, Bridgwater and Weston-Super-Mare.[81] Other services are provided by Hatch Green Coaches.[82] Services were also operated by Webberbus, but these ended when the company closed on 12 May 2016.[83] Taunton bus station was situated in Tower Street from 1953 until 2020. Most services now terminate at stops on The Parade or Castle Way.

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.[84]

AirEdit

The nearest airports are Exeter International Airport and Bristol Airport, both within 40 mi (64 km) of Taunton.[85][86]

TramsEdit

 
A single-deck car in Fore Street, c.1910

The Taunton Tramway was opened on 21 August 1901. Six double-decker cars operated on a 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 by six single deck cars and the old double deckers 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, and so it offered to sell out, but this was not accepted. The electricity was cut off on 28 May 1921 and so the system closed.[87][88]

CanalEdit

The Bridgwater and Taunton Canal is a navigable waterway that links Taunton with Bridgwater, opened in 1827. Having been closed to navigation in 1907, it re-opened after restoration in 1994.

EducationEdit

State secondary schools in Taunton include The Castle School, Heathfield Community School, Bishop Fox's School and The Taunton Academy. Further education is provided by Richard Huish College, The Taunton Academy (sponsored by Richard Huish College) and the Bridgwater and Taunton College. 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 is also a teaching school and the base of Taunton Teaching Alliance.[89] The Taunton campus of the Bridgwater and Taunton College is a partner college of Plymouth University and includes University Centre Taunton. There are three co-educational independent schools in Taunton: Queen's College, King's College and Taunton School.

In March 2009, it was announced that Jim Knight, Minister of State for Schools and Families, had approved plans for closure of Ladymead Community School and the nearby St Augustine of Canterbury RC/CoE School, both in the Priorswood area of Taunton.[90] The schools closed in August 2010, and were replaced in September 2010 by the Taunton Academy.[91]

Young people with special educational needs in Taunton are provided for 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 of 4–19 who have complex and multiple learning difficulties,[92] 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.[93]

Health servicesEdit

Taunton is within Somerset Primary Care Trust and is home to Musgrove Park Hospital, within Taunton and 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 has several doctor's surgeries as well as a family planning clinic, an occupational health centre and a chiropractic clinic.[94][95]

Religious sitesEdit

The parish church of St Mary Magdalene, built of sandstone more in the South 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) landmark.[96][97] It was described by Simon Jenkins, an 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."[98] The tower itself has 12 bells and 3 bells "hung dead" for the clock mechanism.[99]

The parish church of St James stands 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 has a sandstone tower, but built to a less impressive design. The tower was also, like St Mary's, rebuilt in the 19th century, in this case due to building defects in the original.[100] It backs onto the County Ground forming a familiar backdrop to it.

Church of St Andrew serves the area of Rowbarton.[101]

St George's, the town's Roman Catholic church, dates from the mid-19th century. It was the second Catholic church to be built in Taunton after the Reformation, replacing a much smaller St George's Chapel. The main church building is designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building, while the clergy house is Grade II listed.

Mary Street Unitarian Chapel, which dates from 1721,[102] stands in Mary Street. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, while living at Nether Stowey 16 miles (26 km) away, came to the chapel to preach on several occasions. Dr Malachi Blake, who founded the Taunton and Somerset Hospital in East Reach, Taunton, was also a preacher at the chapel, attending in 1809 a celebration of the 50th 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 18th-century candelabra.

In the latter part of the 17th century, Taunton had two dissenting places of worship: "Paul's Meeting" and the Baptist Meeting.[103] 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 county. After Mayor Timewell sacked both Paul's Meeting and the Baptist Meeting in 1683,[104] 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, it reopened. Hugh Willoughby, 15th Baron Willoughby of Parham, was educated in early life at Taunton Dissenters' Academy.[105] The Baptist Meeting became the Baptist New Meeting was registered in 1691 and rebuilt in 1721 as Mary Street Chapel.[106]

CultureEdit

Taunton town centre has the Brewhouse Theatre. It closed in February 2013 due to financial difficulties, but reopened in April 2014 under the Taunton Theatre Association (TTA), which was granted the 61-year lease that Taunton Deane Borough Council who had bought of the site and its contents from administrator.[107][108] Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre[109] is a professional theatre based at Heathfield Community School, hosting touring theatre, dance and comedy, and productions by South West schools and colleges. Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre also runs community classes. The Creative Innovation Centre CIC has an arts and culture venue in the town centre.[110]

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 audiences.[111][112] Taunton also has several choirs and orchestras, which 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.[113]

Taunton has three radio stations, BBC Somerset,[114] Tone FM[115] and Apple FM.[116]

Since 2001 Taunton has been home to a domestic violence charity, the ManKind Initiative, to help male victims of domestic abuse.[117]

Popular culture referencesEdit

Taunton is mentioned in The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro,[118] Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré,[119] and Evelyn Waugh's Scoop. It was given the fictitious name "Toneborough" by Thomas Hardy.[120]

Taunton also features in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams, part of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.[121]

Comedian Bill Bailey mentions the town in his stand-up DVD Part Troll, claiming to have taken part in a teleportation experiment sponsored by Taunton Cider.[122]

SportEdit

 
Somerset playing Yorkshire at the County Ground

Taunton Rugby Football Club is a club based in Taunton. It currently plays in National League 2 South, having achieved back-to-back promotions in 2009 and 2010. It played at Priory Park Sports Ground from 1935 to 2001, before moving to the Commsplus Stadium.[123]

The County Ground was originally home to Taunton Cricket Club, formed in 1829. It 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.[124] Somerset CCC was formed in 1875, but the club did not achieve first class status until 1891.[125] The County Ground has a capacity of 8,500[126] and the ends are called the River End and the Old Pavilion End.[127] 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 has since 2002 been located at the new Taunton Vale Sports Club Ground in Staplegrove, which features two cricket fields. The Taunton Vale ground is also a regular home venue for Somerset's Second XI. Taunton Deane Cricket Club has a ground adjacent to Vivary Park, while Taunton St Andrews Cricket Club is 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 leagues.

Taunton Town FC is a football club, which plays at Wordsworth Drive in the town.[128] It was formed in 1947 by local businessmen as Taunton FC, changing to the current name in 1968, and played its first friendly fixture in 1948. For most of its history, Taunton belonged to the Western League. It 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 the FA Vase in 2001.[129] The club currently plays in the Southern Premier Division, after winning the Division One South and West league title, finishing first in the 2017/2018 season. Taunton Town FC narrowly missed out on promotion to the National League South in 2018–2019, after a playoff defeat to Poole Town.[130] An earlier Taunton Town FC played at Priory Park in the 1930s.

Somerset Vikings is a rugby league club formed in 2003 as part of the Rugby Football League's plans to develop the game beyond its traditional north-of-England areas. Initially the side was made up of a mixture of Royal Marines based in Taunton and Exeter with local rugby union players keen to try the 13-man code. It plays at Hyde Park, also home to Taunton RFC.[131]

The Taunton Tigers is a semi-professional basketball team competing in the English Basketball League Men's Division 1. The team plays all its home games at Wellsprings Leisure Centre, which has a seating capacity of 500.[132]

 
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 Orchard Stand and Paddock Stand provide catering facilities and are used for meetings and conferences on days when racing is not taking place.[133] Greyhound racing was held at the Priory Park Sports Ground and County Cricket ground in the past.[134][135]

Notable residentsEdit

The following were born or have lived in Taunton:

TwinningEdit

Taunton is twinned with Lisieux in France,[172] Königslutter in Germany,[173] and Taunton, Massachusetts in the US.

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External linksEdit

  Media related to Taunton, Somerset at Wikimedia Commons