CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Somerset Life today CLICK HERE

County Ground at Taunton replacing old with new

PUBLISHED: 16:31 25 August 2015 | UPDATED: 16:31 25 August 2015

The old pavilion has lots of history behind it. Photo Alain Lockyer

The old pavilion has lots of history behind it. Photo Alain Lockyer


With the County Ground at Taunton replacing old with new, KERRY MILLER looks back over more than 130 years when the much-loved ground was slowly taking shape

The new state-of-the-art pavilion is taking shape. Photo Mike WilliamsThe new state-of-the-art pavilion is taking shape. Photo Mike Williams

This summer sees the final slice of Victorian life erased at the County Ground, home of Somerset County Cricket Club, when the old wooden pavilion behind the bowler’s arm disappears and is replaced with a state-of-the-art grandstand.

That it has survived and given such faithful service for 133 years is testament to the builder, a Mr Allen with significant input from Alfred Spiller, who had a hand in a number of projects around that time and lived a short stroll away. There is a pleasing symmetry in that the brand new build is in the hands of RG Spiller Ltd, another local Somerset contractor and a close relation of Alfred.

Not only has the old pavilion been consigned to history, but all the ancillary buildings behind and adjacent to it have gone as well, taking with it the days of barrels of cider alongside the outfield and wooden benches around the ground for the less well off.

Back in 1880, cricket took off in the town with Taunton CC, Taunton Vale CC and every college in action from April onwards. For Taunton CC the optimism did not last as they were forced off their ground at Bishops Hull but they were given a lifeline as they were offered the chance to move into Priory Field, or Rack Field, next to St James Church and smack in the middle of the town, next door to their original home by the river. At first they were given sole possession by the owner of the field, a cricketer himself called John Winter, who lived in what later became Cedar Falls, and the press hoped that ‘cricket would flourish for many years’. With no cattle or horses trampling the surface, Somerset CC were soon coveting the ground and very soon not only were plans in place to develop the field into a fully-fledged athletic ground, but the respective sports clubs who had many moons earlier met to discuss an amalgamation, were very close to accomplishing it. The cricket club’s basic pavilion was moved once again from Bishops Hull and a new 14-year lease was handed over, which allowed work to begin on laying a quarter-mile round cinder track for the athletes and cyclists, which encircled the cricket and rugby area. What was to be Taunton CC’s home for the foreseeable future, indeed until the days of Jarvis Field, began to take shape.

Opening day, Whit Monday, June 6, 1881, saw an athletics festival of bicycle and foot races on the new cinder track inside the eight acre ground, which had an entrance on Priory Lane with a substantial gateway big enough to allow carriages. Quoits, tennis and bowls would be catered for on an area between the entrance and the cricket and rugby pitch once it had been levelled, with the main area surrounded by iron piping fencing borne by stout posts. The GWR ran cheap trains from Exeter, Weston-super-Mare, Barnstaple, Minehead, Chard, Ilminster, Yeovil and Glastonbury and all the villages which helped swell the attendance at the grand opening to more than 5,000 who paid £173 for the privilege. At noon more than 100 cyclists rode through the town before the festivities began.

Things moved on at the Athletic Ground and it was proposed to borrow £250 as a mortgage to build a permanent pavilion and grandstand using personal guarantees from 20 prominent people connected with the Athletic Sports Club, with Somerset County CC set to move in and the touring Australians booked to play a prestigious game the following summer.

The main attraction was going to be the new pavilion and a company was formed, named The Taunton Grandstand and Pavilion Company, registered under the Companies Act, where 400 shares at £1 each could be applied for. Designed by CH Samson, the new build was impressive, with the ground floor pavilion, ‘a noble apartment’, at 58 feet by 17 feet, with an average height of 12 feet six inches, just enough to accommodate Joel Garner a century later. The floor was raised above the paddock by two feet and the front was protected by glazed sashes with two dressing rooms at the rear. There was a ‘commodious bar’ to the left with a caterer’s room with private bar for the paddock. A 15 feet by 13 feet committee room and a ladies room completed the downstairs build. Above were 400 wooden seats with two flights of stairs, with the rest made mainly of wood with an iron roof.

By March 1884 the Athletics Company Ltd was in serious financial trouble, which put the very future of the impressive Athletic Grounds in grave doubt. The company increased its capital shares to £400, but only £7 was collected and a week later the company met again at Hammett Street, and with little choice left open to them, voted to wind up the company and offer the ground to the County Cricket Club. Soon, Henry Murray Anderdon, secretary of the county club gathered a group together to try to salvage the club on a voluntary basis and the county club took over the lease and subsequently purchased the ground.

The pavilion was the club’s pride and joy and although the late Victorian mania for sports and athletics days faded quite quickly in the subsequent years, it continued to be a popular place to watch cricket and be watched.

Later, the cricket club ousted the rugby and cycling clubs and at one point the original owners of the ground, Taunton CC were put on notice that their tenancy was not to be renewed and later still, after much wrangling, the cinder running and bicycling track was taken up and the outfield expanded. Somerset CCC were well and truly up and running and although the playing fortunes fluctuated, the ground went from strength to strength up to the outbreak of the Great War when everything changed.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Somerset Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Somerset Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Somerset Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 11:12

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne explores two villages on the Mendip Hills and the tranquil paths that link them

Read more
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Whatever the season, we love exploring Portishead!

Read more
Monday, October 1, 2018

Given to the people of Bath as a gift from a local benefactor 80 years ago, the tranquil Alice Park is thriving, as Chrissy Harris discovers

Read more
Friday, September 28, 2018

When a town can boast having three community orchards offering free fruit for all, you know you’ve arrived somewhere special. Laurence McJannet marches to Wellington for some culinary surprises

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

As the colder months draw in, and golden and red hues fill the trees, there’s nothing quite like gathering the family for a stroll through the countryside. Embrace the fresh air, wrap up warm and soak in the beauty of Somerset on these 10 autumn walks

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Steve Roberts traces the trials and tribulations behind the construction of a famous Bristol landmark

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

This month Andrea Cowan visits Withypool

Read more
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Crunchy leaves under foot, bracing walks in beautiful countryside and along the coast, cream teas in cosy tea rooms and charming pubs with roaring fireplaces – what’s not to love about autumn in the Somerset?

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A wander through Somerton’s streets reveals a perfectly preserved rural Somerset town, discovers Laurence McJannet

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Take a family walk in Watchet, exploring both town and countryside, with Simone Stanbrook-Byrne

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

From beautiful gardens to iconic attractions, fascinating museums to family-friendly theme parks, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to a family day out in Somerset

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

There’s nothing more appealing than a row of picture-perfect properties in some of Somerset’s most beautiful locations. Which street is your favourite in the county?

Read more
Monday, August 20, 2018

Steve Roberts steps back in time to see how the Monmouth Rebellion impacted on our county

Read more
Thursday, August 16, 2018

Stephen Roberts explores a Somerset manor house packed with centuries of history

Read more
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

subscription ad

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search