Ten things Taunton is famous for
PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 October 2014
WORDS: Sarah Ford
From the Anglo Saxons to the days of the Civil War, the story of Somerset’s county town is centuries old. Today the people of Taunton have their eyes fixed on the future and plans for the major regeneration of areas such as the Cultural Quarter and retail centre.
Somerset Life visits this vibrant town to bring you a list of just 10 of the things Taunton is famous for.
The Museum of Somerset
Housed in Taunton Castle, The Museum of Somerset tells the county’s story from prehistoric times to the present day using real objects combined with films, sounds and images, and the voices and words of Somerset people.
The many highlights include the Frome Hoard, which is the largest collection of Roman coins ever discovered in Britain in a single container, and the current Somerset Remembers exhibition, looking back at the experiences of Somerset people during WW1.
The museum reopened in 2011 following a major refurbishment. The castle dates from the 12th century and is a Grade 1 Listed Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Entry to the museum is free. Enjoy this super building and some of the events taking place this month such as a film night (War Horse) in the magnificent Great Hall on 16 October, 7.30pm. Tickets £6. 01823 255088; facebook.com/museumofsomerset
This popular and attractive oasis of calm in the busy town centre was restored in 2002 and reopened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth during her golden Jubilee Year.
The name comes from its use as a complex of fishponds known as a Vivarium when the land was owned by the Bishop of Winchester in the 12th century.
Taunton Flower Show – now known as ‘The Chelsea of the West’ - was first held here in 1851 and the park continues to be a venue for local events.
As well as its ornamental trees, shrubs and features such as a children’s play area and open grassland, Vivary Park has a Sensory Garden, created with help from the community in 2010.
Somerset County Cricket Club
Viv Richards, Joel ‘Big Bird’ Garner and Ian Botham – just some of the famous names associated with cricket in the county.
The Somerset Pavilion Appeal has been launched to raise funds for a new development which will take Somerset County Cricket Club to the next level, bringing the ground to the standard to host international cricket. The new facility will include a magnificent roof top viewing area.
Somerset captain Marcus Trescothick and the team are cycling 300 miles round the West Country, from 29 September to 3 October, raising money for the Pedal for the Pavilion Appeal.
Taunton’s medieval stone bridge survived until 1810 when it was replaced. This stone bridge stood until 1894 when the present bridge, with iron balustrades, integral lamp standards, and the Taunton coat of arms, replaced it.
Taunton Deane Borough Councillors and volunteers recently rolled up their sleeves to tackle grime on the historic landmark over the River Tone, helping to keep the town looking spick and span!
Don’t look down!
Taunton is home to Somerset County Council and this year fund raisers took a brave step off County Hall for charity.
Over £13,000 was raised when more than 90 people abseiled off Taunton’s tallest building, the council’s C-Block.
Somerset County Council joined forces with FLAG (Flooding on the Levels Action Group) and Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service to organise the event.
Funds raised will be divided equally between Somerset Community Foundation, an organisation that helps flood victims, and Somerset County Council Chairman’s Charities - the National Autistic Society and Somerset Trust for Arts & Recreation. Somerset County Council Chairman Cllr David Fothergill is encouraging people to get involved in more daredevil events in the near future such as a a Firewalk on 6 November.
England’s youngest racecourse stages about 15 meetings each season. As well as national hunt racing, visitors enjoy conference, party and events facilities here.
A half term meeting on 29 October will feature all the fun of the fair, dog and duck displays and a free goody bag for the first 300 under 13s through the gates which open at noon. The first of seven races starts at 2.10pm. tauntonracecourse.co.uk
Taunton has a diverse collection of shopping areas including covered shopping centres such as Crown Walk and Orchard Shopping Centre. The town offers many of the major high street names, as well as businesses providing a more unusual shopping experience. Bath Place, with its narrow street of cottages and Riverside Place next to the Tone, help give Taunton its unique shopping character.
Today visitors to Hestercombe near Taunton can enjoy more than its world famous historic gardens. The house had not been open to the public for 200 years but in 2013 the Hestercombe Trust was lucky enough to get the keys to this imposing building. Restored before being reopened in May, the house is home to The Hestercombe Gallery with its changing exhibitions. hestercombe.com
Theatre and the arts
After going into administration, the Brewhouse Theatre was reopened in April 2014 by Taunton Theatre Association Ltd. Highlights this month include an evening with Simon Weston OBE (4 October) about his journey from the front line of war. tauntontheatre.org.uk
Celebrate the Campaign for Wool Week (6-12 October) when Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre showcases work by local knitting groups. Taunton Amateur Operatic Society present Encore! 9-11 October.
On 15 November at Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre, local dance companies and community groups will present work on the theme of War and Peace. tacchi-morris.com
Well-known local artist and glass maker Will Shakspeare shows his work all over the country. At his Riverside Place Gallery in Taunton, Geoffrey Bertram of Bertram Arts will be exhibiting original modern and contemporary prints by renowned British artists to a Somerset audience. The exhibition runs 25 October–24 November, Monday-Saturday. shakspeareglass.co.uk
Schools in Taunton
The town is well known for its independent co-educational day and boarding schools. King’s College was founded in 1880. Its roots go back to Bishop Fox Grammar School in the town centre; this was founded in 1522 by the Bishop of Winchester. King’s Hall was purchased by King’s College in 1952.
Taunton School was founded in 1847. The school has nine function rooms, such as the Old Library Complex, which provide a venue for weddings, receptions, dances, balls, banquets, conferences, meetings and seminars.
Queen’s College was founded in 1843 within the grounds of the castle. Now on Trull Road, it adopted its presented name in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. This year is the 10th anniversary of the performing and visual arts event at Queen’s College: The Quartz Festival (29 September-17 October). There is an exciting line-up of dance, drama, music and art and one of the highlights is an appearance by the great soprano Dame Emma Kirkby. Quartzfestival.org.uk
Taunton Tourist Information, Travel and Ticket Centre, Library, Paul Street, 01823 336344; visitsomerset.co.uk/taunton Follow them on Twitter: @TauntonTIC