Taunton, Somerset Family History Guide

Parishes in Taunton

  • Taunton Holy Trinity, Somerset
  • Taunton St James, Somerset
  • Taunton St Mary Magdalene, Somerset

Historical Descriptions

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

TAUNTON, a town, two parishes, a district, and a hundred, in Somerset. The town stands on the river Tone, and on the Bristoland Exeter railway, 44½ miles SW of Bristol; is supposed, from the discovery of Roman urns and coins in its neighbourhood, to occupy the site of a Roman station; was known to the Saxons as Tantun and Thonetun; took that name from its situation on the Tone; acquired a royal castle, and was the place of a great council, in the time of Ina king of Wessex; was a mint town at the time of the Norman conquest; suffered capture, by Perkin Warbeck, in the time of Henry VII.; was held by the parliamentarians, in 1642,-by the royalists, in 1643,-by Blake, in 1645; sustained a famous siege of some months, under Blake, till relieved by Fairfax; was punished at the Restoration, by complete razure of walls which had surrounded it: took a prominent part in the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth, and proclaimed him king; and numbers among its natives the historian Daniel, who died in 1619, the theologian Grove, who died in 1736, the theologian Dr. Amory, who died in 1774, and the distinguished recent writer A. W. Kinglake. Its castle dated from 680; was taken by Eadricht, king of the South Saxons; was retaken, and nearly all pulled down, by Queen Ethelburga, in 722; went, with the manor, to the Bishops of Winchester; was rebuilt, by one bishop, in the time of Henry I.,-repaired and extended by another, in 1496,- and fitted with a great hall by a third, in 1577; had, as a constable, a relative of the poet Chaucer; suffered injuries in the civil wars of Charles I., and curtailments of moat and drawbridge in 1785; and is now represented chiefly by a round tower, an embattled gateway, and the great hall. The hall is a noble room, 119 feet by 30; was thoroughly repaired about the end of last century; and was used till 1858 as the assize hall.

A rising-ground, adjacent to the Tone, is a chief part of the town's site. A large and fertile vale called T. Dean, abounding with orchards and villages, extends to the E and the W; and is flanked, on the N by the Quantock hills,-on the S by the Blackdown hills. The town has spread, in all directions, beyond its old limits; and it now includes a portion called North Town, connected by a three-arched bridge with the main body. Three main streets, spacious and well built, meet in a central open triangular space, called the Parade; and there are many smaller streets, lanes, and courts. The town hall was built in 1772; and includes a good assembly-room, and the old market house. The literary institution was built in 1823; is in the Ionic style; contains a rich museum; and includes the new market house. The shire-hall was built in 1855-8, at a cost of about £28,000; is in the Tudor style; and contains an entrance-hall, court-rooms, retiring-rooms, grand jury-room, and judges' lodgings. The county jail occupies an area of 4½ acres, and has capacity for 212 male and 52 female prisoners. The cavalry barracks have accommodation for 4 officers and 61 men. Assembly-rooms, comprising one room 90 feet by 40, and another 60 feet by 30, are at one of the hotels. St. James' church was the church of an Augustinian priory, founded in 1127; is of later English date; and had a very fine tower, so dilapidated toward the end of 1865, that a conflict of opinion then existed whether to restore it or to rebuild it. A chapel belonging to the same priory, and of early decorated date, stands on Priory farm, and is now used as a barn and stables. St. Mary's church was originally also a chapel of the priory; became parochial in 1308; is a splendid structure, in later English architecture; was restored in 1845; and has a noble pinnacled tower, rebuilt in 1861. Trinity church was built in 1842, at a cost of about £7,000. St. John's church was built in 1863, at a cost of about £10,000; and is in the decorated English style, with tower and spire. St. Paul's Independent chapel was built in 1797, and succeeded a previous chapel of 1672. There are eight other dissenting chapels. The Roman Catholic chapel was built in 1861, and has a tower and spire 210 feet high. A nunnery was built in 1868. There were anciently a Carmelite friary and a lepers' hospital. A Wesleyan college in the Tudor style, was built in 1847; and an Independent college, in 1867. The grammar-school was founded in 1522, has £118 a year from endowment, and had Archbishop Sheldon for a pupil. Fulland s house school is a large establishment, with grounds of about 20 acres. The central national schools were built in 1867. There are also dissenting, Roman Catholic, and British schools. The infirmary was built in 1812; the lunatic asylum, in 1820; the eye infirmary, in 1816; the workhouse , in 1837. Huish's alms-house s have £364 a year from endowment; and Gray's alms houses, £183. The total of endowed charities is about £1,227.

The town has a head post-office, a r. station with telegraph, three banking offices, and six chief inns; is a seat of Lent assizes, quarter-sessions, petty-sessions, and county courts, and a polling place; and publishes five weekly newspapers. Markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays; a stock market, on the last Saturday of every month; and stock fairs, on 17 June and 8 July. Woollen manufacture was once extensive, but is now extinct; the silk trade followed, but has very greatly declined; and glove-making, coach-making, malting, brewing, and brass and iron founding are now carried on. The town is a borough by prescription; and , since the time of Edward I., has sent two members to parliament; but lost its municipal rights in 1792, and is governed by the county magistrates. The borough boundaries include parts of the two Taunton parishes, and parts of Wilton, Bishops-Hull, and West Monkton parishes. Electors in 1833, 949; in 1863, 827. Pop. in 1851, 14,176; in 1861, 14,667. Houses, 2,899.

The parishes are St. James and St. Mary; but they include, ecclesiastically, Trinity and St. John. Acres of St. James, 1,455. Real property, £9,179. Pop. in 1851, 4,595; in 1861, 5,239. Houses, 1,075. Acres of St. Mary, 1,300. Real property, £20,726. Pop. in 1851, 8,524; in 1861, 8,481. Houses, 1,675. Pyrland Hall, Flook house, Lingford house , and Belmont, are chief residences. The living of St. Mary is a vicarage, and the livings of St. James and Trinity are p. curacies, in the diocese of Bath and Wells. Value of St. M., £350; of St. J., £254; of T., £150. Patron of St. M., the Church Patronage Society; of St. J., Mrs. Cottle; of T., the Bishop.—The district contains 38 parishes; and is divided into the subdistricts of T.-St. James, T.-St. Mary, North Curry, Pitminster, and Bishop-Lydeard. Acres, 70,452. Poor rates in 1863, £18,046. Pop. in 1851, 35,114; in 1861, 35,601. Houses, 7,209. Marriages in 1863, 295; births, 1,057; of which 70 were illegitimate; deaths, 791,-of which 280 were at ages under 5 years, and 31 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 2,976; births, 10,381; deaths, 6,939. The places of worship, in 1851, were 40 of the Church of England , with 13,992 sittings; 11 of Independents, with 3,134 s.; 7 of Baptists, with 1,453 s.; 1 of Quakers, with 440 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 450 s.; 9 of Wesleyans, with 1,756 s.; 4 of Bible Christians, with 468 s.; 1 undefined, with 50 s.; and 1 of Roman Catholics, with 300 s. The schools were 32 public day-schools, with 2,631 scholars; 80 private day-schools, with 1,549 s.; 54 Sunday schools, with 4,648 s.; and 1. evening school for adults, with 17 s.-The hundred contains 28 parishes. Acres, 42,389. Pop. in 1851, 26,245; in 1861, 26,740. Houses, 5,286.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].


Below is a list of people that were declared bankrupt between 1820 and 1843 extracted from The Bankrupt Directory; George Elwick; London; Simpkin, Marshall and Co.; 1843.

Addison Wm., Taunton, Somersetshire, tea dealer and grocer, July 17, 1835.

Ash James, Taunton, Somersetshire, bookseller, Aug. 21, 1840.

Baker John, Taunton St. Mary Magdalen, Somersetsh., grocer, July 28, 1840.

Bull John, Taunton, Somersetshire, woollen draper, Nov. 6, 1829.

Bull John & William, Taunton, Somersetshire, woollen drapers, Nov. 17, 1829.

Bussell Joseph, jun., Taunton, Somersetshire, tailor, Feb. 14, 1837.