Monday, 13 July 2009

Somerset: Taunton



Taunton is the county town of Somerset, England. The town, including its suburbs, had an estimated population of 61,400 in 2001. It is the largest town in the shire county of Somerset.
The town is the site of Musgrove Park Hospital and Somerset County Cricket Club's County Cricket Ground and is home to 40 Commando, Royal Marines. Central 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 in Taunton on Admiralty Way.


History



The War Memorial and town centre, Taunton.


The town name derives from "Town on the River Tone" — or Tone Town. 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 threw up an earthen castle here about 700, but destroyed by his queen Ethelburga in 722, to prevent its seizure by rebels.




Edward 1 'Long Shanks'

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 Domesday Survey 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 bishops. 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.
During the 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 1497 a Cornish rebel army murdered the provost of Penryn on The Parade in Taunton and in the same year Henry VII came to cross examine Perkin Warbeck whose rebellion had ended in Taunton.



Taunton Castle


Taunton Castle changed hands several times during the great 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.


Judge Jeffries 'Bloody Assizes', (hanging judge)


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 was based in the town during the Bloody Assizes that followed the Battle of Sedgemoor.

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.



Road Map of Taunton 1948


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 west of England woollen industry, silk-weaving was introduced at the end of the 18th century.
In 1839 the Grand Western Canal reached Taunton aiding trade to the south, which was further enhanced by the arrival of the railway in 1842.
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.

Geography



The River Tone during sunset, Taunton


Taunton lies on the River Tone between the Quantock, Blackdown and Brendon hills in an area known as the Vale of Taunton.
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 currently promoting a sustainable, high quality, employment-led mixed use development. The scheme also offers the opportunity to secure the development of a substantial number of residential units. These are intended to create more than 2,000 new homes in the town centre, at least 14,000 new homes across the whole of Taunton, 80,000 m2 of employment space, 50,000 m2 of new retail space and at least 7,000 jobs.




Geology
In the Taunton area 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.

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