Short History of Taunton
T A U N T O N
Capital of Somerset
Taunton is the county town of Somerset, standing mostly on the southern side of the River Tone in the Vale of Taunton Dene. There appears to have been an early settlement in the region of Holway in the suburbs of the town. Taunton itself became important in Saxon times, when King Ine built an earthern fortress here around AD 700 during his push to overrun eastern Dumnonia. A monastery was founded here before AD 904. The Bishops of Winchester owned the manor and, in that year, obtained the first charter of his 'men of Taunton,' freeing them from paying both Royal and county tribute. The town became a borough some time before the Domesday Survey and it was granted considerable privileges. The town was governed by a portreeve appointed by the Bishop and, later, tow members of parliament were returned for Taunton between 1299 and 1885.
The main streets of Taunton converge upon a triangular space where there is a market cross. The town's Saturday market dates from before the Conquest. The parish church of St. Mary Magdalene is a fine Perpendicular building, particularly noteworthy for its superb tower. There are remnants of Norman work to be seen in the chancel and Early English in the north aisles and transepts. Little is left of an Augustinian Priory built by William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester, in the reign of Henry I. However, the castle, built by the same man, is still in good repair and houses the city museum. The local grammar school is very ancient and was founded by Bishop Richard Fox in 1522.