Taunton, a populous and and respectable market-town and borough, in the hundred of its name, is situated on the river Tone, and upon the banks of the Bridgwater and Taunton canal; 146 miles from London through Salisbury, and 155 through Bath, 33 from Exeter, and 11 from Bridgwater.It derives its name from the river Thone or Tone, and in early days it was called Thono Dunum, i.e. 'the town upon the Tone'; in ancient records it has been variously spelt Thonton, Townton, Tawnton and Tantun. In the time of the Saxon it was a place of great consequence:- Ina, one of the West Saxon kings, in the year 700 built a castle on the west side of the town for his residence, and in it he is said to have held the first great council of his kingdom; this castle was destroyed by his queen, Ethelburga, but a new one was built on its site by the bishops of Winchester about the time of the conquest, and considerably repaired and improved by succeeding bishops; an embattled gateway, erected by Bishop Langton between 1486 and 1492, is still standing. The present town extends from east to west about a mile, and consists of four principal streets, which are wide and airy, fored of good houses, and many very handsome; there are also other detached rows of buildings, that may be termed elegant for their size-particularly the Crescent, which stands in an open and delightful situation. Besides the churches, the principal public edifices are, a handsome market house and town-hall; the county gaol and bridewell; the infirmary, called 'the Taunton and Somerset hospital;' and a neat theatre.
The government of the borough is vested in the magistrates and the constabulary, with two bailiffs; the latter are the returning officers at the elections of representatives to parliament. The lent asizes for the county are held in the assize-hall, as is the court of quarter sessions at Michaelmas annually.
Thomas Southwood, Esq. is the lord of the manor- Taunton is an ancient borough by prescriptive right, and has been repreented in parliament ever since the year 1294; the right of election is vested in all the parishioners boiling their own pot (hence called 'potwalers' or 'potwallopers') residing within the borough, not being stted as paupers, nor having within the funds of the respective charities; the present members are General Peachey and Henry Seymour, Esq..
This town at one period flourished through the manufacture of woollen goods to a considerable extent; this branch has almost entirely disappeared, and given place to the silk-trade, which at present is its staple, and employs a great proportion of the poor inhabitants; there are also two establishments for making lace, but they are not extensive. The trade of Taunton id facilitated by the navigable river Tone, and still more so by the Bridgwater and Taunton canal, which was opened in 1827; it is 12 miles in length, and has in its course four locks. Several good Inns here afford accomodation to the temporary sojourner; and the commercial traveller will find, at the 'George' and 'London' inns, comfort, respectability and economy. The press of Taunton issues a weekly newspaper; it is an ably conducted journal, published every Wednesday by Mr J.W. Marriott, and called 'the Taunton Courier'. The structures consecrated to divine worship in Taunton are, the two parish churches, severally dedicated to St James and St Mary Magdalene; five chapels for various sects of dissenters, a meeting house for the society of friends, and a Roman catholic chapel. The church of St Mary Magdalen is situate near the centre of the town, and is a spacious beautiful Gothic edifice, having a fine lofty tower with four stately pinnacles, the entire altitude of the whole being 153 feet; the tower has 13 handsome windows, with a variety of cuprious prominent ornaments, that give to the whole an air of magnificence, united to an elegant lightness, not to be equalled in the county, nor perhaps i the kingdom: the living is a vicarage, of which Edw. Berkeley Portman, Esq. is the patron. St James's church is a strong, plain, ancient building - very much inferior in every respect, to the other church. The charities here are numerous, and most efficiently supported by the inhabitants of this respectable town and neighbourhood; the principal are, the free grammar-school in Castle-green, founded by Richard Fox, a bishop of Winchester, i 1532; a charity-school in Middle street for 80 boys and 50 girls, who receive a plain education and are annually clothed; a national school; the excellent hospital before-mentioned; an infirmary for diseases of the eye; Gray's and Huishe's alms- houses, with many other gifts to the poor, arising from the bequests of charitable individuals. The hundred of Taunton-Dean is a large district, remarkable for its beauty and fertility; and the town, which stands in a lovely and extensive plain, is called by Camden "one of the eyes of the county".
The weekly markets are held on Wednesday and Saturday, the latter being the principal, and a very large one for corn and every other necessary of ife; there are also what are termed 'great markets' held on the first Saturday of every month throughout the year, for horses, cattle, sheep, &c.; and an annual fair takes place on the 17th June, for horses, cattle, &c.: al these meetings are most numerously attended, and great advantage derived from them by the trading inhabitants. By the returns to parliament for 1821, the parish of St James contained 2248 inhabitants, and that of St Mary Magdalen 6286- total 8534; it is estimated, however, at this period, that the population is abou 10,000 persons.
Bishop's Hull is a village and parish, in the same hundred as Taunton, about a mile and a half from that town; pleasantly situated on the banks of the Tone, upon which are corn-mills and another for making paper, within the bounds of the parish; the silk-throwing business also is conducted here, to a small extent. Here is the parish church, and a chapel for dissenters; the living here is a perpetual curacy, of which the Rev. Henry William Rawlings is the patron and incumbent. The parish contained, by last census, 928 inhabitants.
Kingston is a village in the same hundred as Taunton, three miles and a half N. therefrom. The parish comprises the two divisions of Eastern and Western, and (including the hamlet of HESTERCOMBE) contained, in 1821, 954 inhabitants.
Wilton is in the same hundred as Taunton, the village approching to it within about half a mile; and contained, by the census before-mentioned, 579 inhabitants.
Post Office, Hammett-street, Taunton, Sarah Daw, Post Mistress - Letters from LONDON and BATH arrive every afternnon at ten minutes past two, and are despatched every day at twelve.Letters from BRISTOL arrive every afternnon at half-past two, and are despatched every day at ten minutes before twelve. Letters from EXETER arrive every day at a quarter before twelve, and are despatched every afternnon at half-past two. Letters from BARNSTAPLE arrive every forenoon at half-past eleven, and are despatched every afternnon at ten minutes before three. Letters from MINEHEAD arrive every morning at ten minutes before eleven, and are despatched every afternnon at three. Letters from BRIDPORT arrive every afternoon at two, and are despatched every day at twelve.
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[Last updated 24th October 2014 by Malcolm Daniels]