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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Somerset

by Peter Kessler, 6 September 2019

SW&T (Taunton Deane) Part 3: Central Taunton & Wilton

Kings College Chapel, Taunton, Somerset

Kings College Chapel lies on the northern side of the main buildings (to the right here). In 1880, at the school's start there was no permanent chapel. Instead worship was carried out in a 'Tin Tabernacle'. In 1899 foundations for a permanent building were laid, but it took until 1908 before it could be completed. The Vineyard Church has its own base in the centre of town but also meets in various nearby rooms, such as in Richard Huish College and The Castle School.

St Joseph's Convent, Taunton, Somerset

St Joseph's Convent is a large complex of buildings on the southern side of the St Joseph's Field driveway, on the western side of South Road. The convent chapel shown here stands at the back of the complex. Originally part was built as a hospital between 1772-1775 by P Stowey of Exeter. This was acquired in 1807 by Franciscan nuns, refugees from Bruges. They extended the buildings from 1811 but departed the complex in 1976. It now forms private residences.

Taunton Baptist Church, Silver Street, Taunton, Somerset

Taunton Baptist Church is often recorded as Silver Street Baptist Chapel in historical records, standing as it does on the eastern side of Silver Street, overlooking the Hurdle Way junction. The first Baptists in Taunton met at Mary Street (the Unitarian Chapel - see below). Calvinistic Baptists formed a group in 1814, and in 1815 they built the Silver Street chapel. On 13 October 2014 the still-thriving congregation celebrated the chapel's two-hundredth anniversary.

St George's (New) Catholic Church, Taunton, Somerset

St George's (New) Catholic Church fills the southern end of Billet Street. In 1787 there is written evidence of Father George Baldwin being appointed as mission rector in Taunton. He was not allowed to wear clerical dress in public, or minister to his flock outside the makeshift registered mission chapel in a house in Canon Street. In 1822 St George's (Old) Chapel was opened - and quickly filled up with worshippers. The current St George's was opened on 24 April 1860.

Taunton United Reformed Church, Somerset

Taunton United Reformed Church is at the north-eastern corner of Paul Street and Billetfield. It is sometimes referred to in records as Paul Street Meeting House or URC. George Newton, vicar of St Mary Magdalene, and his curate were ejected from the Church of England in 1662 by the Act of Uniformity. Following the 1672 Act of Toleration, 'Paul's Meeting' was erected on this site with Newton as its minister. Rowbarton's Congregationalists joined them at the union of1968.

Kingdom Faith South West, Taunton, Somerset

Kingdom Faith South West is one of the new, post-war breed of churches for which recognisable church buildings are less important than a modern, multi-purpose space and a congregation that still feels bonded despite twenty-first century pressures. The Taunton branch of Kingdom Faith opened in 2001, before gaining its current premises at the south-west corner of Mary Street and The Mount in 2011, opposite Paul Street United Reformed Church (see above).

Seventh Day Adventist Church, Taunton, Somerset

Taunton's Seventh-Day Adventist Church is on the south side of Mary Street, about forty metres west of Kingdom Faith South West church (above). The year 1879 was one of the most important in the church's establishment when John Norton Loughborough arrived at Southampton. In 1880 he met with Henry Veysey of Taunton who, in 1881 gained the Somerset district and held meetings in a school room until a permanent chapel could be acquired in town.

Taunton Unitarian Chapel, Somerset

Taunton Unitarian Chapel is on the southern side of Mary Street, about thirty metres east of the Mount Street junction. Sometimes referred to as Mary Street Unitarian Chapel and Mary Street Meeting House, the first building of 1670 was Baptist in origin. The present (Presbyterian) chapel was built in 1721 and still has the original interior including Flemish oak pillars in the Corinthian style. The frontage was rebuilt in the late 1800s and was further modified around 1912.

St George's Church Wilton, Taunton, Somerset

St George's Church Wilton is on the northern side of Fons George as it leaves the Middleway junction. Somewhere nearby is a spring which gave Wilton its name (presumably taken from 'well-tun [town]'). Stones in the church wall on either side of the west tower are fragments of Saxon 'long and short' work, the only such remains in western Somerset. Before the arrival of the Normans this place was clearly important enough to have a stone church or chapel.

St George's Church Wilton, Taunton, Somerset

A tower was added to the Saxon chapel in the second half of the eleventh century, and it survived until 1853 when a new tower was added after the entire church building had been extended eastwards in 1837. Alterations were also undertaken in the 1200s and 1400s. When the Catholics refounded a chapel and then a church of their own in the town and chose St George as their namesake, they created an element of confusion when trying to identify individual churches.

Former Taunton Deane area church names and locations kindly confirmed by South West Heritage Trust, with additional information from The Chapels Society visit to Mid-Somerset, 28 September 2013, by Peter Daniel, David Dawson, and Roger Thorne.

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