Taunton (//) is a town in Somerset, England, with a 2011 population of 69,570. Its thousand-year history includes a 10th-century monastery. Taunton Castle arose in the Anglo Saxon period and was later the site of a priory. The Normans built a stone castle that belonged to the Bishops of Winchester, of which the reconstructed parts are the inner ward, housing the Museum of Somerset and Somerset Military Museum. Events include a Second Cornish uprising of 1497, when Perkin Warbeck marched a 6,000-strong army to Taunton, most of which surrendered to Henry VII on 4 October 1497. On 20 June 1685 the Duke of Monmouth crowned himself King of England at Taunton in a rebellion that peaked with the Battle of Sedgemoor. Judge Jeffreys lived here during the Bloody Assizes in the Great Hall of the Castle. The Grand Western Canal reached Taunton in 1839 and the railway in 1842. Today it includes Musgrove Park Hospital, the Somerset County Cricket Club County Ground and the headquarters of 40 Commando, Royal Marines. The Taunton flower show has been held in Vivary Park since 1866. The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office is in Admiralty Way.
The tower of St James's Church rises over the County Ground
|Population||60,479 (2011 census)|
|OS grid reference||ST228250|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||TA1, TA2, TA3|
|Police||Avon and Somerset|
|Fire||Devon and Somerset|
The town name derives from "Town on the River Tone or Tone Town. Cambria Farm, now hosting a park and ride close to Junction 25 of the M5 motorway, was the site of a Bronze and Iron Age settlement and Roman farm. There was a Romano-British village near the suburb of Holway, and Taunton was a place of 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 it was destroyed by his queen, Æthelburg of Wessex, in 722, to prevent its seizure by rebels.
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 13th century, but it declined in importance and the function of county town moved to Taunton about 1366. Between 1209 and 1311 the manor of Taunton, owned by the Bishop of Winchester, expanded two-and-a-half times. The parishes of Staplegrove, Wilton and Taunton itself were part of Taunton Deane hundred.
In 1451, during the Wars of the Roses, Taunton saw 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 the Second Cornish uprising of 1497 most of the Cornish gentry supported Perkin Warbeck's cause and on 17 September a Cornish army some 6,000 strong entered Exeter before advancing on Taunton. Henry VII sent his chief general, Giles, Lord Daubeney, to attack the Cornish. When Warbeck heard that the King's scouts were at Glastonbury he panicked and deserted his army. Henry VII reached Taunton on 4 October 1497, where he received the surrender of the remaining Cornish army. The ringleaders were executed and others fined a total of £13,000.
Taunton Castle changed hands several times in the Civil War of 1642–1645, 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 medieval and Tudor buildings. 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 lived in the town during the Bloody Assizes that followed the Battle of Sedgemoor.
The town did not obtain a charter of incorporation until 1627. It was renewed in 1677, but lapsed in 1792 owing to vacancies for the members of the corporate body. Taunton was not reincorporated until 1877. The medieval fairs and markets (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 woollen industry in the west of England, silk-weaving was introduced at the end of the 18th century.
Taunton was named as "strategically important" in the government's Regional Spatial Strategy, allowing Somerset County Council to receive funding for large-scale regeneration projects. In 2006, the council revealed plans which it called "Project Taunton". This would see the regeneration of the areas of Firepool, Tangier, the retail town centre, the cultural quarter, and the River Tone, aiming to sustain Taunton as a central hub for business in the South West.
The Firepool area on the northern edge of Taunton town centre, adjacent to the main railway station, includes much vacant or undeveloped land. The Council is promoting sustainable, high-quality, employment-led mixed-use development of this. The Firepool project is set to attract 3,000 new jobs and 500 new homes.
The "Cultural Quarter" is the area along the river between Firepool and Tangier. The plans are to extend riverside retail and attract more smaller, boutique businesses, such as those found in the Riverside shopping centre.
Several sites along the River Tone are set to undergo renovation. Firepool Weir lock, long silted up, was to be dredged in 2011 to allow boats to pass from the navigable section of the Tone through Taunton to the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal. Goodland Gardens received a makeover and a new café, The Shed, opened. Projects to develop Somerset Square (the paved area next to the Brewhouse Theatre) and Longrun Meadow (country park near to SCAT) have been put forward.
Traffic congestion was identified as an obstacle to continuing economic growth. Part of the growth strategy for the town was a new road infrastructure consisting of a £7.5 million link road to ease traffic in the town centre (Taunton's "Third Way"). This was completed in 2011 and a Northern Inner Distributor Road linking Staplegrove Road, the station and Priory Avenue at a planned cost of £21 million opened in 2017.
Taunton includes an area named Holway that was once a village in its own right, as one of the Five Hundreds of Taunton Dean, the Infaring division or district of three districts that made up Taunton Dean. The parish of Staplegrove lies in the northern suburbs. The parish, largely built by Monsell Youell Construction Ltd in the 1970s, has a population of 1,889.
Taunton was the main settlement and administrative centre of the local government district of Taunton Deane. The district was formed on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, by a merger of the municipal borough of Taunton, Wellington urban district, Taunton Rural District, and Wellington Rural District. Taunton Deane was granted borough status in 1975, perpetuating the mayoralty of Taunton. The district was given the name as an alternate form of the Taunton hundred. Taunton Deane Council was based at the Municipal Buildings in Corporation Street before moving to modern facilities at Deane House on Belvedere Road in spring 1987. Taunton Deane merged with West Somerset to form Somerset West and Taunton in 2019.
Somerset County Council, based at County Hall in Taunton, consists of 58 councillors. The town of Taunton is included in six electoral divisions, each returning a single county councillor: Taunton East; Taunton Fairwater; Taunton North; Taunton South; Taunton West and Taunton and Trull (which includes rural areas). Five councillors are Liberal Democrats and one a Conservative.
Taunton Deane is a county constituency represented in the House of Commons. It elects one Member by the first past the post system. It is based on the town of Taunton but extends to Wellington and small villages and parts of Exmoor. The current MP is Rebecca Pow of the Conservative Party.
It is surrounded by many other large towns and cities seen on this directional compass:
The Taunton area has Permian (295–250 million years old) red sandstones and breccia outcrop, while rocks of Triassic age (248–204 million years ago) underlie much of Somerset and form the geology of the Somerset Moors and Levels.
There are several local nature reserves in and around Taunton, protected under a statutory designation in Section 21 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. South Taunton Streams is an urban wetland. In the northern suburbs is the Children's Wood riverside reserve, offering a movement corridor for animals such as otters along the banks of the River Tone. Birds at the site include the kingfisher, dipper, grey wagtail, mute swan, grey heron and reed warbler. Its butterflies include the small and large skipper, marbled white, small heath and small copper, along with dragonflies and damselflies.
Weirfield Riverside is a linear nature reserve by the River Tone, with alder and willow woodland, bramble, scrub and rough grassland. The wetter areas that sometimes flood include hemlock water-dropwort, and yellow flag. Silk Mills Park and Ride includes landscaping and ponds in three areas by the Tone created with the park and ride. The woodland and grassland support aquatic and marginal vegetation. There are a various birds, bats, reptiles and invertebrates. Frieze Hill Community Orchard has been converted from allotments to rough grassland and orchard. The Kingston Black and Yarlington Mill apple varieties are among those grown.
Like the rest of South West England, Taunton has a temperate climate that is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the country. The annual mean temperature is about 10 °C (50.0 °F). Seasonal temperature variation is less extreme than in most of the UK because of the adjacent sea temperatures. The summer months of July and August are warmest, with mean daily maxima of about 21 °C (69.8 °F). In winter mean, minimum temperatures of 1 °C (33.8 °F) or 2 °C (35.6 °F) are common. In the summer the Azores high pressure affects the south-west of England, but convective cloud sometimes forms inland, reducing the number of hours of sunshine. Annual sunshine rates are slightly less than the regional average of 1,600 hours. In December 1998 there were 20 days without sun recorded at Yeovilton. Most of the rainfall in the south-west is caused by Atlantic depressions or by convection. Most rainfall in autumn and winter is caused by the Atlantic depressions, which is when they are most active. In summer, a large proportion of the rainfall is caused by the sun heating the ground, leading to convection and showers and thunderstorms. Average rainfall is around 700 mm (28 in). About 8–15 days of snowfall is typical. November to March have the highest mean wind speeds and June to August have the lightest winds. The prevailing wind direction is from the south-west.
|UK Census 2001||Taunton Deane||South West England||England|
|Over 75 years old||9.5%||9.3%||7.5%|
The town of Taunton (which for population estimates includes the unparished area or former municipal borough plus the neighbouring parishes of Bishop's Hull, Comeytrowe, Norton Fitzwarren, Staplegrove, Trull and West Monkton) had an estimated population of 61,400 in 2001. It is the largest town in the shire county of Somerset.
The figures below are for the Taunton Deane area.
In 2011, the Taunton built-up area had a population of 60,479 compared with 110,187 for the surrounding borough of Taunton Deane. 91.6 per cent of Taunton's residents were White British in 2011 compared with 93.4 per cent for Taunton Deane. Taunton's ethnic composition is similar to that of the whole of South West England, which was 91.8 per cent White British in the same year. It is also average compared with other major towns in the same region including Poole and Plymouth. The larger urban area, which extends beyond the town's boundaries to include Monkton Heathfield, Norton Fitzwarren and Bathpool, had a 2011 population of 64,621.
Taunton is home to the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO), a Ministry of Defence body responsible for providing navigational and other hydrographic information for national, civil and defence requirements. The UKHO is located on Admiralty Way and has a workforce of approximately 1100. At the start of the Second World War, chart printing moved to Taunton, but the main office did not move until 1968. Taunton is also home to head offices of Debenhams, Western Provident Association, Viridor and CANDAC. Other professional services are based at Blackbrook near the motorway junction.
Gray's Almshouses in East Street were founded by Robert Gray in 1615 for poor single women. The red brick buildings bear the arms of Robert Gray, dated 1635, and another arms of the Merchant Tailors. A small room is used as a chapel and has original benches and a painted ceiling. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building. St Margaret's Almshouses was founded as a leper colony in the 12th century. Glastonbury Abbey acquired the patronage of the hospital in the late 13th century and rebuilt it as almshouses in the early 16th century. From 1612 to 1938 the building continued to be used as almshouses, cared for by a local parish. In the late 1930s it was converted into a hall of offices for the Rural Community Council and accommodation for the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen. It later fell into disrepair, until the Somerset Buildings Preservation Trust with Falcon Rural Housing purchased and restored it for use as four dwellings of social housing. It is a grade II* listed building.
The grounds of Taunton Castle include the Somerset County Museum and The Castle Hotel, which incorporates the Castle Bow archway. With the municipal buildings they form a three-sided group just beyond the Castle Bow archway from Fore Street. The centre of the square is a car park, and the plain brick Mecca Bingo hall makes up the west side of it.
The area by the river north of the centre is surrounded by Morrisons supermarket, retirement housing and the Brewhouse Theatre. Towards the centre, is the Zinc Nightclub, Bridge Street and Goodlands Gardens. Currently a regeneration programme is being executed north of Bridge Street, which will include redeveloping the County Cricket Ground. The cricket ground hosted large open-air music concerts for Elton John in 2006 and 2012 and for Rod Stewart in 2014.
Hankridge Farm is a retail park close to the M5 motorway, with large stores including Currys PC World, Oak Furniture Land, Hobbycraft, Halfords, B&Q, The Range and Taunton's second Sainsbury's. In addition, there is a Venue on the park, with restaurants, an Odeon cinema and a Hollywood Bowl bowling alley. It is now known as Riverside Retail Park.
Taunton has three other retail parks. Belvedere Retail Park is close to the town centre. St Johns Retail Park is just off Toneway, going towards the motorway and consists of two units. It is occupied by DFS, joined by Go Outdoors in April 2014. Taunton's second largest retail park is Priory Fields in Priory Avenue. It has eight units plus an anchor store, Wickes, and was redeveloped in 2003 to modernise the rather worn-out appearance of the retail park and to increase retail floor space.
The Old Market was a farmers' market in the Parade in front of Market House, but eventually moved to the Firepool area, although cattle trading on the site ceased in 2008. A large indoor shopping centre to the east of the Parade was built on a site which had at one time been a pig market. Although its official name is now Orchard, and before that the Old Market Centre, locals still refer to it as the Pig Market, as one existed there from 1614 to 1882.
County Walk is a small indoor shopping arcade in the town centre with an anchor supermarket, Sainsbury's, and several other large national retailers such as Subway, Costa Coffee, Savers and The Entertainer.
Taunton's public parks include Vivary Park, Goodlands Park and Victoria Park. The most notable is Vivary, on land that was once a medieval fish farm or vivarium for Taunton Priory and Taunton Castle. Fronted by a pair of cast iron gates from the Saracen Foundry of Glasgow, it contains the Sherford Stream, a Tone tributary that flows through the 7.5 hectares (19 acres) park, which is near the town centre. It has two main open spaces and a war memorial dating from 1922, a miniature golf course, tennis courts, two children's playgrounds, a model railway track added in 1979, and an 18-hole, 4620-yard, par-63 golf course. The park includes trees, rose beds and herbaceous borders, with some 56,000 spring and summer bedding plants used each year. The rose garden includes the Royal National Rose Society Provincial Trial Ground. Taunton Flower Show held annually in the park since the 19th century. It has been described as "The Chelsea of the West", and draws some 24,000 visitors over two days. Goodlands Gardens, in the centre of the town, is behind the Debenhams department store and The Castle Hotel.
The Pride Rainbow Path
The Pride Rainbow Path in Goodland Gardens, Taunton town centre, runs alongside the River Tone. Designed by Jenny Keogh and Liz Hutchin of GoCreate, it opened on 28 June 2021 to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement. It is believed to be the first such path in the UK. The opening coincided with the first Taunton Pride in July 2021 and the Pride inspired Art Trail.
While using the traditional LGBTQ+ colours, the far end of the 62-metre path includes a chevron of the progress colours: black, brown, light blue, pink, and white stripes to reflect ethnic diversity. The path has been designed not to require maintenance for 15 years. It was funded by Taunton's Emergency Town Centre Recovery Fund and is intended to reflect Taunton's commitment to inclusivity and diversity.
Taunton railway station is on the Bristol to Exeter line, the Reading to Taunton line, and the Cross Country Route. It is served and operated by Great Western Railway and served by CrossCountry, with services to Manchester Piccadilly, Birmingham New Street, Cardiff Central, Bristol Temple Meads, London Paddington, Exeter St Davids, Plymouth and Penzance. There is generally one fast and one slow train each hour to both Bristol Temple Meads and Exeter St Davids and one train each hour to London Paddington.
The former railway route to Minehead is now the heritage West Somerset Railway, although services only operate between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead. The Buses of Somerset route 28 provide a link between the railway stations at Taunton and Bishops Lydeard.
In 2009, Project Taunton, the authority responsible for Taunton's major regeneration project, revealed proposals for Taunton metro rail, as part of their transport sustainability plan. They were not implemented.
Taunton has good road links, with the M5 motorway junctions 25 (Taunton) and 26 (Wellington) close to the town, along with other major roads such as the A38 and A358. The Taunton bypass section of the M5, between the two junctions, opened in April 1974 and relieved the town of heavy holiday traffic on the A38. Taunton Deane services are on that section of the motorway.
However, a flourishing local economy makes traffic a concern; in 2011 Somerset County Council predicted a marked rise from 2001 levels. Two major new roads have been made since 2010. The Third Way (A3807) linking Bridge Street and Castle Street opened in 2011 and the Northern Inner Distributor Road (NIDR, A3087) between Staplegrove Road and Priory Avenue opened in July 2017.
2011 M5 motorway crash
On the evening of 4 November 2011, 34 vehicles were involved in an accident close to junction 25 of the M5 motorway northbound, on the north-eastern edge of the town at West Monkton. Seven people were confirmed as dead, with a further 51 injured.
Buses and coaches
Many local bus services are provided by The Buses of Somerset: town services and routes to Minehead, Bridgwater, Weston-Super-Mare and elsewhere. Other services are provided by Hatch Green Coaches. Services were also operated by Webberbus, but these ended when the company closed on 12 May 2016. Taunton bus station was in Tower Street from 1953 until 2020. Most services now terminate at stops on The Parade or Castle Way.
Berrys Coaches is based in Taunton and operates several "Superfast Services" to London. National Express Coaches operate coach services to many destinations.
The Taunton Tramway opened on 21 August 1901. Six double-decker cars operated on a 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge line between the railway station and the depot at East Reach. In 1905 the service was withdrawn for two months while the track was improved; the cars were replaced by six single deck cars and the old double deckers sold to Leamington Spa. A short extension beyond the station to Rowbarton was opened in 1909, making the line 1.66 miles (2.7 km) long. However, the price of its electricity was due to rise in 1928 to a level the company refused to pay, and it offered to sell out, but this was not accepted. The electricity was cut off on 28 May 1921 and the system closed.
The Bridgwater and Taunton Canal is a navigable waterway that links Taunton with Bridgwater, opened in 1827. Having been closed to navigation in 1907, it re-opened after restoration in 1994.
State secondary schools in Taunton include The Castle School, Heathfield Community School, Bishop Fox's School and The Taunton Academy. Further education is provided by Richard Huish College, The Taunton Academy (sponsored by Richard Huish College) and the Bridgwater and Taunton College. Heathfield Community School has a post-16 further education college specialising in performing arts and technical theatre called The SPACE (The Somerset Performing Arts Centre for Education). Heathfield Community School is also a teaching school and the base of Taunton Teaching Alliance. The Taunton campus of the Bridgwater and Taunton College is a partner college of Plymouth University and includes University Centre Taunton. There are three co-educational independent schools in Taunton: Queen's College, King's College and Taunton School.
In March 2009, it was announced that Jim Knight, Minister of State for Schools and Families, had approved the closure of Ladymead Community School and the nearby St Augustine of Canterbury RC/CoE School in the Priorswood area of Taunton. They were replaced in September 2010 by the Taunton Academy.
Young people with special educational needs in Taunton are provided for by two special schools and one complex Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). Sky College caters for boys aged 10–18 who have social, emotional and mental-health difficulties. Selworthy School has pupils of 4–19 who have complex and multiple learning difficulties, while the Taunton Deane Partnership College is a complex PRU for children in Key Stages 2, 3 and 4 as well as a Medical Tuition Service, Outreach & Advisory Service and an Area Access Team.
Taunton is within Somerset Primary Care Trust and is home to Musgrove Park Hospital, within Somerset NHS Foundation Trust. This is one of two district hospitals within Somerset, alongside Yeovil District Hospital. A Nuffield Hospital is also situated within the town, run privately by Nuffield Health. The town has several doctor's surgeries and a family planning clinic, an occupational health centre and a chiropractic clinic.
The parish church of St Mary Magdalene, built of sandstone more in the South Somerset style, retains an attractive painted interior, but its most notable aspect is a 15th and 16th-century tower rebuilt in the mid-19th century. It is one of the best examples in the country and a landmark 158 feet (48 m) high. It was described by Simon Jenkins, an authority on English churches, as "the finest in England. It makes its peace with the sky not just with a coronet but with the entire crown jewels cast in red-brown stone." The tower itself has 12 bells and 3 bells "hung dead" for the clock mechanism.
The parish church of St James stands near the centre of Taunton close to St Mary Magdalene. The oldest parts are early 14th century; there are fragments of 15th-century glass in the west end. Like St Mary's, it has a sandstone tower, but built to a less impressive design. It too was rebuilt in the 19th century, in this case due to building defects in the original. It backs onto the County Ground.
St George's, the town's Roman Catholic church, dates from the mid-19th century. It was the second Catholic church built in Taunton since the Reformation, replacing a much smaller St George's Chapel. The main building is designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building, while the clergy house is Grade II listed.
Mary Street Unitarian Chapel, which dates from 1721, stands in Mary Street. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, while living at Nether Stowey 16 miles (26 km) away, came to the chapel to preach several times. Dr Malachi Blake, who founded the Taunton and Somerset Hospital in East Reach, Taunton, was also a preacher there, attending in 1809 a celebration of the 50th year of George the Third's reign. The chapel retains its original interior, including Flemish oak pillars in Corinthian style. The pews and pulpit are also in oak. There is an early 18th-century candelabra.
In the latter part of the 17th century, Taunton had two dissenting places of worship: "Paul's Meeting" and the Baptist Meeting. Paul's Meeting was built at the top of Paul Street soon after 1672 on part of a bowling green behind the Three Cups Inn, now The County Hotel, and rapidly became one of the largest congregations in the county. After Mayor Timewell sacked both Paul's Meeting and the Baptist Meeting in 1683, the dissenters were driven to worship in private houses on the outskirts of Taunton, where their assemblies were regularly raided by the Justices. Paul's Meeting survived attempts to turn it into a workhouse, and with the coming of William III and Mary II, followed by the Toleration Act 1688, it reopened. Hugh Willoughby, 15th Baron Willoughby of Parham, was educated in early life at Taunton Dissenters' Academy. The Baptist Meeting became the Baptist New Meeting, registered in 1691 and rebuilt in 1721 as Mary Street Chapel.
Taunton town centre has the Brewhouse Theatre. It closed in February 2013 due to financial difficulties, but reopened in April 2014 under the Taunton Theatre Association (TTA), which was granted the 61-year lease that Taunton Deane Borough Council who had bought of the site and its contents from administrator. Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre is a professional theatre based at Heathfield Community School, hosting touring theatre, dance and comedy, and productions by South West schools and colleges. Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre also runs community classes. The Creative Innovation Centre CIC has an arts and culture venue in the town centre.
Several concerts are held each year Taunton's largest church, St Mary Magdalene. In recent years The Sixteen, The Tallis Scholars and Gabrieli Consort have all performed to full audiences. Taunton also has several choirs and orchestras, which perform in the town's churches and independent schools' chapels. Many local musical and drama groups are members of the Taunton Association of Performing Arts (TAPA), which produces a diary and calendar of performances in and about the town.
Taunton is mentioned in The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré, and Evelyn Waugh's Scoop. It was given the fictitious name "Toneborough" by Thomas Hardy.
Taunton Rugby Football Club is a club based in Taunton. It currently plays in National League 2 South, having achieved back-to-back promotions in 2009 and 2010. It played at Priory Park Sports Ground from 1935 to 2001, before moving to the Commsplus Stadium.
The County Ground was originally home to Taunton Cricket Club, formed in 1829. It played at the County Ground until 1977, before moving to Moorfields, Taunton, in conjunction with Taunton Vale Hockey Club, since when the County Ground has been solely used by Somerset County Cricket Club. Somerset CCC was formed in 1875, but the club did not achieve first class status until 1891. The County Ground has a capacity of 8,500 and the ends are called the River End and the Old Pavilion End. It is the current home of the England women's cricket team. The Somerset Cricket Museum is by the County Ground.
Taunton Cricket Club has since 2002 been located at the new Taunton Vale Sports Club Ground in Staplegrove, which features two cricket fields. The Taunton Vale ground is also a regular home venue for Somerset's Second XI. Taunton Deane Cricket Club has a ground adjacent to Vivary Park, while Taunton St Andrews Cricket Club is based at the nearby Wyvern Sports and Social Club. All three clubs play in the West of England Premier League or one of its feeder leagues.
Taunton Town FC, a football club, plays at Wordsworth Drive. It was formed in 1947 by local businessmen as Taunton FC, changing to the current name in 1968, and played its first friendly fixture in 1948. For most of its history, Taunton belonged to the Western League. It spent a six-season spell in the Southern League from 1977, and after a further period in the Western League, returned to the Southern League in 2002, after winning the FA Vase in 2001. The club currently plays in the Southern Premier Division, after winning the Division One South and West league title, finishing first in the 2017/2018 season. Taunton Town FC narrowly missed out on promotion to the National League South in 2018–2019, after a playoff defeat to Poole Town. An earlier Taunton Town FC played at Priory Park in the 1930s.
Somerset Vikings is a rugby league club formed in 2003 as part of the Rugby Football League's plans to develop the game beyond its traditional north-of-England areas. Initially the side was made up of a mixture of Royal Marines based in Taunton and Exeter with local rugby union players keen to try the 13-man code. It plays at Hyde Park, also home to Taunton RFC.
The Taunton Tigers is a semi-professional basketball team competing in the English Basketball League Men's Division 1. The team plays its home games at Wellsprings Leisure Centre, which seats 500.
Taunton Racecourse is close to the Blackdown Hills, about 2 miles (3 km) from the centre of Taunton. Although racing had been held in the area before, the first race at the present site was held on 21 September 1927. The Orchard Stand and Paddock Stand provide catering facilities and are used for meetings and conferences on days when racing is not taking place. Greyhound racing was held at the Priory Park Sports Ground and County Cricket ground in the past.
The following were born or have lived in Taunton:
- Colin Addison (born 1940), professional footballer and manager born in Taunton
- Jenny Agutter (born 1952), actress born in Taunton
- Joseph Alleine (1634–1668), Nonconformist pastor and author
- William Larkins Bernard (1843–1922), architect born in Taunton
- Pattie Boyd (born 1944), actress and model; former wife of George Harrison, then Eric Clapton
- Jos Buttler (born 1990), England cricketer
- Matt Colton (born 1975), mastering engineer, studied in Taunton
- Deborah Criddle MBE (born 1966), a Taunton-born para-equestrian winner of three golds at the Athens 2004 Summer Paralympics and three medals at the London 2012 Summer Paralympics in London. She currently lives in nearby Trull.
- John Crockford (c. 1823–1865), publisher
- William Crotch (1775–1847), composer and Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, is buried at Bishops Hull Church, Taunton.
- Stephen Daldry (born 1960), three times Academy Award nominee and Tony Award-winning stage and film director and producer
- Charles George Gordon (1833–1885), UK army general known as Gordon of Khartoum, attended the former Fullands School.
- Sir Benjamin Hammet (c. 1736–1800), businessman, banker and Taunton native, served as its MP in 1782-1800, and as High Sheriff of London. He was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1797 but declined to serve.
- Antony Hewish (born 1924), astronomer and Nobel Prize for Physics winner
- Rebecca Huxtable (born 1981), Taunton-born radio personality and producer, formerly co-producing The Scott Mills Show on BBC Radio 1
- Alexander William Kinglake (1809–1891), barrister, travel writer and historian, was born at Wilton House near Taunton.
- Scott Laird (born 1988), footballer with Scunthorpe United
- Jack Leach (born 1991), Somerset County Cricket Club and England cricketer
- Lee Martin (born 1987), Taunton-born footballer with Millwall F.C.
- Deborah Meaden (born 1959), Taunton-born business mogul, philanthropist and star of the TV series Dragons Den
- William Ellis Metford (1824–1899), Taunton-born engineer known for the Metford rifling in the .303 Lee-Metford service rifle of the late 19th century
- Ciara Michel (born 1985), member of Team GB Olympic volleyball squad, the first to play in the Olympic Games
- John Mole (born 1941), poet and jazz musician born in Taunton
- Frank Montague Moore (1877–1967), Taunton-born painter and first director of the Honolulu Museum of Art
- Alfred B. Mullett (1834–1890), architect to Abraham Lincoln, born in Taunton
- James Northcote (born 1987), actor and film producer, was a pupil of King's College, Taunton.
- Justin Pipe (born 1971), professional darts player
- James Purefoy (born 1964), Taunton-born actor, starred in the joint HBO/BBC series Rome.
- Viv Richards (born 1952), Antiguan-born West Indies cricketer resident in Taunton while playing for Somerset, 1974–1986
- Gary Rhodes (1960–2019), celebrated head chef at the Castle Hotel, Taunton, 1986–1990
- Andy Robinson (born 1964), Taunton-born England rugby union international and head coach, now head coach of Scotland
- Miranda Shearer (born 1982), author born in Taunton, since resident in Spaxton, Over Stowey and Taunton
- Hugh Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard (1873–1956), Taunton-born military officer involved in grounding the Royal Air Force
- Marcus Trescothick (born 1975), England cricketer, recipient of the Taunton Deane Citizenship Award in 2005
- Sir Charles Trevelyan, 1st Baronet (1807–1886), Governor of Madras, born in Taunton
- Phil Vickery (born 1961), celebrity chef
- Frederick Porter Wensley (1865–1949), chief constable of Scotland Yard CID, born in Taunton
- David Henry Wilson (born 1937), writer known for children's stories such as the Jeremy James series
- Jeremy Wright (born 1972), born in Taunton and attending Taunton School, became Attorney General for England and Wales and a Conservative MP
Taunton is twinned with Lisieux in France, Königslutter in Germany, and Taunton, Massachusetts in the US.
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