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Old Town Bridge and Breweries c 1890

Old Town Bridge and Breweries c 1890 Taunton Somerset

The original town bridge was rebuilt in 1834 and during that time a stone bottle was found bearing this note. “This centre arch was erected at the expense of The Taunton and Bridgwater Canal Company and the first stone was laid on Thursday the 29th May in the year of our Lord 1834 “.

The stone bridge had a narrow section which impeded traffic to the newer developments in North Town and around the railway station. It was rebuilt as the current structure in 1894 at a cost of £7,000 from a design by J.H. Smith the Borough Surveyor. Beyond the bridge is the chimney of The West Somerset Brewery and Aerated Water Factory. At this time the premises belonged to S.H. and F.H. Hatch. The brewery was substantially remodernised around 1884. Water for the manufacture of products came from an artesian well bored through a bed of clay 130 ft. thick.S.W. Arnold and Sons bought the brewery in 1897. By 1903 most of the buildings had been demolished and now The Brewhouse Theatre stands on the site.

On the near side, right of the bridge is The Taunton Brewery. Thomas Starkey of North Petherton bought the brewery in 1881 from Alfred Tebbitt (late Davey and Tebbitt). Knight of Bridgwater joined the firm in 1887 which then traded as Starkey, Knight and Co.until 1895. In March 1895 the business of Ford and Sons of Tiverton was bought the company acquiring the name under which it became well known. Older folk may well remember Starkey, Knight and Ford’s famous trade mark- the flying horse.( Still seen on old pub buildings around Somerset.

One near Merridge I recall ). It seems the flying horse trademark evolved from H. and G. Knight’s trademark of a knight on horseback. Starkey, Knight and Ford shared much of the public house trade around Taunton with Arnold and Sons of Rowbarton Brewery.

In 1928 Arnold’s joined with William Hancock and Sons of Wiveliscombe trading as Arnold and Hancock Ltd.    Hewett’s brewery at Norton Fitzwarren was added in 1899. The Hewett, Arnold and William Hancock brewery buildings still remain intact.

Arnold and Hancock Ltd had 233 public houses at their peak in 1950 and the company remained in business until 1959. The Taunton Brewery was demolished in 1958 and the area landscaped to become Goodland’s Gardens formed in 1971 in memory of Alderman William Goodland the town’s mayor 1898-99.

It is not obvious now but originally the town bridge was a bit longer ending at Bridge House at the Bridge Street end down stream.The Deller’s Cafe building was added on reclaimed land and was a popular meeting place in Taunton between the wars. Of course this building and Bridge House still survive and quite a few years ago you could still find some of the original Deller’s plaster moulding behind the more recent fittings. St. James church tower can also be seen and like the tower of St. Mary’s it is a Victorian rebuild of the original church tower.

By Nick Chipchase

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