This photograph shows Station Road in 1903. It was one of a set published by Wrench Ltd who published many well animated postcards between 1900 and 1906.
We can be precise about the date because a placard is advertising the arrival of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show which visited Taunton in August 1903. Buffalo Bill (Col. William Cody ) toured the UK using four special trains carrying 500 horses and 800 people. The latter supposedly including 100 American Indians. The show took place twice daily at the “ Poor Grounds “ at the bottom of East Reach.
At this time the Royal Ashton Hotel was a Temperance hotel and boarding house opened by Grace Ashton in 1869. The “Royal” addition took place some time between 1910 and 1920. The Temperance movement started in Taunton in 1833 with the formation of The Taunton and West Somerset Temperance Society. Coffee taverns and other Temperance hotels soon sprung up in the town. As a child my grandmother, Mabel Mutter, gave a recital to the Trull branch of The Church of England Temperance Society and Band of Hope.
In 1903 Priory Bridge Road did not exist. There was just a narrow entrance to Canal Road with the gabled building being Tucker’s General Stores sited between the Royal Mail and the Crown and Sceptre. The building was demolished and Priory Bridge opened in 1922 after testing it’s safety with a 16 ton traction engine pulling a 40 ton trailer. The bridge was opened in October 1922 by Sir Arthur Griffith Boscawen, MP for Taunton. The buildings on the left side of Station Road still have their little walled gardens. The high and ornate standards supplied electricity to the tramway fleet and with the closure of the system in 1921 many were converted to lighting standards. Seen here is one of the original fleet of six four wheeled double decker trams supplied by the Brush Company. The system opened 21st August 1901 with free rides around the town for 2,000, people on two trams decked out with flags supplied by local store W.and A. Chapman, now Debenham’s.
Seen centre is an arc lamp and to celebrate the centenary of permanent electric lighting in Taunton a replica arc lamp was installed on the Parade in 1986. In reality the arc lamps were just as labour intensive as their gas lit predecessors as the arc gap had to be carefully adjusted and the glass globes regularly cleaned. Electric lighting was demonstrated on the Parade in 1879 and Taunton Rugby Club played Wellington by electric light at Wellington the same year. Easton’s new foundry at Whitehall was lit by electricity when it opened in 1882. Easton and Waldegrave’s steam generators enabled the Parade to be illuminated by electric lights in 1886 Taunton becoming the first town to have it’s streets permanently lit by electricity. Another electrical works were opened in Taunton by Francis Newton of Barton Grange. He arranged for electric lighting in Corfe church. Newton’s Rowbarton works in Taunton closed in 1934.
By Nick Chipchase