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Taunton Centre on Market Day c1890

Taunton Centre on Market Day c1890 Taunton Somerset

Clearly a nice day here on a Wednesday or Saturday when the Parade market was held. The ladies have their parasols. The livestock market was held on Castle Green and fruit and vegetables and meat sold in the Guildhall on the left.

A new market site was opened at Priory Bridge Road in 1929 and everything was moved there into purpose built accommodation. 

In turn this site outlived its usefulness and like certain other things was moved to Bridgwater. 
After nearly 1,000 years Taunton ceased to be a market town and the Priory Road site ( Firepool ) has been derelict ever since .The Parade market evolved over the years. Originally gas lit , it saw electric lighting installed in 1885 when fourteen Thomson-Houston arc lamps were erected mainly for individual traders. Permanent installations took place in May 1886. This being the first public electric supply system in Taunton and the South West.

Motor taxis first appeared in 1908 and the first taximeter in Taunton came in 1917. A refreshment kiosk was erected to serve market visitors under the Kinglake Memorial. Sadly Taunton lost most of its distinctive architecture to be replaced by ‘anytown’ modern buildings which now surround the Parade. On the left we have the Guildhall better known as The Victoria Rooms. This had a large back entrance in Corporation Street. During the war the building housed a British Restaurant and helped serve the market being opened as ‘The New Market’ in 1821. The Victoria Rooms was demolished in 1963 long after the Market House arcades were removed in the 1930’s. Beyond the shop, whose window seems to be obscured by sheets, is The Corn Exchange which opened as a fish market in 1854. A cinema ran here before WW2 known affectionately as ‘The Bug House’. This building was demolished in1937.

The fine memorial which served as a market cross was funded by the Kinglake family. It was erected in 1867. In 1934 the corporation decided to ‘remove’ the Kinglake Memorial and it was chalked up to give the impression that it would be rebuilt elsewhere. Sadly this was not to be and it seems that only the top survived to be placed in a garden at Kingston St. Mary. Many other fine Taunton buildings have met the same fate including the old police station which was opposite the current building which now seems to be little used and originally part of Taunton Gaol that itself much reduced. The Taunton Courier referred to the old police station to be “Too old and ugly for the Twentieth Century”. Such is heritage destroyed. Gone, too, is the fine old bank building which stood at the corner of Hammet Street. One small monument that escaped destruction is the granite drinking fountain that used to be at the top of East Reach. You will see it close to the new cafe in Vivary Park.

By Nick Chipchase

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