After over a decade work has started at the old market site. Prior to this the market was held on The Parade making Taunton a truly ‘Market Town’. I have coloured this view to enhance the detail.
Formerly the markets were held in the Fore-street of that day around the Market Cross, opposite the White Hart Hotel. There were a few shambles at the East end, in a lane called ‘Shambles Alley’, of which the portreeves, as officers of the Bishop of Winchester had the management and profits.
The Market Cross that formerly adorned our town was an object of national, as well as local interest. Probably at this spot met the Royalists who opposed the progress of Perkin Warbeck.
It was here that the unfortunate Duke of Monmouth was proclaimed King of England. Here it was also that in time of civil war the burgesses assembled in troop, and around it in time of peace were carried on the various transactions of trade and commerce.
Here the Mayor of Taunton in ages gone by read the proclamation of elections and other important documents. The Taunton Market Cross stood until the year 1780, when it was removed by the instrumentality of General Roberts, who was at that time one of the members for Taunton. Various portions of it were divided as relics among some of the principal inhabitants.
A replacement Market Cross was erected in 1857 at the north end of the Parade, by the members of the Kinglake family, as a memorial of their parents. Sadly this went the way of the original cross having been demolished around 1930.
In 1772 the present Market House was erected, and was pronounced at the time ‘an elegant building’. In the basement were extensive vaults, let to wine merchants; on the ground floor, a Guildhall, a Reading-room, and office; on the first floor, an Assembly-room, 50 feet by 30 feet and 24 feet high, used for balls and public meetings, and connected with it were card and retiring rooms; above was a billiard-room, and apartments for the use of attendants.
Oddly the ‘elegant building’ was not considered fine enough for a modern Taunton and a new design was commissioned but finances could not be raised to build it. (By today’s standards it looked horrible!).
The principal market was on Saturdays, with a smaller one on Wednesdays. A bell was rung to open it. The following were sold as described c 1890. “Horses, Castle Green; bullocks, sheep, &c., in the cattle market – a large open spot, with proper accommodation, near Castle Green; pigs, in an enclosed place in Castle Green; corn, in a fine market, opposite the Castle Hotel, Fore-street; beef, pork and other animal food, in the “Butchery,” Fore-street, already described; fish, butter and poultry, under the Institution; corn, rope, &c., in the Eastern Arcade, skins, leather and goods, &c., the Western Arcade; and fruit, vegetables, &c., on covered stalls on the Parade. There are many other articles sold, such as books, ware, boots, sweets, brooms, &c., far too numerous to mention.”
The Parade market was moved c 1929 to the site by the river which itself eventually closed. Taunton no longer being a true Market Town after nearly 1,000 years.
By Nick Chipchase