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Taunton Police Station c 1900

Taunton Police Station c 1900 Taunton Somerset

As we have recently waved goodbye to our police station (and other things) I thought that it would be appropriate to show our original police station which to my mind was a fine edifice worth preserving.

The station was built in 1856 to house the Taunton Division. It stood next to the Shire Hall opposite the later station. There was little in the way of accommodation. The building had a few cells with living quarters for the superintendent. George Goldsmith was the first incumbent possibly for as long as 28 years. There was also a parade room and a small office. By 1884 the Taunton Division had 27 constables and 2 sergeants. The Police Bill was introduced by the Government in 1856. This meant that counties were obliged to provide a police force. The idea was not universally accepted by counties as some felt that such a force would constitute a regime fit only for those despotic countries where free speech and civil liberties were curtailed. Some wanted to retain the old scheme of paid constables funded by the local authority. Nevertheless, the new bill was passed and the Taunton Division was established.£30,000 was lent by The West of England Insurance Co. This on the understanding that 14 new divisional headquarters would be built in Somerset. The Bridgwater station was built in the following year at a cost of £90,000. The central government would not issue a loan for the stations so private support had to be found. The loan was repaid by the ratepayers. The land for the Taunton station was bought from butcher Thomas Macey and the first policeman moved in December 1856. He had a uniform required by the Bill comprising of one greatcoat, one frock coat, two pairs of trousers, stock and clasp,cape and hat, truncheon, girdle, lantern,pair of handcuffs, stick, brush and warrant card. Leggings and helmet came later. An extension to the station was built in 1875 to house several single men. The area was retained as accommodation for officers until the late 1930s. The police station was moved to the current building across the road which had been converted from an administration block for Taunton prison. The old station was let to officers and their families until 1962.The entire building was then demolished to make way for the new extension to County Hall. Sadly another part of Taunton’s past gone forever. The image herehas been edited and coloured.

By Nick Chipchase

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