Somerset's lively county town is on the up
Becky Sheaves discovers why Taunton’s fortunes are improving all the time.
Taunton gets its name from its position on the River Tone, and was originally called "Tone-Town". That was back in Saxon times, and over the years Taunton has grown in leaps and bounds. It took over from Somerton as the county town of Somerset in 1366 and, much more recently, was earmarked as being of "strategic importance" in 2006.
As a result, this busy town, with a population of more than 60,000, has seen substantial investment in recent years. A new link road opened in 2011 at a cost of £7.5 million and another is planned for 2014 at £21 million. It's a much-needed development though, as few would deny that traffic congestion here has been a real problem in the town centre.
Other schemes afoot include the Firepool regeneration project, aiming at creating 3,000 new job and 500 new homes for Taunton.
Free consultation for thread/spider vein, mole, skin tag and wart...View details
Free consultation for thread/spider vein, mole, skin tag and wart removal
Contact: 01803 221072
Valid until: Tuesday, December 31 2013
So Taunton's on the up then, which is good news for its lively community here. And it's hardly surprising that the town is in the ascendant. It has excellent transport links, including the nearby M5 and a direct train line to Penzance and London Paddington, making the capital and the rest of the region within easy reach.
There have been a few setbacks, though. It came as a shock to arty locals that the town's theatre and arts centre. The Brewhouse, went into administration this February and has been closed ever since. But now that the borough council has agreed to take it over, it is hoped that The Brewhouse will re-open before too long.
Taunton has some major employers, including the National Hydrographic Office, which employs 1100 people here to provide the Ministry of Defence with navigation and hydrographic information. Debenhams, too, has its HQ in the town, as does the waste recycling company Viridor.
When it comes to leisure time, the town is surrounded by wonderful countryside in the Vale of Taunton, and lies between the beautiful hills of the Quantocks, the Blackdown Hills and the Brendon hills.
The town's history certainly has had some eventful moments, too. It was here that Henry VII executed the ringleaders of a 6,000-strong Cornish army, who had marched here in 1497 to demand an end to unfair taxation. Indeed, history is everywhere in Taunton, which has many ancient buildings and a long memory – the Orchard Shopping Centre has stood for many years but is still known locally as "The Pig Market", which is exactly what it was from 1614-1882.
Taunton has bred some impressive women over the years, including actress Jenny Agutter, rock chick Pattie Boyd and Deborah Meaden of the Dragon's Den. The sons of Taunton include film-maker Stephen Daldry, who directed Billy Elliott, not to mention celebrity chef Phil Vickery, who is married to TV's Fern Britton.