Friday, 29 January 2016

Taunton's Fab Second Hand Shop and Museum in a Castle

My friend, Lesley and I haven't met up for about 3 years; she lives in Brixham, so looking at a half way point on the map, on a rail route, I thought Taunton would be a place to meet up for the day. Using the already tried and tested formula for other meetings, I started by doing a quick Google search before arriving, and then kept an open mind and looked for the great experiences that make these sort of exploratory trips so special.
I discovered the river Tone runs through Taunton, and there's a castle there as well quite near the river.  And what's more, the Museum of Somerset is housed in the castle, all looking rather good.
The day started off gloriously with bright sunshine, evident in the photos. But starting at the beginning, the modernised Taunton station has retained these amazing brass lampshades I haven't seen elsewhere:
 There were no maps of Taunton town available at the station, but we were assured that on leaving the station, you turn left under the railway bridge and carry on walking for 10 minutes, until you see Debenhams, and the castle is behind the main shopping street.
We quickly came across a fabulous second hand furniture and 'all things interesting' shop on our left
 There was so much wonderful stuff, it's worth a visit if you need anything from a dresser to a hand bell which is what I bought there. Above you can just about see Lesley looking at something.
 From there we carried on walking and discovered this great bridge across the river Tone with bright blue sky in the background
 Here's a detail of the well painted railings
 Strangely coffee shops were not in evidence on our route, but when I look up coffee shops in Taunton, there are 42 listed, but they're not between the station and the town. As we crossed the bridge, we saw a garden and the castle alongside, and walking beside the river came across this view of the castle
 And after walking across the bridge came to the front of the castle, in a grand, ancient square with a hotel, a pub and incongruously a 1960s Mecca Bingo Hall which needs at least to have its sign removed, it's totally out of keeping with this lovely area
 Below The Castle Hotel, if you click on the link, you'll see it's covered in Wisteria in spring
 We walked through the entrance to the museum and entered a courtyard where we saw the lovely Castle House, open to the public and beautifully restored in the last few years:
 Castle House dates back to the 1480s, and amazingly has an upper floor which sleeps 7 that you can rent.
 Here's the inside of the downstairs
From there we looked at the almshouse moved from St.James Street below
And from there into the fabulous museum where the first thing you come across is Simon O'Rourke's tree sculpture:
 The museum is divided into 6 sections, Foundation Stones, Claiming the land, Making Somerset, Rebellious People, New Horizons and the Military Museum. I've picked out things I particularly liked
 Like the 1.5 ton overmantel from about 1460, carved from a single block of Hamstone
 Above is part of a mosaic surviving form Roman Britain telling the story of Dido and Aeneas as recorded by Virgil in 25BC. The mosaic was found in the bath block of a Roman villa at Low Ham, it dates from cAD 350.
 This photo shows the view of the first large ground floor room from the first floor
 Above a carving from Montacute Priory c1500, and shows the crowning of the Virgin Mary
 Above is some of the stained glass from Glastonbury Abbey from c1500. Much of the glass was destroyed in 1540, so complete windows are very rare. Which is why Fairford Church's windows are so special.
 My last photo is my favourite. The Museum of Somerset has many different styles of fabulous windows, this one is just glorious.
I'm aware there's lots more to explore in Taunton, the fabulous churches and canal which links
 Bridgewater to Taunton. All waiting for another day.

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