Memories of Taunton with Nick Chipchase
I thought we would look at something topical this time. We are all probably fed up with seeing this big derelict site over the last ten years but it does have a little bit of history.
The lime kilns were connected to the canal which joins the river Tone at Firepool. The name Firepool dates back at least to the 1880’s and probably just reflects the turbulent nature of the weir there. The Bridgwater and Taunton Canal was opened as far as Huntworth in 1827 though the connection with Bridgwater was not finally achieved until 1841.
From Firepool the canal ran parallel with the railway to cross Station Road on an aqueduct ( recently refurbished ) which eventually became the railway goods avoidance loop. In 1867 the G.W.R. bought the canal whose trade in competition with the railway slowly declined until the last commercial barge ran in 1907.
Until 1929 there were open fields running right up to Canal Road. There was a pub in Canal Road around 1900 called The Sun Inn. I suppose it is a shame some of that was not left as parkland running along the river. There was also a football pitch here. In one area known as Jarvis Field the circus used to be held. Great excitement occurred when a leopard escaped from Fosset’s Circus in 1890 and the the animal got into the parlour of Prospect Villa before being shot dead. More mayhem ensued when the big top at Sanger’s Circus caught fire in July 1920.
About 2,000 people including many women and children were in the tent to watch an afternoon performance when it caught fire and a stampede to escape ensued. Luckily no animals were in the ring as Pimpo the clown was making people laugh with his comic boxing antics. He quickly rushed to make an exit in the burning tent for the terrified women and children.
Sadly six people perished in the fire but it would have been much worse if the larger animals had been inside.
In 1929 the market moved to the site after being held on the Parade and at Castle Green. Priory Bridge Road was opened with the construction of a new bridge and the market had at last purpose built buildings. On the other side of the river where the new offices are now was a large allotment and further along was Priory Park Sports Ground and club.
Taunton lost it’s status as a market town after nearly 1,000 years when the market was moved to junction 24 at Bridgwater. It was a sad event for many but, in truth, to survive the market needed better facilities and to be closer to the motorway.
A vision of 1900 Taunton remains with the name ‘Priory Fields’ though now there is little grass to be seen.
By Nick Chipchase