Taunton School is synonymous with its neo-gothic main building and iconic clock tower and 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of this flagship building in the county town.
The current site on Staplegrove Road wasn’t always the home of Taunton School. Before 1870, the school occupied a site at the end of Wellington Road, close to where the Tesco store now is.
It was decided that a new more spacious location was required, and so the Fairwater Estate at the North end of Taunton was purchased in 1867 for £5,475.
The foundation stone of the new building was laid in October 1867 and it was completed in the spring of 1870. In total, the build cost £16,189, around £2 million in today’s money. It was designed by architect Joseph James and the commission was given to popular local builder of the day Henry Davis whose other works are dotted throughout the county town, including nearby Hestercombe House.
An opening ceremony took place on June 14, 1870, which involved a procession from the old school, led by a pipe and drum band, to the new site, followed by a grand luncheon attended by the great and good of the local community. A prize-giving was held later that day, a tradition that is still continued with the Commemoration held on the last day of term when awards are presented to students for outstanding achievements.
Taunton School continues to adapt and change to suit the needs of each generation of students that walks through its halls. This year a new state-of-the-art dining room was officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal on December 9, 2020. The new facility can seat up to 440 people and it is hoped it will not only be a brilliant addition to the school but also a venue for the local community to use too.
John Brown, School Archivist, who has worked at Taunton School since 1974, said: “As such a prominent building within our town, 150 years is certainly an anniversary worth reflecting on. The story of Taunton School is a fascinating tale of change and progress and this evolution of our school has continued in this most challenging of years with the opening of the wonderful new dining room.”