St Mary Magdalene Church
Somerset TA1 1SA
The tallest church tower in Taunton belongs to the parish church of St Mary Magdalene. This Grade I listed building is built in the Tudor Perpendicular Gothic style and presents as an orthodox rectangular building. However, the painted interior is almost square in plan thanks to its generous double aisles, giving the impression of a ‘forest’ of columns.
The original church was badly damaged during the Puritan period but some original architecture remains. The oldest part is the arcade arches at the east end of the nave, which date from the late 13th century. Otherwise, most of the fabric dates from the 14th and 15th centuries.
One of the most beautiful features is the 15th century carved wooden roof, with its traditional Somerset gilded angels. There are more angels carved on the nave capitals and corbels.
The church was heavily restored by the Victorians and many of the furnishings, stained glass and monuments belong to this period.
The South Porch
Now protected by modern glass doors etched with angels blowing trumpets, the south porch dates from 1508. It is decorated with elaborate niches, although the statues are Victorian replacements for those destroyed in the Reformation.
The tower was built in 1503, financed by the prosperity created by the wool trade. It is 163 feet (50 metres) tall and is a local landmark. It became unsafe and in 1858-62 was rebuilt under the guidance of the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.
On completion of the re-build, the donkey who had hauled all the stone up the tower was himself hoisted to the top to survey his handiwork! History does not record the poor animal’s reaction but I suspect he was terrified! Nowadays a much more suitable occupant lives up there - a Peregrine Falcon has taken up residence.
More recent repair to the stonework was undertaken when two tower pinnacles fell through the roof.
For details of regular weekly services go to Web: St Mary Magdalene Church/ Services
The early history of the church is obscure but it is thought that it was founded in the early 8th century when Ina, king of the West Saxons established Christianity in Taunton.
Taunton was the home of a great Augustinian Priory under the control of the Bishops of Winchester, who were also Lords of the Manor until the 19th century.
The first recorded mention of the church is in the 13th century, and foundations of that age have been found during archaeological excavations. In 1308 the church became independent of the Priory, and over the next two hundred years was rebuilt.
- Magdalene’s Coffee Shop
Open: Monday – Saturday: 10:00 – 14:00.
Closed: Bank holidays and over the Christmas holidays.
Serves hot drinks and freshly made sandwiches, baguettes, paninis, jacket potatoes, etc.
- Book Shop
Open: Weekdays 10:00 – 16:00 (closing an hour earlier in the winter).
Open: Saturdays 10:00 – 13:00.
Bookshop is closed on bank holidays and over the Christmas holidays. The shop sells a range of second-hand books, CDs, cards and gifts suitable for adults and children.
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1823 272 441
- By Walking
St Mary Magdalene is located in the heart of the county town of Taunton and is easily approached on foot from the town centre up Hammet Street as it is one way.
- By Car
The SatNav postcode is TA1 1SA
St Mary Magdalene is fortunate to have the large Canon Street car park behind it i.e. on the east side, approached from Canon Street.
For information on this car park go to Web: Parkopedia/ parking
Google Map - St Mary Magdalene Church