Museum of Somerset
Somerset TA1 4AA
Located in the 12th century great hall of Taunton Castle is the Museum of Somerset. This local museum contains some remarkable treasures and is well worth visiting. As a recent recipient of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, money has been spent on revamping the museum and acquiring new exhibits.
As well as archeological discoveries, the museum hosts a collection of toys and dolls, models, natural history, fossils, fine silver and remains of pottery. Central to the new museum is the Tree of Somerset, a sculpture carved from oak from the Quantock Hills, which depicts events from Somerset's history.
Somerset Military Museum
The museum also includes the Somerset Military Museum where visitors are able to follow the fortunes of the Somerset Light Infantry as they carried out their campaigns across the world.
Tuesday - Saturday (and bank holiday Mondays): 10:00 – 17:00. (Last entry 16:30).
Most parts of the museum are fully accessible, with lifts, disabled toilets and free wheelchair loan. For detailed information go to Web: Museum of Somerset/ Disabled Access
Treasures on Display
Some of the remarkable things that can be seen are the Frome Hoard valued at £320,250, the Low Ham Roman Mosaic, and the bronze-age South Cadbury shield.
The Frome Hoard
This hoard of 52,503 Roman coins was found by a metal detectorist. The coins were contained in a sealed ceramic pot 18 inches (45 cm) in diameter, and date from 253 – 305 AD. Most of the coins are made from debased silver or bronze.
The hoard is one of the largest ever found in Britain, and is also important as it contains the largest group ever found of coins issued during the reign of Carausius, who ruled Britain independently from 286 to 293 and was the first Roman emperor to strike coins in Britain.
Low Ham Roman Mosaic
This beautiful figured mosaic depicting the story of Aeneas and Dido was found in a courtyard Roman villa built around 340 AD, discovered near Low Ham. The floor was found in the bath house. The baths were particularly impressive. They featured the usual suite of rooms with a deep cold plunge bath with this mosaic floor along its approach.
Like the villa, it dates to the mid-4th century and is a unique narrative description of Aeneas and Dido, as told in the 1st century BC by the Roman poet, Virgil.
The large 14 foot (4.3m) square mosaic from the floor of the frigidarium is the earliest piece of narrative art in the country. The mosaic has five panels:
- First is a scene of Aeneas sailing to Carthage, with Achates lifting from a ship the crown described as a gift to Dido in Aeneid Book I.
- The next shows Aeneas meeting Dido, with his son Ascanius and his mother Venus.
- There follow scenes of the couple out hunting, of the couple embracing, and either of Venus, or else of Dido left alone after Aeneas' departure.
South Cadbury Shield
This incomplete shield is believed to be a Yetholm-type shield dating from the Bronze Age (1200-800 BC). Only 22 examples of these distinctive shields are known to exist and most of what we know about them is educated guesswork.
The existing shields vary in size but they are all made from a sheet of copper alloy about 0.6 mm thick and feature the same regular circular pattern. The alloy is a high-tin bronze: copper with 11-14% tin. The shields are round with a central domed boss created by hammering out from the back. The face is covered in raised ridges in concentric rings, each a couple of millimetres high. Between the ridges are rings of small hemispherical bosses about 4 mm across. The decoration was formed by hammering from the reverse.
The outer edge of the shield has been folded back and hammered down to form a strong rim. A handle made from a thicker piece of sheet bronze folded over, was riveted across the open bowl of the bos; also attached were a pair of metal tabs for a carrying strap. The shields are obviously high-status objects but it is unclear if they were actually used in combat or were created as burial objects for inclusion in high-status funerals.
The shields show a high degree of accomplishment and, given the degree of similarity, it is likely that all were made in the same workshop by a few craftsmen. A complete shield can be seen in the British Museum in London.
Serves morning coffee, light lunches and afternoon teas featuring homemade Somerset treats.
- Museum Shop
The shop stocks a wide range of reasonably-priced souvenirs, gifts, cards, toys and books, and the ‘Made in Somerset’ range of local food, drink and gifts.
Between June and September the Museum organises guided walking tours of Taunton and these can be booked at the museum. For further details go to Web: Museum of Somerset/ Guided Tours
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1823 255 088
- By Public Transport
The museum is a 15 minute walk from Taunton Railway Station and just 50 metres from Taunton Bus Station.
- By Car
The museum is situated in Taunton town centre, just 10 minutes from Junction 25 of the M5. There is no parking on site, however, there are several public car parks nearby. The nearest car parks are Tangier and the Crescent. Follow the directions to Taunton town centre and car parks.
For further details go to Web: Museum of Somerset/ directions & parking
Google Map - Museum of Somerset