St Mary Magdalene, Taunton

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Church of St Mary Magdalene
St Mary Magdalene Taunton.jpg
Coordinates: 51°00′59″N 3°06′00″W / 51.0163°N 3.1001°W / 51.0163; -3.1001
DenominationChurch of England
DedicationSt Mary Magdalene
Functional statusParish church
Heritage designationGrade I listed
StyleEarly Tudor Perpendicular Gothic style
Height163 ft (50 m) (tower)
BeneficeTaunton (St Mary Magdalene) (St John the Evangelist)
DioceseBath and Wells
Reader(s)Daphne Seddon, Peter Roe, Ronnie King
Director of musicMiles Quick
Churchwarden(s)Marlène Phillips, Jean Hall, and Nigel Birkett

The Church of St Mary Magdalene is a Church of England parish church in Taunton, Somerset, England. It was completed in 1508 and is in the Early Tudor Perpendicular Gothic style. It is designated as a Grade I listed building.[1] It is notable for its 163 feet (50 m) tall tower.

History and description[edit]

St Mary's church was probably established as part of the reorganisation of Taunton by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, by 1180,[2] and has been the town church since 1308.[3] Prior to 1308 the church was dependent on the Augustinian Taunton Priory.[4] A new chapel was consecrated in 1437.[5]

It is built of sandstone and has a painted interior. Most of the statues and stained glass date from the Victorian restoration.[6] Within the church are a variety of memorials and tablets including War Memorials for soldiers from Somerset, including the Somerset Light Infantry.[2]

The 163 feet (50 m) tower[7] was built around 1503,[8] financed by the prosperity created by the wool trade,[9] and was rebuilt in 1858–1862 (in replica) by Sir George Gilbert Scott and Benjamin Ferrey,[1] using Otter sandstone from Sir Alexander hood's quarry at Williton and some Igneous Diorite from Hestercombe.[10] It is considered to be one of the best examples of a Somerset tower and a 163 feet (50 m) tall landmark.[1][11]

The tower was described by Simon Jenkins, an acknowledged authority on English churches, as being "the noblest parish tower in England."[12] The tower itself has 15 bells and a clock mechanism. The tower contains 13 bells hung for ringing plus two accidental (semitone) bells hung for chiming. The present ring of bells were cast by Taylors of Loughborough in 2016.[9][13]

The church has suffered from the weather over the years and there have been various appeals for funding to repair the fabric of the building including one for £135,000, to repair the tower's stonework after two pinnacles fell through the roof.[14] In 2009 vandals damaged some of the windows of the church, however the stained glass, which includes fragments from the medieval era were undamaged as they are protected by wire mesh.[15]

Joseph Alleine the noted Puritan minister and author was curate of the church in the 1660s[16] and is buried in the churchyard.[17]

Present day[edit]

The Church of St Mary Magdalene is now part of a combined benefice with the Church of St John the Evangelist, Taunton. It is within the Archdeaconry of Taunton in the Diocese of Bath and Wells.[18]

The church had been of a low church and evangelical tradition since its medieval foundation, but it has moved towards a central churchmanship in recent times.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Church of Mary Magdalene". Retrieved 19 January 2008.
  2. ^ a b "Church of St Mary Magdalene and churchyard, Taunton". Somerset Historic Environment Record. Somerset County Council. Retrieved 14 April 2009.
  3. ^ "History". St Mary Magdalene. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
  4. ^ Dunning, Robert (1996). Fifty Somerset Churches. Somerset Books. pp. 80–83. ISBN 978-0861833092.
  5. ^ Dunning, Robert (2007). Somerset Churches and Chapels: Building Repair and Restoration. Halsgrove. p. 47. ISBN 978-1841145921.
  6. ^ "St Mary Magdalene Church, Taunton". BBC Somerset. BBC. Retrieved 14 April 2009.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Poyntz Wright, Peter (1981). The Parish Church Towers of Somerset, Their construction, craftsmanship and chronology 1350 – 1550. Avebury Publishing Company. ISBN 0-86127-502-0.
  9. ^ a b "The Bells of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton, Somerset". Bell Historians. Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 14 April 2009.
  10. ^ Dunning, Robert (2007). Somerset Churches and Chapels: Building Repair and Restoration. Halsgrove. p. 26. ISBN 978-1841145921.
  11. ^ Leete-Hodge, Lornie (1985). Curiosities of Somerset. Bodmin: Bossiney Books. p. 70. ISBN 0-906456-98-3.
  12. ^ Jenkins, Simon (2000). England's Thousand Best Churches. Penguin Books. p. 617. ISBN 0-14-029795-2.
  13. ^ "Taunton—S Mary Magd". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Central Council for Church Bell Ringers. 30 September 2007. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  14. ^ Gibbon, Joanna (25 July 1992). "Church Appeals". The Independent. Retrieved 14 April 2009.
  15. ^ "Vandals strike church that got in their way". This is Bristol. 31 March 2009. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2009.
  16. ^ "Somerset Guide". Englands Christian Guide. Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2010.
  17. ^ "Jof Alleine". The Gentleman's Magazine (89): 518.
  18. ^ "St Mary Magdalene - More Infomation". A Church Near You. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  19. ^ "Our History". St Mary Magdalene Church. 12 April 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]