Bloody Assizes, Boudicca, Bugle, CountessSpencer, Dido and Aeneas, Florentia Sale, Frome hoard, Great Exhibition, James I, John Locke, John Steevens, Judge Jeffreys, Low Ham mosaic, Monmouth Rebellion, Museum of Somerset, Raine McCorquodale, Second Legion Augusta, Singer sewing machine, Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society, South West Heritage Trust, Taunton Cabinet, Taunton Castle, Thomas Lyte
I’d visited the Museum of Somerset, run by the South West Heritage Trust, which also runs the Somerset Rural Life Museum, just once before, very shortly after it had reopened in 2011. For over a hundred years the museum has been housed in the 12th century Taunton Castle, rescued and restored in the latter part of the nineteenth century by the still flourishing Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society
When I visited early in 2012, I had been waylaid by a large and very comprehensive ground floor geology room in the Grand Hall of the castle, and seen almost nothing of the rest of the museum. I had never been back. Now I was aware that a temporary exhibition that had caught my eye had only a few more weeks to run, so, my regular first Friday walk having been cancelled yesterday, 3rd February, I seized the opportunity to use my bus pass to get to travel free for 80 minutes (50 minutes by car) to the county town, and spend a few hours there.
After an obligatory coffee, I popped out to the courtyard for a photo,
then made straight for the room showing the display previously advertised as:
In Fashion: How a Changing World Shaped What We Wear
‘In Fashion’ explores how changes in society have shaped fashion from the late 1700s to the present day. Long-lasting traditions, social status, new technologies and media influence have all had their part in shaping what we wear. So too have the disruptions of war, the landmarks of birth, marriage and death, and the human desire to escape from old constraints.
Sadly, I felt it did not live up to its promise, so it was as well that there was no charge. From the description above, and that of the welcoming volunteer, I was expecting a chronological display and information covering more than two hundred years of developing fashion, and explanations of why. Instead, in only a certain discipline of chronology, the story was that of 20th century fashion with a few other items tacked on. I could remember three-quarters of it myself – and it was, to be fair, quite nice to nostalge.
Afterwards I had plenty of time, so spent the rest of the morning walking round at those parts of the museum I had not seen on that one earlier visit, and after lunch in the café, I went to visit the splendid church I had noticed (I don’t know Taunton well) on the short walk from bus stop to museum.
Here then is a selection of the photographs I took on my way round, of a large proportion of the items in the fashion exhibition (in the order they were displayed) and then a small selection of those I took in the rest of the museum. The splendid church will be the subject of my next post.
I can remember the times when making one’s own clothes was quite normal, and much less expensive than buying them ready-made. And this mid-fifties shape is very familiar.
I spent just a few minutes in the military history part of the museum.
There were many more rooms to the museum than I had realised.
Every now and then, a reminder one was in a very old castle.
A small, beautiful, very high-ceilinged circular room was decorated with many sayings associated with Somerset in some way.
This saying was one of four, each for a season, on the huge Taunton Cabinet, made by John Steevens for the Great Exhibition, 1851.
A few things were ‘discovered’ by Somerset people.
A room was devoted to the Monmouth Rebellion. Some of Judge Jeffrey’s Bloody Assizes were held in this castle in 1685.
This was the church I had already decided to visit in the afternoon, the, now Minster, church of St Mary Magdalene. There’s very little greenery around it now.
And I left via the castle’s courtyard.
Lavinia Ross said:
I enjoyed the museum tour. I was pleasantly surprised to see one of those old Singer treadle sewing machines. My mother had one just like it.
I lived in France for many years, and was amused to find that there, of course, they called the brand something like, ‘Sanzhair’.
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The virginals looked very fine. It is a pity that it is in a case and not being played.
It would indeed be lovely to hear the instrument – as long as it was in tune!
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Dommage que l’exposition ne se soit pas montrée à la hauteur de ses intentions et de tes attentes. Tu y as malgré tout trouvé de belles pièces et le reste du musée a compensé. Intéressante l’histoire de ‘The Frome hoard’.
Despite the disappointment, I was very pleased to have travelled to Taunton, as you will see from my next post, and probably the one after that.