Ine's Cottage Garden

Norman Garden looking towards Ine's Cottage Garden
Norman Garden looking towards Ine's Cottage Garden

Laying to the east of Taunton Castle, the boundaries of the garden will be restored as part of the Norman Garden project. It is unlikely King Ine of Wessex (688-726) ever had a garden here, but he was responsible for an eighth century fortification on the site. For a detailed discussion of its subsequent history, you can do no better than refer to Chris Webster’s ‘Taunton Castle.

Ine was also linked to the foundation of the Minster church at Taunton. An alternative contender is St. Mary Magdalene church to the east. However, researchers suggest Anglo-Saxon churchmen chose sites near river crossings and built in rectangular enclosures, in contrast to earlier ‘British’ structures. Both criteria are satisfied within Ine’s Garden.

Throughout its history the garden has been subject to demolition, re-modelling and re-use of materials. A medieval Watergate to the north east was taken down and had stones reused in the present gated arch. Chris Webster believes the garden could have been the site of a Civil War bastion, as traces of a polygonal platform remain. In the nineteenth century the garden was known as Ine’s Cottage and bought by a certain W.E. Surtees who remodelled according to a contemporary, ‘… and built a castellated tower … introducing some ridiculous bits of stonework, so any person in a hundred years … would wonder why it was built.’ Perhaps there are echoes of Dickens’ character the Aged Parent in ‘Great Expectations’ here in Taunton? Aged P is permanently ensconced in the miniature Gothic wooden Mansion Wemmick has built in Walworth, a house which has its own drawbridge, flag post and a cannon that is fired daily.

Our picture dates from 1924 and was taken by Harold St George Gray, looking towards Castle House. It gives a good impression of the confused nature of the site where Gray himself made several wrong assumptions, according to modern archaeologists.