From Somerset to the Pyrenees by David Rabson




From Somerset to the Pyrenees – In the steps of the Reverend William Arthur Jones

The volume, written by David Rabson, contains over 120 pages, is fully illustrated, and contains a foreword by Professor Peter Haggett.

Below is a review of this book:

Visitors to the Museum of Somerset in Taunton may be puzzled by the large boulder that stands in the moat by the entrance – what is it, why is it there and what does the plaque say? All is revealed in a new book just published by the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. From Somerset to the Pyrenees – in the steps of William Arthur Jones, geologist and antiquary tells the story of one of Taunton’s civic life’s leading figures of the mid-19th century, now largely forgotten.

A Unitarian minister, in October 1866 Arthur Jones surprised his Mary Street Chapel congregation by announcing that he was taking his family to the south of France for the sake of their health. Twice-widowed, he spent two years with his seven children in or near the Pyrenees, where, as well as enjoying the delights of the mountains with his family, he pursued his natural history and antiquarian interests with the areas scientific community.

This biography, by local author David Rabson, follows Jones through his early days in Carmarthen; his university studies in Glasgow; his ministry in Northampton; and his life in Somerset from 1849 to his death in 1873 at the early age of 55. In Taunton he was a highly regarded figure, playing leading roles in the early days of the Archaeology Society and in many other civic institutions, among them the School of Art, which he founded; the Taunton Waterworks Company and the Taunton and Somerset Hospital.

On his death the Taunton Courier commented that No man in this place, probably, during the last twenty years, has contributed more efficiently to those local institutions which mark the higher civilisation of a town.

The book is fully illustrated in colour and black and white, is available from the Society’s office at the Somerset Heritage Centre,, or by post through the society’s website (

About the author

David Rabson read geography at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Having gained a postgraduate town planning diploma at Manchester University he worked for local authorities in the east of England before moving to the Exmoor National Park Authority in 1978. After leaving the National Park in 1997 he served as a parish council clerk for 14 years. In addition to his study of the life of Arthur Jones he has researched the history of his home village of Nynehead and the historical links between the West Country and Le Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy. He is a long-standing member of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society Local History Committee.