SANHS Local History Committee

Taunton Castle painting by Thomas Whitcombe
Taunton Castle, painted by Thomas Whitcombe, 1791 (view at the Museum of Somerset)

WHAT’S ON 2022-2023

We are planning several real-world and virtual local history talks and events for you to enjoy in 2022 and 2023.

Watch this space for further details!

If you missed our Zoom talks some are available as recordings just click on the title that interests you



We hope to arrange some enjoyable history visits in 2023 depending on host availability. Details will be posted here.

An Autumn Winter Spring programme is being finalised. Highlights below.


Taunton’s Hospitals before the NHS

Mary Siraut

2022 marks the 250th anniversary of the first purpose-built hospital in Taunton, the 200th of the second and first to open and the 80th of the present Musgrove Park Hospital. In the 19th centuryhospitaltreatment for the poor other than at the poor law infirmary depended on charitable donations and doctors giving their time for nothing. Nurses were regarded as servants and had minimal training but hospitals saved and improved many lives, guided by that underpaid and undervalued heroine, the hospital matron.

WEDNESDAY 19 Oct 2022                                                                                                        7.30pm

At the Somerset Heritage Centre, Brunel Way. Norton Fitzwarren, TAUNTON, TA2 6SF

Refreshments will be available

All welcome, suggested donation £5

Book at or email [email protected]g or ring 01823.272429 [voicemail] before 17 October


a similar history, but very different outcomes.

A webinar by David Victor.

David Victor will give a webinar talk on the history of the two manors of Preston Bowyer.

Thursday 8 December 2022 7.30 pm online

Book with SANHS office


For 2023 we shall celebrate the work of Somerset photographer Peter Wickens Fry, mark the 1623 heralds’ visitation of Somerset and explore the story of the Turbevilles of Gaulden. We intend to visit some Somerset castles as part of an enjoyable spring outing.

Following the success of our Roman Somerset day we are looking at the possibility of a joint history and archaeology event at Somerton.

In the autumn we shall have an event to mark the life of ‘Greenmantle’ Aubrey Herbert (d. 1923). We are considering a symposium on the family.

Looking ahead to summer 2023 and beyond can you offer a tour or visit to somewhere of interest perhaps in your own community? If you have any ideas and suggestions then please let us know at [email protected]

Our Committee

The local history committee is one of the society’s newer committees. However, it was designed to showcase events illustrating the history of Somerset and its unique localities.

Like the society as a whole the committee exist to promote the history of the historic County of Somerset.

We are a small group committed to providing a wide range of talks, walks and other events throughout the year for Society members and the wider community.

What we do

We aim to brighten dull evenings especially in the darker months with talks on a wide variety of topics. Talks are followed by tea and cake, Covid permitting, and the chance to talk to the speaker. In the warmer months we also like to get out on walks and visits to historic corners of Somerset and sometimes further afield. By way of contrast our annual symposia bring together a wide range of people and specialist speakers in a relaxed way to enjoy a day of presentations, exhibitions and food where possible.

Our Events

Recent events have included a symposium on the work of Harold St George Gray, looking at the work of one of the leading 19th-century Somerset archaeologists, and others on sickness and health and Roman Somerset. We have also enjoyed  guided visits to Dunster, Minehead, the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, the SS Great Britain and medieval Exeter. Moreover, we have looked at places, people, events and objects, known and relatively unknown, the good, the bad and the downright ugly! Reports on events appear in the SANHS newsletters.

If you would like to get involved

The committee is always open to new members. If you have an interest in local history and would like to see more events in your area let us know or contact the SANHS office. Also let us know if you have been engaged in some interesting research that you would like to talk about. Perhaps you live in a place of interest you would like to share with other enthusiasts. We are always happy to hear from you.


Our 2019 symposium on “Victorian Architects and Architecture” attracted a wide range of people to hear distinguished speakers like Julian Orbach, Jerry Sampson and John Crockford-Hawley. We also visited the beautiful St. Andrew’s Church, Taunton.

We arranged a 2022 programme full of talks and live events. Keep an eye on this page for news. We had a talk in Castle House in Taunton in March and visited a new museum in Watchet in April. We also planned a walk round historic Exeter in June. Moreover, on 21 May we had a joint event with the archaeological committee on “Roman Somerset“.


Few people today have the leisure for the days of outings enjoyed by the original members of SANHS! The Somerset Archaeological and Natural History was born in Taunton on 26 Sep 1849. Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan of Nettlecombe took the chair. There was from the start a strong social side to the society. It was formed of the aristocracy, clergy and gentry and their wives as well as professional men.

July 1850

In July 1850 nearly a hundred people met at Nunney to visit the castle before proceeding to the Roman villa at Whatley. There they partook of a cold collation before proceeding to Orchardleigh. Frome members had opened their houses and loaned their carriages to visiting members. ‘So that no visitor incurred any expense in the two days beyond that of going thither and returning’.

The First AGM

In September the AGM was at Wells with talks on the Cathedral as well as the usual reports by the treasurer and others. A further three papers on various subjects were not given as there was insufficient time. The members had been invited to tour the cathedral before dinner. Dinner for 120 was provided at the Judges chambers but up to 60 more had to be turned away. This was still a male dominated society but we are told that many ladies graced the table. Ladies were allowed to join without being approved by ballot as the men had to be. More papers occupied the evening and the following day the bishop’s palace and gardens were visited. Then the members proceeded to Glastonbury abbey and eventually returned home after two days of much gratification and enjoyment!