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 2021

Unfortunately we have no real-world events until March 2022 but meanwhile we have three talks on Zoom starting in October

If you missed our October talk why not book for the next one on 13 November?

LOCATING THE BURH IN AXBRIDGE by John Page given on Saturday 16 October

This talk was designed to resolve a long outstanding problem concerning the location of the burh in Axbridge. It also suggests that Axbridge did have an intra-mural market place and proposes where that was sited. To do this it provides documentary evidence for a new assessment of the derivation of the name “Axbridge.” This leads to some necessary topographical changes which help to resolve the other concerns.

STOP PRESS! If you missed the talk a recording is now available here: LOCATING THE BURH IN AXBRIDGE

SATURDAY 13 Nov 2021                                                 2pm on-line only


David Victor will talk about Lord Ashburton and his very extensive estate interests in Wiveliscombe and Milverton and local villages.

Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society: Webinar presentation

This is a Free event, with donations to Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society.
If you would like to donate, please use the Donate button on this website.
We suggest a donation of £5 or more.
To register in advance for this Webinar, either email SANHS by midday on Friday 12 November at:
[email protected]
Or to register directly, go to:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

We hope to resume all activities in 2022 and have some interesting events lined up so keep an eye on our website!

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

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.

We aim to brighten dull evenings especially in the darker months with talks on a wide variety of topics followed by tea and cake 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. 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.

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 another on sickness and health in Somerset. We have enjoyed  guided visits to Dunster, Minehead, the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, the SS Great Britain and Exeter. We have looked at places, people, events and objects, known and relatively unknown, the good, the bad and the downright ugly! reports on events held will appear in the SANHS newsletters.

The committee is always open to new members so 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 if you have been engaged in some interesting research that you would like to let us know about or perhaps you live in a place of interest you would like to share with other enthusiasts we are always happy to hear from you.


We are arranging a new programme for 2021-2022 full of talks and live events from March 2022. Keep an eye on this page for news. We plan a talk in Castle House Taunton as well as visits to Exeter and Watchet in spring 2022.

Before the pandemic devastated our programme we had talks by Tom Mayberry on the Peterloo Massacre and the involvement of Henry Hunt, who had family links to Somerset and was imprisoned in Ilchester gaol; by John Page on Bishop Savaric a colourful if not very meritorious bishop of Bath; and by David Victor at Milverton on John Periam, who came to Milverton in 1680 to find his fortune and became Steward of the Royal Borough and Manor of Milverton, Lord of the Manor of Bishops Lydeard and a very successful attorney and land-owner.  Among recent events were walks in Cheddar and around the medieval walls of Exeter.

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. Next year we hope to organise a symposium 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 with Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan of Nettlecombe in the chair. There was from the start a strong social side to the society, formed as it was then of the aristocracy, clergy and gentry and their wives as well as professional men.

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’.

In September the AGM was held 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 having 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!