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 2020

  • Please note that our events for the rest of 2020 will not be going ahead due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

We hope to resume activities in 2021 but meanwhile our website is open for visits!


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 the Victorian Architects symposium, looking at the work of one of the leading 19th-century Somerset archaeologists, and 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 enjoy arranging events let us know or contact the SANHS office.

On 20 November 2019

John Page entertained members with an account of this colourful if not very meritorious bishop of Bath. His aristocratic background and especially his mother Estrangia’s connection with European royalty undoubtedly helped Savaric acquire his many ecclesiastical preferments, borrow money and further his political career. Among his earliest misdemeanours was a theft for which he was heavily fined. It appears that Savaric had not received priestly ordination when he began his ecclesiastical career, cut short by a dispute with Henry II. Later Savaric joined Richard I on the 1st crusade, ruthlessly interfered in Mediterranean politics and took the opportunity to attend Eleanor of Aquitaine on a visit to Rome. He tried to get his kinsman Reginald bishop of Bath promoted to Canterbury so he could take the Bath see. When Reginald died Savaric tried for Canterbury but was thwarted by the king and had to be content with Bath and was hastily ordained priest two days before the appointment in 1192. Savaric spent little time in Somerset becoming embroiled among other matters in the attempts to ransom Richard I, although he was a friend of his brother John who as king supported him. Savaric took advantage of the situation to obtain Glastonbury, a wealthy prize owing to the opportunities to attract pilgrims. Glastonbury Abbey had recently been partly rebuilt following the great fire. The monks opposed Savaric succeeding abbot Henry who had become bishop of Worcester. Savaric not only managed to persuade the pope but got the Holy Roman Emperor to make him Chancellor of Burgundy. When the Glastonbury monks continued to defy him and appointed a new abbot, Savaric excommunicated him and placed the abbey under interdict, with dubious authority. Savaric was said to have had monks on their way to Rome to appeal beaten up and imprisoned at Rouen and to have poisoned Abbot William. Savaric then took the abbey by force torturing the monks who opposed him and probably bribed the new pope Innocent III into uniting the abbey with the see of Bath. Savaric also secured part of the abbey’s estates. One wonders if he saw the error of his ways as he approached death in 1205?

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