Housed in Taunton’s 12th-century castle the Museum of Somerset is a fantastic free attraction to visit with lots to see and learn. I visited last September and enjoyed an hour or two wandering around all the exhibits and immersing myself in Somerset’s history.
The Museum of Somerset is located right in the heart of Taunton which is such a cute little town to wander around, especially in the sunshine. The museum can be easily reached from various car parks and is accessible for wheelchair users too.
Amazingly the museum is free to enter as it is run by the South West Heritage Trust. Of course like any charities, they welcome donations so drop some change you have if you visit as it really is worth it in my eyes!
The Tree of Somerset
I just loved this beautiful sculpture of the tree of Somerset. Apparently, the sculpture is 175 years old which is pretty amazing in itself! It must have taken a lot of love and hard work to make and really is stunning to look at.
Foundation Stones Gallery
After entering the museum the first gallery you come to is entitled Foundation Stones. It displays how Somerset’s landscape was created 400 million years ago and shows the changing climates it experienced.
So apparently this fossil below is the first complete plesiosaur skeleton to be found in Britain for more than a century! Never heard of it myself but it looks pretty cool! Apparently, it was found by a Somerset fisherman in 2003 – it makes you wonder how long it would have been waiting around to be found!
Claiming the Land Gallery
Next up as you follow the downstairs of the museum is the Claiming the Land gallery. This details the history of how people started to farm the land and the beginnings of human dwellings in Somerset.
Making Somerset & Discovering Galleries
Heading upstairs you will find the next few galleries called Making Somerset and Discovering. There’s a lot of moody lighting in here which adds to the storytelling of the Anglo-Saxon era in Somerset. The Discovery gallery details Somerset’s landscapes and traditions. There’s certainly a lot to look at and read about too!
Look at all those skulls – they are a bit creepy looking aren’t they!
Going Places Gallery
Next, I explored the Going Places gallery which tells you all about Somerset after 1750 and the introduction of transport. It was cool to look at all the old-fashioned bikes – can you imagine ever riding a penny farthing – looks like it would have been impossible!
Another dark and moody gallery is one that tells the story of the rebellious reputation Somerset had in the 17th century. It details stories from the Monmouth Rebellion and the Civil War. The models were a bit creepy in here!
Growing up in Somerset Exhibition
The museum often has lots of changing exhibitions and events. You can check them out on their website to find out what’s on. When I visited there was an excellent exhibition called Growing up in Somerset which was all about what life was like growing up in the county. There was information on going to school, what toys people enjoyed and general day to day living in Somerset.
I always love going to museums and exhibitions like this as I can imagine what my life would have been liked decades ago and compare how different it would have been to my childhood.
I’ll admit that despite being on my own I did sit down a have a quick go on Mario Kart – I mean who can resist?
There was also a lovely section displaying photos from Stanley Kenyon. The World Before Yesterday display showed copious amounts of photos taken between the 1930s-1970s. The pictures of local businesses, events and daily Somerset living really brought the exhibition to life.
Somerset Military Museum
Housed with the Museum of Somerset is the Somerset Military Museum. Here visitors can see displays full of military uniforms, weapons, and memorabilia. There are displays and information on Somerset infantry and yeomanry and was really interesting. The museum also explores why soldiers want to fight for their country – something I think is always interesting to consider.
Just look at all those medals! Quite the collection!
After exploring the museum it was time for some lunch. I grabbed a bite to eat in The Castle Cafe. There was lots to choose from including cakes, afternoon teas, and homemade lunches. I enjoyed a ham and cheese toasted sandwich with a can of fizz and sat outside in the castle courtyard.
I had a really good visit to the Museum of Somerset and would certainly recommend it to people visiting the Taunton area. It’s free to enter and you can certainly spend at least an hour or so exploring all the different galleries and exhibitions. The shop and cafe are nice too and it seems like a great place to amuse children for a while! I particularly enjoyed the Growing Up in Somerset exhibition and seeing the amazing Tree of Somerset. Highly recommend!