Taunton Castle & The Bloody Assizes

Taunton Castle now houses the Museum of Somerset, which is a fabulous place for both human history and natural history, with fossils and other fascinating things from the prehistoric past. It’s definitely worth visiting if you’re in the West Country!

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

I came to Taunton Castle to research more about the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, and this building played a very important, very tragic role in that event. Fortunately, there is an exceptionally good exhibit dedicated to the men and women who joined the ill-fated rebellion in that summer almost 328 years ago. I chatted to a really nice lady who worked there and she said I was allowed to take non-flash photography, so I was happy because I could share this with you!

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

The Dashing but Doomed Duke of Monmouth is the first object to greet you in this exhibit. Hubba hubba.

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

View of the room of the exhibit. The slightly morbid fact surrounding this room is that these representational figures in the background are where real Monmouth rebels awaited their fate; for through the corridor where there is currently a portrait of Judge Jeffreys was the sentencing hall. After the Battle of Sedgemoor, which ended Monmouth’s Rebellion, many rebels were hauled to this castle to await sentencing.

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

I did a little happy dance when I saw this letter written and signed by the Duke of Monmouth, from his height of power in 1670, asking for “one ffat doe” to be delivered to his Moor Park keeper. Monmouth owned Moor Park at this time in Hertfordshire. It still exists, although it was much altered by subsequent owners.

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Also on display were several artefacts from the battlefield, which were similar to those on display at Blake Museum, though I couldn’t take photos there. This halberd and bill hook [which the museum labelled as steel pikeheads] that would have been affixed to long wooden pikes – quite deadly weapons!

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Next, we come across a flintlock pistol, iron cannonballs (which are about the size of my palm, so don’t run away with the idea that they were huge cannonballs, ok?), a powder flask, and lead shot (both armies used muskets and pistols, though the rebels generally had more antiquated arms).

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Here is a spy-glass which is made from parchment. Monmouth and Lord Grey probably used something similar to this when they climbed the Monmouth Tower at St. Mary’s Church, Bridgwater to survey the area and get an idea where the royalist encampment was.

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

There were also, of course, several swords…

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Here is Judge Jeffreys, the infamous Hanging Judge. He decided the fate of many a rebel, and the cruelty administered under him has given him a black name.

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

A letter signed by Lord Feversham. Photo: Andrea Zuvich

A letter signed by Lord Feversham on the day that the Battle of Sedgemoor was fought. Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

I’m really glad I was able to take a photo of the next coin which shows the figure of Victory standing holding the scales of justice in one hand and a sword in the other. She stands over the beheaded bodies of two rebels.

Ambitio malesuada ruit

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Photo: Andrea Zuvich

Above was a book full of the names of the prisoners…those who were executed, transported to the West Indies, fined…

I found this exhibit extremely moving, even though probably none of my ancestors were involved in this, I still felt great empathy for those involved either directly or indirectly with the events of the terrible summer of 1685.

I hope you enjoyed the photos!

 

 

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Hear ye! 4 thoughts — so far — on “Taunton Castle & The Bloody Assizes”:

  1. Susan Johnson

    Enjoy isn’t quite the word I’d use, but your photos and comments are excellen t. I appreciate both the church and the castle using life-size figures to represent the dispair felt by the people held in these places … the men praying touched my heart.

    Reply
  2. Ken

    Thank you for sharing this. I am looking for a list of names of those who were shipped and hung as my family’s story indicates that at least one member was related to us. Thanks again

    Reply
  3. Cynthia Resh

    I have been looking for Lady Alice Beconsase Lisle who was supposed to be the first victim & beheaded. Would-like to find out where it happened. She is my 9th great grandmother. Her surviving daughter, Dame Alicia Lisle, married my 8th great grandfather, Robert Whitaker, so starts my lineage now in America!

    Reply

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