Taunton castle started as a Burh (where the word borough comes from) in the 9th century, a burh is a settlement surrounded with a ditch and rampart,
Construction of the castle proper began in 1138 by Henry de Blois, the Bishop of Winchester. At this point it was a Motte and Bailey.
In 1451 during the civil wars known as the wars of the roses a battle was fought at Taunton. In 1497 a man named Perkin Warbeck attempted to overthrow Henry VII and make himself king. His men occupied Taunton castle but they fled when a royal army approached.
Then in 1642 came civil war between king and parliament. The town sided with parliament but in June 1643 a royalist army approached Taunton and the town surrendered without a fight. It remained in royalist hands for a year. Then in July 1644 Taunton was captured by parliamentary troops. However, the royalists had not given up. In October 1644 they returned. They entered the town and the parliamentary soldiers retreated into the castle.
The royalists laid siege to the castle but they were unable to take it. They let when they heard a parliamentary army was coming. The royalists returned in April 1645. Again they captured most of the town but were unable to take the castle. This time much of the town was burned in the fighting. Once again in May 1645 parliament sent troops to Taunton. Once again the royalists fled when they heard the parliamentarians were coming. This time they did not return and soon after the king was losing the war and it ended in 1646.
In 1660, when Charles II became king he took away the towns charter (no doubt remembering how Taunton had supported parliament against his father). However it was restored in 1677. Charles II also ordered the destruction of Taunton castle to prevent it being used as a rebel base in the future.
In 1788 Sir Benjamin Hammet restored the castle.
The castle is now in daily use as Somerset County Museum.
Labels: Castle, Civil War, History, Perkin Warbeck, War of the Roses