The ancient history of Taunton is easily spotted with both a 10th century monastery and a castle located in this Somerset town. But the local history of the most recent decade is more personal to the community’s residents, some of which was captured on film as it happened.
The 1920s Pageant
In the 1920s, pageants were very popular around England. Adults dressed up in historical costumes for grand processions, dances and battle reenactments. Crowds of spectators appeared in their Sunday best. Taunton was no exception, and British Pathé were there to film the fun.
Taunton In The 1940s
A short black and white film of less than two minutes, the silent footage shows many pedestrians walking about and a fair bit of traffic.
The Prime Minister Visits Taunton
Clement Atlee was Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955, and served as the British Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951.
In 1950 Clement Atlee addressed the Labour Party Rally in Taunton. Although some of the audio cuts out, there are lots of close ups of the many spectators. His speech pays tribute to Ernest Bevin, talks about the United Nations Organisation in connection to the current issues of Korea and Communism.
During The 1970s
In the 1970s this commercial for Taunton Cider highlighted its key products, Taunton Blackthorn Cider and Taunton Autumn Gold Cider.
British MovieTone made ‘Portraits’, a series of short documentaries for television broadcast. This clip just over a minute long shows scenes of the Wassailing in Taunton in 1979. It was a great occasion for dressing up and dancing to a folk band.
Tone Vale Hospital Merrifield Children’s Unit (1970’s)
YouTube channel super8sooty acquired a badly damaged film some years ago and attempted to improve both the visual and audio quality. The original filmmaker, the narrator and the purpose of the filming in this psychiatric hospital is unknown.
Firstly, we see the unit’s minibus parked next to the building. Inside, the parents’ bungalow and children’s dormitory look carefully presented ready for use.
Later two boys run up a hill and then off to the range of playground equipment. Their faces are seen on camera and no staff seem to be nearby. Furthermore, the Tarzan ropes would give any modern Health and Safety officer a heart attack.
Then there’s a school block which seems to be near the nurses block, and it has its own playground. This is where the “non-communicating” children play, presumably ASD children.
The art therapy and occupational therapy areas are filmed with young patients present. The occupational therapist seems to be cleaning up rather than interacting with the young boy or taking any notice of the camera.
The television area was in the process of being turned upside down by a group of young boys making a softplay area out of the soft chairs. Meanwhile one boy shoots at them with a replica gun. They are laughing and having a good time.
The dining room is packed with children. The staff sit and eat with the children, a commendable practice.
Finally we see the playroom for non-communicable children, attended by two women.
Even if you have no interest in the care of vulnerable children in the 1970s, this is a fascinating three minute film worthy of your attention.
Antiques Roadshow Visit 1995
On 9th April 1995, popular BBC television programme Antiques Roadshow was broadcast from Taunton.
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