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Church of St Mary Magdalene
Taunton St Mary Magdalene-Tower.jpg
Location Taunton
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Central
Status active
Dedication St Mary Magdalene
Functional status Parish church
Heritage designation Grade I listed
Style Early Tudor Perpendicular Gothic style
Completed 1508
Height 163 ft (50 m) (tower)
Bells 15
Benefice Taunton (St Mary Magdalene) (St John the Evangelist)
Deanery Taunton
Archdeaconry Taunton
Diocese Bath and Wells
Province Canterbury

The Church of St Mary Magdalene is a Church of England parish church in Taunton, Somerset, England. It was completed in 1508 and is in the Early Tudor Perpendicular Gothic style. It is designated as a Grade I listed building. It is notable for its 163 feet (50 m) tall tower.

History and description

St Mary's church was probably established as part of the reorganisation of Taunton by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, by 1180, and has been the town church since 1308. Prior to 1308 the church was dependent on the Augustinian Taunton Priory. A new chapel was consecrated in 1437.

It is built of sandstone and has a painted interior. Most of the statues and stained glass date from the Victorian restoration. Within the church are a variety of memorials and tablets including War Memorials for soldiers from Somerset, including the Somerset Light Infantry.

The 163 feet (50 m) tower was built around 1503, financed by the prosperity created by the wool trade, and was rebuilt in 1858–1862 (in replica) by Sir George Gilbert Scott and Benjamin Ferrey, using Otter sandstone from Sir Alexander hood's quarry at Williton and some Igneous Diorite from Hestercombe. It is considered to be one of the best examples of a Somerset tower and a 163 feet (50 m) tall landmark.

The tower was described by Simon Jenkins, an acknowledged authority on English churches, as being "the noblest parish tower in England". The tower itself has 15 bells and a clock mechanism. The tower contains 13 bells hung for ringing plus two accidental (semitone) bells hung for chiming. The present ring of bells were cast by Taylors of Loughborough in 2016.

The church has suffered from the weather over the years and there have been various appeals for funding to repair the fabric of the building including one for £135,000, to repair the tower's stonework after two pinnacles fell through the roof. In 2009 vandals damaged some of the windows of the church, however the stained glass, which includes fragments from the medieval era were undamaged as they are protected by wire mesh.

Joseph Alleine the noted Puritan minister and author was curate of the church in the 1660s and is buried in the churchyard.

Present day

The Church of St Mary Magdalene is now part of a combined benefice with the Church of St John the Evangelist, Taunton. It is within the Archdeaconry of Taunton in the Diocese of Bath and Wells.

The church had been of a low church and evangelical tradition since its medieval foundation, but it has moved towards a central churchmanship in recent times.

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