We are delighted to share in such a joyful occasion. To support you in your public declaration of love and commitment to each other in the presence of God, and in the hope that His love and strength may be a continual resource during your married life.
Preparations for the wedding day can be quite consuming but we at St Mary Magdalene believe it’s also important for you as a couple, to spend some time talking through your expectations of marriage. To this end we encourage all our couples to meet with our Wedding Coordinator where a range of issues are looked at.
We hope this has been helpful and if you would like more information about being married in St Mary Magdalene, please contact the Parish Office (01823 272441) directly or alternatively you can Message Us and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
At St Mary Magdalene, for an infant/child Baptism, there will be two preparation visits to your home. The first will be by two members of the Baptism Pastoral Team, the second by two members of the Ministry Team. The meaning of Baptism will be explained and the part you have to play.
For adult Baptism, there is a longer course of preparation.
We also offer a service of Thanksgiving as an alternative to Baptism. Baptism can still take place later.
Usually confirmation is offered once a year in differing churches in Taunton. The Bishop attends in order to lay on hands on the candidates. Confirmation enables the candidates to confirm their faith whether they were baptised as infants or later in life.
For more information on either baptisms or confirmations please contact the Parish Office directly, or alternatively you can Message Us and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
At times our regular services may change, please see our Today Sheet (pdf) for details of this and next Sunday’s services. If you’ve missed a service or would like to hear what we talk about at St Mary Magdalene you can listen to our sermons and talks.
Description of Services
8.00am Holy Communion
A 40 minute said service with sermon, according to the Book of Common Prayer.
10.00am Church Family Worship (first Sunday of the month)
A light informal service for families and children.
10.00am Holy Communion (Common Worship)
Our Parish communion service on all other Sundays of the month.
5.00pm Worship@5 (third Sunday of the month) An informal and contemporary service lasting 45 minutes. Coffee, tea and biscuits are served from 4.30pm.
6:30pm Holy Communion (first Sunday of the month) (Common Worship)
Our Parish communion service.
An hour long service with hymns and sermon, according to the Book of Common Prayer.
A half-hour said communion.
We are pleased to be able to support the people of our town and beyond as they journey through some of the happiest and saddest times of their lives.
The foundations of St Mary Magdalene church were probably laid in the early eighth century when Ina, king of the West Saxons established Christianity in Taunton.
The church was first built in stone as part of the reorganisation of Taunton by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, by 1180. St Mary’s became the town church in 1308 when Bishop Hazelshaw of Winchester changed its legal standing from a chapel of Taunton Priory to a church with its own ‘living’; the Revd Simon de Lyme became its first incumbent. This was achieved through a legal process known as the ‘Ordination of the vicarage’.
The church is mainly built of sandstone and has a painted interior, except for the ‘forest’ of pillars which line the four aisles – a rare feature in a parish church. Most of the statues and stained glass date from the Victorian restoration.
St Mary’s Church and Vicarage in 1840’s
The main instigator of these ‘improvements’ was the Revd Dr James Cottle who, in the 1840s removed the high box pews, replacing them with the present ones. A later successor, the Revd Dr William Robinson Clark introduced more high church features such as the raised chancel floor.
Box Pews up to the 1840’s
Pews from the 1840’s to present day
Within the church there are a variety of memorials and tablets including War Memorials for soldiers from Somerset, including the Somerset Light Infantry.
The tower was built in the 15th and 16th centuries, financed by the prosperity created by the wool trade, and was rebuilt in 1858-62 (in replica) under the guidance of the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. It is considered to be one of the best examples of a Somerset tower and at 163 feet (50 m) tall is a local landmark. On completion of the re-build, the donkey who had hauled all the stone up the tower was himself hoisted to the top from whence to survey his handiwork! Nowadays a Peregrine Falcon resides up its dizzy heights from which precipitous lodging he flies to catch his prey.
The Re-building of the Tower
The tower was described by Simon Jenkins, an acknowledged authority on English churches, as being the “noblest parish tower in England”. There have been bells in the tower since at least 1660. They have been augmented and recast a number of times and none of the original bells now exist.
The Re-hanging of the 10th Bell in 1955
Ever since the tower was rebuilt in 1862 with the bells hung at the very top, they proved difficult to handle due to the amount of tower movement and long ropes. Over the years, they also became too far out of tune to be successfully re-tuned.
The church had suffered from the weather over the years and there had been various appeals for funding to repair the fabric of the building including one for £25,000 in the 1950s and a more recent one for £135,000, in particular to repair the tower’s stonework after two pinnacles fell through the roof.
A project was therefore launched in June 2012 to recast all the bells, hang them lower in the tower and replace the broken musical chime. In March 2016, a contract was signed with John Taylor and Co of Loughborough to carry out the work and the funds were raised. The new bells were cast in Summer 2016, installed in December and dedicated in March 2017.
St Mary’s now has a beautiful, tuneful ring of bells that is already enabling a new generation to learn bell ringing and a musical chime that will serve the church and Taunton for many generations to come.
St Andrew’s Chapel
The side chapel which had been created in Corfield’s day in remembrance of Archdeacon Askwith (vicar of St Mary’s 1887-1911) was dedicated to St Andrew.
St Andrew’s Chapel
It was finally glazed in 2003 giving both quietness from the business of the church’s coffee and book shops, and also enabling the names of departed loved ones to be etched on the glass.
Etched Glass in St Andrew’s Chapel
From the parish of St Mary’s, has been carved Holy Trinity church (1840s) and All Saints church, Halcon (1940s). The remaining parish consists of about 5,000 souls residing between the church and the motorway to the south. However, the burden of its mission lies within the town centre where it offers an open door together with a coffee and book shop.
The church has, since its mediaeval days, usually enjoyed a moderate evangelical and low church spirituality, though more recently has adopted a more Central position. She continues to proclaim the gospel of our Lord and seeks to create fellowship and to promote witness.
2008 was a very significant year for St Mary’s. In 1308 the church was made into the Parish Church of Taunton by the Bishop of Winchester. Its first Vicar was Simon de Lyme. Seven hundred years later we celebrated this auspicious event by having new glass doors constructed for the entrance of the church. The doors were designed and engraved by Tracey Sheppard FGE, with angels heralding the Good News on their trumpets. These power-assisted doors replaced the wood and latticed Edwardian doors, and thereby allowed people to see in and out, thus reducing the barrier between Church and People.
Centenary Angel Doors at St Mary Magdalene – ‘1308-2008’
In 2004 St Mary’s had an interior face lift. All the walls were completely redecorated and the lighting system was replaced. Unfortunately 8 years later (2012) we have had to replace all the lighting of the Nave, and in 2013 the lighting of St Andrew’s Chapel
This new system is proving to be infinitely better and more discreet. It is far cheaper to run and more friendly to the environment. It was designed and fitted by Enlightened Lighting of Bath. The total cost was in the region of £90,000.
The previous lighting clusters in the Nave.
The lighting in St Andrew’s chapel had similar fitments for down-lighting, but the original fittings now point upwards thus illuminating the Victorian stencilling on the walls and the embellished ceiling above the chancel.
Victorian stencillings on the walls of St Andrew’s Chapel
Embellished ceilings above the Chancel in St Andrew’s Chapel
The Quinquennial (every 5 years) Inspection Report of 2010 stipulated works that have to be carried out to the interior and exterior fabric of the building. The Report was drawn up by our architect Mark Richmond. The pictures below show the final stages of completion of the works, with George Bros the builders, touching up exterior stonework and replacing broken glass panes. These final works cost in the region of £13,000, which is modest by comparison with some previous restorative works.
It was found that the displays of information both inside and outside of the church needed addressing. In the interior of the church, there seemed to be a conflagration of information stations scattered throughout the church making for disorganised displays and a generally unappealing and cluttered look. Looking to the outside it was found that the two external boards were quite dated and seemingly unfit for purpose as they directly fronted the road making them unuser friendly. A team was formed to rationalise these various displays of information.
On the 30th July 2013, the Noticeboard Team met for the first time to discuss their remit as presented to them by Dennis Cavaghan, Chairman.
“The importance of what the Team has been asked to do cannot be underestimated; it involves nothing less than the presentation of St Mary’s to the outside world. We are seeking to create a harmonious and common themed approach to all the notice boards (interior and exterior). This will also be done with reference to the Today Sheet, the Together magazine and the Website. The attempt is to be contemporary yet dignified. St Mary’s is an historic building, and while it has on the whole a fairly conservative (middle-England?) congregation, it is by no means entirely so, as yet she lives in the 21st Century. We are an establishment, town centre, civic church.”
After several meetings the team came up with their proposals which were presented to the PCC and, with their unanimous approval, proceeded to obtain the necessary Local Authority Planning Consent and Faculty from the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC). These were applied for in October 2014 and approvals were received in December 2014.
New boards in the porch area
In December 2014, the internal boards were installed. There are five red boards in the porch area and three lighter coloured ones in the nave of the church. The porch area has two feature boards profiling the people and groups that make up St Mary’s church life, while the other three carry notices for public benefit e.g. legal, community, concerts, etc.
New boards in the nave of the church.
The three boards in the nave of the church, now adorned with stained glass angels in their corners, were very ingeniously erected on a table between the pillars behind the book shop. These boards are for use by the congregation.
The supporting statement (below), that was submitted to both the Local Authority and the DAC for planning consent, outlines the rationale and vision behind the external boards. These external boards are made up of two sign boards and one notice board.
The sign boards were erected on Wednesday 25th February 2015. With boards now standing both at the front and on the south side of the church, the church can now be readily identified as they can be easily seen and read by passing cars and pedestrians alike. There was a dedication of the boards which was attended by members of the congregation. On March 8th 2015, Revd Dennis Cavaghan preached on them at the 10:00 am Sunday service. You can listen to his sermon here.
Revd Rod Corke commissions the new sign boards.
“Life’s a Journey, Come walk with us” is an audacious invitation to all who pass by, that they will be intrigued to enquire. Behind the words and the information there lies much symbolism. The white line is the Journey of faith – the narrow way. The ‘Journey’ is made from darkness to light, and sustains us through all the ups and downs of life. The ‘Journey’ passes through the Cross. Our guardian angel accompanies us. Heaven glows invitingly (top right). And the ‘Journey’ is in the context of a Fish (the ancient symbol of the Church) – have you spotted a second fish in the background?
On the 30th April 2015, the new church notice board for the churchyard was erected. It looks splendid. This board contains service times and contact details and also provides space for posters.
This completes the communication project which has included the introduction of the Today sheet, a name change and development of the magazine Together, our amazing website, reordering the notices in the tower area and at back of church, the well received messages boards and the new notice board.
Lots of folk have contributed to this project over 9 years – thank you – we are very proud of the results.
Ever since the tower was rebuilt in 1862 with the bells hung at the very top, they had been difficult to handle due to the amount of tower movement and long ropes. They also became too far out of tune to be successfully re-tuned.
A project was therefore launched in June 2012 to recast all 15 bells, hang them lower in the tower and replace the broken musical chime (aka The Carillon). In March 2016, a contract was signed with John Taylor’s, bell founders of Loughborough to carry out the work and the funds were raised. The new bells were cast between June and August 2016 and installed in December 2016, just in time for the carillon to play `The First Noel’ on Christmas morning. The bells were dedicated by the Rt Rev Peter Hancock, Bishop of Bath and Wells, on 19 March 2017.
St Mary’s now has a tuneful ring of bells on which all ages can learn to ring and a musical chime that will serve St Mary’s church and Taunton for many generations to come.
The Trust was set up in 2000 in memory of Ron Tickner, organist for 37 years at St Mary’s before his death in 1999. The Trust makes the following awards to choristers.
Instrumental/Voice Lesson Bursaries
For 2009/10 these Bursaries are £25 per term per study. In the event of the boys breaking voice, the awards can be continued if they join the adult singers or become a Server at St Mary’s when the award is met by the PCC.
The Trust makes an award of a years free organ lessons for a suitable applicant. Regular Organ Workshops are held by distinguished, local, organists for young keyboard players.
Affectionately known as ‘Old Father Willis’, in homage to its builder, the organ was opened at a ceremony on 16th February, 1882. Willis was the ‘Rolls-Royce’ brand at the time and the firm also built a trend-setting organ for the Great Exhibition of 1851 (which now forms the basis of the organ in Winchester Cathedral) and many other famous instruments including those at the Royal Albert Hall, Salisbury Cathedral, Durham Cathedral, Truro Cathedral, etc.
The instrument had cost £1400, a very large sum at the time, and its position in the North Chapel alongside the chancel had been the source of some controversy, since the location was considered ‘ill-suited to the development of tone and resonance’, – this site was no doubt partially dictated by non- musical considerations! Its function (which in many ways continues in an expanded way today) was to accompany a robed choir in the chancel below the high altar leading the hymn singing, and performing anthems plus liturgical music on the cathedral model. There is much that is orchestral in the specification of the organ, thus providing a useful accompaniment to that great Victorian vehicle for religious musical expression, the oratorio; this function is again continued and extended by the organ’s wider role today in accompanying performances not just by our own choir but by other local choirs and choral societies, and some from father afield.
The display pipes of the organ form a ‘W’, its maker’s trade-mark, and these pipes are painted with handsome designs. The three manual organ is very substantially unchanged from when it was first installed. In 1907 the local builder Osmond altered it slightly, at which date it had 44 speaking stops and 1838 pipes. The biggest change was in 1931 when Osmond’s changed the action from the mechanical tracker to direct pneumatic, and an electric blower was installed. It looks as if the organ was pumped by hand until this time. The console has since been made more user friendly, but essentially the £500 1931 rebuild has remarkably continued without major overhaul to the present day. Thus the instrument is fortunate to have escaped the neo-Classical ‘improvements’ which now afflict so many other pipe organs of this period.
The quality of Willis’ work is especially evident in the harmonically rich and assertive main principal chorus, the blending reeds, the solo Corno di bassetto on the Choir manual, the sweet and fulsome Harmonic flute, and the rasp of the pedal Ophicleide. The range of tone and possible dynamics is remarkably wide, ranging from a barely audible whisper to a full-throated roar. The blending possibilities of the colours provided are almost endless and the organ overall provides a warm and noble support to congregational singing and choral pieces which is much to be admired in an age when many English organs have been adapted to become less suited to these essential roles, perhaps in an attempt to make them more useful as solo instruments.
With many decades since the last overhaul the organ is now exhibiting many of the frailties of age, and fundraising for a total renovation which will allow it to continue providing an inspiring support to the music of worship is currently in its final stages.
The robed choir, consisting of about 18-20 adults and a similar number of children (choristers) is an open door to those who enjoy a love of singing God’s praises in fellowship with others, and are ready to serve the worship needs of the church.
The members represent a wide range of people in terms of background, age and musical ability, each in their own way quietly dedicated to their role.
Rehearsals for both the adult choir and the choristers are held on Friday evenings throughout most of the year, and on Sunday mornings before the 10.00 am service. The repertoire is adventurous, and some of it specially arranged.
Members can expect to sing anthems by composers of different periods and nationalities, to perform tailored arrangements of hymns and choruses, and be called upon for Weddings and other special services including civic occasions.
There are additional Choral Evensongs and visits to other churches. There are at least two social occasions in the course of a year. A choir committee takes an active role in planning the music of the church.
Every Friday night at 7.00pm St Mary’s is full of the beautiful sound of young people singing. Over 20 children aged 6 to 16 from many of the schools in Taunton, make up the young choir who sing at least one service a month.
Some choristers come for the company, some to find out more about the church, some for the little bit of pocket money they earn(!) but all because they enjoy singing. They also sing with the adult choir at weddings and other big services.
Running throughout the school terms, Friday nights are fun and offer something special that perhaps it is hard to find elsewhere.
If you might be interested in singing in our choirs (adult or junior) or playing an instrument in worship, please do contact the Church Office on 01823 272441, speak to Director of Music, Miles Quick, after a service or email at email@example.com for further details.
Music is a very important part of worship at our Church. Music lifts our praises to God and we enjoy a large choir, a growing number of choristers and the services of highly skilled musicians.
We are superbly led by a team of organists, on the Father Willis organ and a recently restored grand piano. Our Musical Director and Director of Choristers, inspire singers to give of their very best. We sing hymns old and new and even write our own!
There is a long tradition of music in the Church which we strive to uphold.
“Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.”
“To know Christ better, and to make Him better known”
a town-centre focus for Christian faith and outreach;
a welcoming place where people of all ages can come to know the love of God;
a worshipping community who seek to follow the Gospel commandment “love your neighbour”;
a prayerful space where all can experience the enabling Spirit of grace, peace and love;
an historic building which is a symbol of Taunton’s Christian heritage, and a beacon of hope for the future.
Our Overseas Link Parish
St Mary Magdalene is linked with the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Lusaka, Zambia.
Our vision of Mission is of people learning about each other so that needs become apparent and there can be a reciprocal giving and receiving. The hope is that the various groups in both parishes establish contact by letter or email, eg, the home groups with their home “cells”, the two choirs and the sacristans and servers, the youth groups in both places, and more, and as relationships grow there is the possible potential of visits both ways.
The Cathedral officially inaugurated their link with a service with their Bishop on 13th September 2010. St Mary Magdalene launched its link on 18th October with a special African-themed service, at which Jenny Humphreys, our Diocesan Link Secretary, spoke, followed by a celebratory lunch.
I am originally from Norfolk where I trained as a teacher and met and married my wife Rita. We have three children, Hilary, Laura and Simon, and three grandchildren.
I trained for the ministry at St. John’s Nottingham before completing a curacy at Trimley St. Martin and St. Mary in Suffolk. I became Minister in Charge of St. Mary the Virgin Walton, and in 1995 this expanded to Team Rector of the Orwell Team Benefice.
Rita and I arrived at St. Mary Magdalene in 2005 and we have been made most welcome here. Ministering in the centre of Taunton is challenging, rewarding and we enjoy it so much!
Revd Dennis Cavaghan
I started life in Carlisle, though was brought up in Kensington, London. My working life began in farming back up in Cumbria, but in my later twenties I went to train for the ordained ministry at St John’s College, Nottingham. After a first curacy in Cheshire and a second at St Andrew’s Plymouth I became vicar of two parishes on the Exe Estuary, and then vicar of a parish in Tiverton.
I was married and had five children, and now have a growing number of grandchildren. I have been in Taunton since 1993 and been Associate Priest at St Mary’s since 1998. Over many years I have chaired Taunton Churches Together and other initiatives within the town. In 2007 I married Susanne who has two sons.
I enjoy all the opportunities for ministry that St Mary’s affords.
I originally come from London. On leaving school I trained as a teacher in Liverpool - specialising in French and Latin - later on teaching children with special needs.
I was married to Roger, a Chartered Accountant, until I was widowed in 1994. We had two daughters - Clare and Lucy, and I now have three grandchildren. We moved to Taunton in 1980 and became members of St. Mary Magdalene’s.
I trained for Reader Ministry in 1995 and was Licensed at Wells Cathedral in 1998. First serving at St Mary Magdalene’s, I have also spent time at All Saints, Halcon, a Benedictine monastery in India, Musgrove Park Hospital,Taunton and New Zealand as a Chaplain - now I am very happy to be back at St. Mary Magdalene’s.
I was born in Egypt of Missionary parents, but was educated mainly in the UK. I qualified as a Medical Practitioner in 1955 and, after a 3-year Short Service Commission in the RAF, I worked in various hospital posts (including 3 years in Dublin and 2 years in Uganda) before being appointed as a Consultant Physician at Musgrove Hospital, here in Taunton, in 1970. I was Licensed as a Reader in the same year and also served as a Director of Somerset Care for 3 years in the early 1990's.
I met Margaret at University and we were married a year after graduating. We have 2 children and 4 grandchildren.
I was born and bred in Brighton but later moved to the Midlands where I was admitted as a Reader by the then Bishop of Coventry, The Rt. Rev. Cuthbert Bardsley. I joined Christian Aid as the Midlands Regional Supervisor and they in turn sent me to South East Asia on a fact finding mission.
From Christian Aid I became Head of Marketing and Appeals for Age Concern England. Before retirement I worked as Director of Appeals and Marketing for The Mission to Seafarers in London.
I moved to Taunton in June 2012 and received the Bishop of Taunton's licence to officiate in January 2014. I am married to Gillian and we have a daughter and a son both of whom are surgeons. We also have four grandchildren.
Director of Music
I was born in Taunton and studied music at Durham University and the Royal Academy of Music. I then worked in London at Merchant Taylors’ School and Westminster Abbey, and then in Norfolk at Norwich School. Returning to my roots in Somerset, I was Director of Music at Queen’s College from 2007 to 2014.
From September 2011 it has also been a great pleasure to work at St Mary Magdalene, and I now combine this work with the post of Head of Congregational and Instrumental Music for the Royal School of Church Music. I hope that with God’s help we can all catch a glimpse of Heaven through being united in praise and worship with the angels in the roof!
If you might be interested in singing in our choirs (adult or junior) or playing an instrument in worship, please do contact the Church Office on 01823 272441, speak to me after a service or email at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Parish & PCC Secretary
Geoff & Jan Hay
Dennis Cavaghan, Susanne Cavaghan and Richard Austin
We are a large civic church in Taunton, Somerset. Our aim is to be a community in Taunton worshipping God and making Christ better known in a beautiful but broken world.
We worship every Sunday as well as during the week. Visitors are very welcome at all our services and any other aspect of our church life. To see what’s going on right now, check out the What’s On page.
Being a town centre church with good facilities and parking, we are used not only by small local groups but are also a popular venue for concerts and performances.
We are proud of our magnificent church, yet we are primarily a committed gathering of Christians, united in our worship of Jesus Christ and dedicated to serve our community in His name.
1308-2008 Celebratory Angel Doors welcome you to St Mary Magdalene
Church Opening Times
Weekdays – 9:30am to 4:00pm
(to 3:00pm during the winter);
Saturdays – 9:30am to 2:00pm;
Sundays – during our Services;
Our hope is that St Mary Magdalene can become for you a place of belonging and friendship.
Ask not what we do, but what we can do for you.
If you think we can help, please do contact the Parish Office and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Guidebooks and Notes
Wheelchair accessible toilets
Large print hymnbooks and Orders of Service
Assistance dogs welcome (e.g. guide dogs, hearing dogs, dogs for the disabled)