St Margaret's Almshouses

Excavations at St Margaret's Almshouses in Taunton also included a training scheme and open days for the public.
©Somerset County Council

Region: South West

Owner Type: Unknown

Funding Body: Architectural Heritage Fund; Falcon Housing; English Heritage; Heritage Lottery Fund; Housing Corporation; Somerset County Council

Summary: St Margaret's Almshouses, Taunton- successful reuse of Grade II* listed building ensures its survival in a way that is sustainable and excavation provides an opportunity for education and outreach.

Description: The Grade II* listed St Margaret’s almshouses date from the early 16th century. These were built by Abbot Bere of Glastonbury and served as an almshouse until the 1930s. Before that the site was a leper hospital.
Issue: The building had been empty and decaying for a number of years. It was vandalised and suffered from an arson attack. Situated on a housing estate in an area of social deprivation it was used principally for stone-throwing practice.
Strategy: The Somerset Building Preservation Trust initiated a project, now completed, to convert the buildings to sheltered housing, using sympathetic design to ensure the historic building retains character. This was in partnership with the Architectural Heritage Fund, Falcon Housing, English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Housing Corporation and Somerset County Council. Excavations were run as a training scheme for archaeology students, but pupils, teachers, parents and helpers from six local schools also participated. Regular open days were organised, and children visited during redevelopment to see craftsmen at work.
Outcome: As a result of the excavations important archaeological information was gained, including the location of the remains of the chapel of St Margaret and traces of the original hospital. Importantly, these excavations also made the historic environment more accessible and provided education and community awareness to several thousand people, giving a real sense of local heritage.

Keywords: Education and Outreach, Re-use, Research & Archives

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