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The Market House Museum - Past and Present


Watchet's Heritage - Market House Museum

Watchet's Historical Buildings
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Watchet's Historical Buildings
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This interesting building remains part of the old Wyndham estate, the ground floor being devoted to the Market House Museum. Once open on the ground floor it was constructed in c.1820 not surprisingly as a Market Place.

Near this site was the original medieval market and the Shambles The Ship Inn was operating in the 17th century directly to the rear of the building. Prior to the Museum there was almost certainly a Market cross, probably at some time another at Lime Cross in the vicinity of the railway bridge.

The upper story was a Mission Chapel now known as the Holy Cross Chapel and has been in use since at least the 1920s. It is accessed from the original open dual staircase at the rear. Below these stairs is the lock-up, reminding us that the towns Court Leet (that still meets opposite once a year in the Bell Inn) was in existence as long ago as 1273.

The Museum was opened in 1979 (for many years it had been an ironmongers) by George Wyndham and the first curator was well known local historian A.L.Wedlake, succeeded by author and local personality 'Ben' Norman'.

The museum gives the visitor the opportunity to discover the remarkable maritime and industrial history of the town with photographs and artefacts dating far beyond a time when man first walked the shores of Watchet, the shoreline here being well-known for fossils.

There is a good selection of local books to purchase for those who want to know more about the incredible history of this small seaport town, which is manned by local enthusiasts who may well reward you with some local colour and anecdotal reminiscences. The two highly distinctive bronze statues on the Esplanade depicting the Ancient Mariner from Coleridge's epic poem and Jack Short 'the Shantyman' are part of the museum. Jack is remembered for bringing back such classic folksongs as 'Shannondah' and many others are part of the museum.

For further information about the town as a whole,
please visit the home page or click

This page is provided by Watchet Conservation Society with the help of Watchet Chamber of Trade
and with funding from Somerset West & Taunton Council's High Street Emergency Fund.
Text and history provided by Nick Cotton