Richard Taunton (1684-1752), the founder of the school that bears his name, was born in the parish of St John in 1684, the son of a local maltster. He inherited the family business on the death of his father in 1722 and soon began extending his wealth and influence. He moved into the wine trade, importing increasing amounts of wine from Spain and Portugal, and was soon the biggest wine importer in the town. In 1744, during the war with France and Spain, he became part-owner of three privateers. In July of that year his ships captured three enemy vessels and their cargoes, including 45 wagonloads of silver. Taunton's share of the loot made him a very wealthy man.
He was a generous benefactor and supported many charities in the town. He also founded the Royal Hampshire County Hospital at Winchester and left it £5000 in his will. He gave Southampton Corporation a considerable sum for “pious and charitable uses”. He is best remembered in his native town for providing the funds and means to found Taunton's School. The trustees of his will founded the school in 1760.
He was a burgess of the town, a justice of the peace and was twice mayor of Southampton, in 1734 and 1743. Politically he was active in the local Tory cause. He died at Bath in 1752 and was buried in the family tomb in St John's churchyard (image 2). The tomb was moved to Holy Rood church in 1958.
Southampton People, by John Edgar Mann, p86-87. (HS/t)
Familiar and Forgotten, by Southampton Art Gallery. (HS/t)
History of Taunton’s School 1760-1967, by H. Spooner, p3-22. (HS/ls)
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