2.37AM, Friday May 3, 2019.

That was the precise moment this most recent period in the history of Taunton Deane came to an end.

Not only had we all cast our votes in the first ever election of the Somerset West & Taunton District Council, but something else was stirring.

As candidates from across the political spectrum gathered to hear results, rumours of potential upsets were doing the rounds from the outset.

It was the end of an era - at 2.37am.

John Williams, a behemoth of Taunton's recent political past, had lost his seat.

But he had not only lost it, he had lost it by a long way.

His conqueror Ross Henley, another veteran gladiator of past ballot box battles, secured more than double the number of votes in the Hatch & Blackdown ward.

It was an awkward end to a 28-year career in local politics for Williams, who seemed concussed from the blows of a bitter campaign when declaring he was 'very sad' to be leaving.

In the weeks leading up to polling day, the word on everyone's lips was 'change'.

On campaign literature, in emails and conversations on the doorstep.

Change, change, change...

But few predicted the ferocity of the winds which saw that change blow through the refurbished corridors of Deane House as the results rolled in during the early hours of Friday.

Like leaves blown from their safe-seat sanctuary above the cold, hard ground by gale-force gusts, the results passed before our eyes in a blur - taking with them some high-profile names who would no longer adorn this branch of local government.

Ian Morrell, Janet Reed, Patrick Berry, Martin Dewdney... They all fell from the top table of the local authority.

And it was the Liberal Democrats who grew from the seeds of discontent which were starting to show through the fertile soil of our new district.

Ward after ward, there was always a Liberal Democrat candidate elected it seemed, and a scarcity of the Conservative status quo, so commonly expected on the social media message boards of armchair forecasters...

The results of 2015 - which feel an age ago - were wiped from memory as each result was read aloud.

Four years ago, Bishop's Hull elected a Conservative and an Independent - this time (with three councillors), it elected two Lib Dems and an Independent.

Patrick Berry, who served as cabinet member for the environment in the Conservative administration, won the Manor and Wilton ward in 2015 with 1,289 votes. Yesterday, he polled just 320 votes in the new Wilton & Sherford patch.

He was defeated by a Liberal Democrat in the shape of Alan Wedderkopp, who got 692 votes.

Mark Edwards - the unheard voice which had the ear of Williams for so long, and a 20-year councillor representing Trull and surrounding areas - was swept up along with other Conservative debris, losing his seat to not one, but two Liberal Democrats, Sarah Wakefield and Martin Hill.

He polled just 423 votes - more than 350 fewer than four years ago.

Perhaps fittingly, before the result was announced, Mr Edwards said he had struggled campaigning in a two-candidate ward.

"It wasn't what I was used to, I had to work as part of a team," he said.

The opportunities to work as part of a bipartisan team that were arrogantly rejected by the Conservative administration - and Mr Edwards in particular - were voiced strongly by so many, for so long...

But nowhere was a disastrous night for the Tories better summed up than in the ward of Mr Williams himself.

In 2015, he led his blue army to power on the back of a 690-vote majority in the Neroche ward.

Last night, the old warrior left the arena having garnered just 317 votes in the Hatch & Blackdown ward, losing by around half of his majority four years ago - 346.

As the sun heralded a new dawn in Taunton this morning, it shone the yellow of 30 Liberal Democrat seats on the new council, shining in the eyes of just 10 sporting blue.

The Conservatives are not even the second largest party on the new council - that honour belongs to the Independent voices of the district.

In recent years, the TDBC administration came under huge amounts of fire for perceived failures, most notably the Firepool and Coal Orchard developments, as well as the never-ending debates over a new entertainment venue for the town and plans to pedestrianise much of the town centre.

In response, Mr Williams in particular raised the promise of progress in the near-future as a flag of hope to his supporters, urging voters to 'judge him on his record'.

Last night, that judgement was delivered... And it arrived at precisely 2.37am.

Somerset County Gazette:

The make up of the new Somerset West & Taunton District Council:

Liberal Democrats: 30 seats

Independent: 14 seats

Conservatives: 10 seats

Labour: 3 seats

Green Party: 2 seats

UKIP: 0 seats