Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A commodious family residence

With residential car parking at a premium in Old Town today, there was no such problem for the 1900 owner of 31 Wood Street. The sale catalogue of 1903 advertises a carriage entrance at the rear of the property leading from Devizes Road with a coach house, stable yard and stabling for two horses.

A Grade II listed building, 31 Wood Street dates from the late 18th century to early 19th century. Described as a 'commodious family residence' the property belonged to John Chandler, a successful local businessman.

At the time of his death in 1902 Chandler owned fourteen other properties on Eastcott Hill and stocks and shares in numerous local businesses including the Swindon United Gas Company and the Swindon Central Market. He also owned an impressive five bedroomed house, The Lime Kiln, standing in over an acre of land in Wootton Bassett, let to solicitor Harry Bevir.

Born in Pewsey, by 1841 John Chandler was already working as a draper in Swindon and in 1844 he married Susannah Hoystrop at the parish church in Wootton Bassett.

Among papers deposited by Kinneir and Company at the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives in Chippenham is a deed of co-partnership between Nehemiah Lea and John Chandler to carry on the tailoring trade in Swindon.

In 1861 John lived above his shop at 35 Wood Street where he employed a staff of 16. With his wife Susannah, their five children aged between one and eight years old, a governess and eight of his employees resident on census night, there could hardly have been room to swing a cat.

Perhaps he already had his eye on purchasing the spacious property next door but one, then owned by town surveyor William Read and the home in which Swindon architect William H. Read grew up. However, it would be over twenty years before Chandler could move in.

Swindon Advertiser founder, William Morris makes reference to the growing Chandler empire, writing how an old house in Wood Street had been 'recently pulled down for the erection of Messrs. Chandler and Sons' carpet warehouse.'

The 1903 catalogue describes this desirable town centre house as containing eight bedrooms served by no fewer than three staircases, presumably the front one for the family and the two back ones for servant access.

The ground floor accommodation consisted of dining and drawing rooms, a library, back lobby, kitchen fitted with range, dresser and cupboards, a back kitchen, wash house (with two furnaces)pantry and 'capital cellars in the basement.'

John Chandler died on August 1, 1902 aged 83. Widowed for over thirty five years he was buried in the graveyard at Christ Church with his wife Susannah and their son Charles Frederick who died in 1880 aged 22 years.

Images - a 1911 William Hooper view of Wood Street decorated for the coronation. Number 31 is on the right. The view from Bath Road shows the Chandler store on the corner of Wood Street. To view these and more historic photos of Swindon visit www.flickr.com/photos/swindonlocal/

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