Butcher, auctioneer, builder, railway entrepreneur, Freemason and Forester – perhaps it was something in the air that invigorated the movers and shakers of Victorian Swindon.
James Hinton was born in Newport Street in 1842 but grew up on the family farm at Wanborough. In 1860, aged just 19, he married Sarah Ann May and at the time of the 1861 census the young couple were living in Lambourn where James worked as a Corn, Seed and Flour Factor. Next came a stint as a butcher first in Longcot and then in Wroughton.
Following Sarah’s death in 1870, James married Sarah Honor Whiteman and it wasn’t long before he had moved back to his hometown.
As the Advertiser noted, ‘having given the butchery business a good trial, Mr Hinton next adopted the profession of auctioneer.’ Probably not the most logical career move but one which would see him emerge on the Swindon scene as a business man of considerable influence.
James Hinton rapidly acquired extensive tracts of building land and was largely responsible for the development of the Kingshill Estate in 1879.
Throughout the 1880s James Hinton was busy working on projects in both Old and New Swindon. Records show that he submitted building applications for 20 properties in Clifton Street, houses on a new road near Temple Street and the Gorse Hill Farm housing estate. Hinton Street, Gorse Hill is named in his honour.
By 1881 he was living at the Concrete House, 1 Rolleston Street, described as an auctioneer and contractor. The same year James Hinton sold a plot of land on Kingshill for the construction of the town’s much needed cemetery.
Ten years later he was at 45 Regent Place, and had added brickmaker to his list of occupations.
A former New Swindon Local Board member, James notched up 30 years of public service. By 1901 James had moved into the substantial house known as The Brow, Victoria Road and having entered semi retirement, showed little sign of slowing down.
Made an Alderman in 1903, he was also elected Swindon’s 4th Mayor and opened the new tramway system during his mayoral year.
“A painful sensation has been caused throughout the town by the news of the death of Alderman James Hinton,” the Advertiser announced his death in a flurry of purple prose and an obituary that spanned several column inches.
Although suffering from poor health for some time, Alderman Hinton had continued with both his public and private duties and had attended worship at the Wesleyan Chapel, Bath Road with his daughter on the day before his death.
“It was about three o’clock on Monday morning that the dread influenza made its appearance in its worst form, and exactly twenty four hours later Mr Hinton passed away,” reported the Advertiser.
James Hinton died on March 12, 1907. Following a service at the Bath Road Wesleyan Chapel, interment took place at Radnor Street Cemetery where a suitably imposing monument to the former Mayor now stands.
Sarah Hinton died in 1928 and was buried with her husband. Their daughter Florrie, who died in 1905 aged 32, lies in a neighbouring grave.
Photograph of James Hinton is courtesy of Andy Binks and can be viewed on www.flickr.com/photos/swindonlocal