Thursday, February 9, 2012

Looking down on Cambria Place in the 1950s



"There is very little architecture in Swindon and a great deal of building," wrote poet laureate John Betjeman in 1950.

This aerial view of the Faringdon Park area taken around the same time shows some of the many rows of Victorian terraced housing to which Betjeman, somewhat unkindly, referred.

With an influx of Welsh workers moving to Swindon when the GWR Rolling Mills opened in the 1860s, additional housing had to be built, and quickly.  Initially accommodation was found for the Welsh families in the Barracks, a former lodging house for single men, but this proved both unsuccessful and inadequate and an alternative had to be found.

The first stone cottages along Cambria Place were built in about 1864.  The 1871 census records forgemen, iron rollers and rail roughers from Llanelly, Tredegar and Ebbw Vale among those living in the canal side properties.  A Baptist Chapel seating 250 was built in 1866 where for many years the sermons were preached in Welsh.

In 1871 the two up, two down terraced house at 7 Cambria Place was packed to the rafters.  Living with iron roller William Harry, his wife Mary and their five sons were Mary's mother, two nephews both employed at the Works, and two nieces, Jane 23 and twelve year old Alice.

Maxwell Street built in around 1890 was named after surveyor and civil engineer James Maxwell.  The Manchester based partnership of Maxwell and Tuke was engaged by the trustees of the Rolleston Estate for various Swindon projects.  This prestigious partnership was responsible for a number of iconic buildings nationwide, including the Blackpool Tower.

Lorne Street, developed in 1891 is supposedly named after the Marquis of Lorne who married Queen Victoria's fourth daughter, the Princess Louise in 1871.

Esther's memorial was restored
 in 2009 by Highworth Memorials
Public houses in the area include The Greyhound, Faringdon Road where a six hour battle took place on Easter Monday 1854.  Men took turns to join in the fighting and the Advertiser reported on the total absence of police. And The Ship,Westcott Place was the scene of a murder when in 1903 Esther Swinford was shot dead by her former fiance Edward Palmer.  Townspeople erected a memorial to the murdered girl in Radnor Street Cemetery.

Just visible towards the top left hand corner of this photograph are a number of buildings long since gone, among them the Central Club and Institute in Milton Road which was demolished in 1970.

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