Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Running Horse

An inn has stood on the site of the Runnning Horse since the 18th century, but it didn’t get its present name until the 1820s.  Formerly known as the Royal Oak, some sources claim that the pub was renamed after the circus carousel horse ride which visited the nearby Westcott Recreation Ground during the early 19th century, but perhaps the busy Wootton Bassett Road could have been the inspiration for the name change.

Today the Running Horse is the focal point on the stretch of road linking Swindon’s old and new developments, but it hasn’t always been so.  A nice little earner today, the main attraction once would have been the water mill that stood on the River Ray just south of the road.

Mills were an invaluable source of income for the local Lord of the Manor and appear in that all important property inventory, the Domesday Book.  In 1086 Swindon, then five separate estates, boasted two mills each valued at 4s.

Records of a mill and land in an area called Eastcott and Nethercott, later known as Westcott, date back to 1339 when the property was conveyed to William Goldhyne and Margery his wife by Robert de Colcote, of High Swindon, and his wife Maud. 

Throughout its long history the mill was called several different names – in 1691 Arthur’s Mill, in 1773 Hall’s Mill, in 1780 Westcott Mill and by the 19th century Ladd’s Mill.

In 1805 the Wilts and Berks Canal Company bought Ladd’s Mill from Richard Simmonds, a quarrier from Swindon, under powers that enabled them to acquire mills on waterways likely to be affected by the needs of the canal. 

In 1825 John Garlick built an inn on the site of the present Running Horse and when the canal company’s fortunes began to decline they sold the property. By 1840 both the mill and the pub were owned by Old Swindon brewer John Harding Sheppard.

At the time of the 1851 census there were four cottages occupied by farm labouring families at this outlying area.  William Brooks, a master miller, lived at Ladd’s Mill with his wife, their eight children and two lodgers while Isaac Holdway, another master miller, lived next door at a property called Windmill.

By the beginning of the 20th century the Wootton Bassett Road was largely undeveloped.  The cottages remained at Ladd’s Mill, by then occupied by railway workers families but there was no evidence of the old water mill on the River Ray.

When Kingsdown brewer Arkell’s bought the Running Horse in 1883 they became the latest in a short list of just four previous owners.  A plaque in the brickwork dated 1891 records the date of an Arkell’s rebuild while the remains of the cottages at Ladd’s Mill, demolished in 1985, now lie beneath the pub car park.

Arkells leased the Running Horse to the Beefeater chain of steakhouses in 1985 but back under Arkell management after more than twenty years, the Running Horse was re-furbished and re-launched in December 2008.

Old images of the Running Horse are published courtesy of Swindon Local Studies - visit their website on

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