Saturday, January 5, 2013

Devizes Road - revisited


Devizes Road was a very different place by the beginning of the twentieth century, its hawthorn hedgerow long gone and the horse fair a thing of the past.

With two breweries and sixteen pubs within staggering distance, Devizes Road probably wasn’t one of the quietest places in which to live.

Built by James Howe in 1847, the pub on the corner of Britannia Place began life as a humble beerhouse.  In 1870 the Britannia, described as containing ‘Bar, Parlour, Taproom, Small Parlour and 4 bedrooms’ went on the market and was snapped up by Bowly’s, another local brewery. 

Enlarged and refitted, the pub opened under new management and with a new name.  The Fountain was used as a dressing room by the Swindon Town Football Club and their opponents when the team played at the Croft before moving to the County Ground in 1896. Renamed The Pig on the Hill, the former Fountain, reopened in the summer of 2010 under new management.  

Newspaper proprietor William Edwin Morris, eldest son of Advertiser founder William Morris, lived next door at Frampton Villa, home to this branch of the Morris family for more than twenty years.

Like his father William Edwin was at the forefront of Swindon society involved in various commercial and public duties.  William had worked as a journalist on his father’s newspaper for more than twenty years before becoming Town Surveyor, a position he held for another twenty years. 

A man of apparently inexhaustible energy, William served on both the New and Old Swindon Local Boards.  He was a member of the School Board for Rodbourne Cheney and a member of the Highway Board until its abolition in 1894.  One of the first members of the Swindon Volunteer Fire Brigade, William served as Captain of the Brigade for more than twenty years.  A Freemason, a Forester and an Oddfellow, William was also a member of the Wilts Rifle Volunteers and a life governor of Swindon Victoria Hospital. 

William Edwin died on April 22, 1902 at the aged of 54.  His widow Bessie remained at Frampton Villa with her ten children.

William’s younger brother Edwin James also had a home in Devizes Road where in 1901 he lived with his wife Elizabeth and their nine children. Edwin appears to have rejected a career on the family newspaper and following a venture at Wood Farm, Wroughton became a coal merchant with premises in Devizes Road.

In 1909 Edwin was under the care of Dr Samuel Maclean who was treating him for ‘heart affection.’  In the obituary published in the Advertiser on November 30, 1909 Edwin was described as being known by a wide circle of friends ‘by whom his early demise will be greatly regretted.’ ‘In the days of his prosperity he was noted as a very liberal and open handed man,’ the report concluded.


Frampton Villa, Devizes Road - home to the Morris family


The Fountain emblem


Pipers Arms - The Fountain in a different incarnation


The Fountain today, all spruced up and renamed the Pig on the Hill


Marlborough House, Devizes Road


Usher's ad, Phillips Lane.

1909 drawing by S. Adye is taken from The Olde Turnpikes of Swindon and published courtesy of Swindon Local Studies

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