Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Groundwell Farm

At the turn of the second millennium the future was looking bleak for the abandoned Groundwell Farmhouse.  Left to stand empty for several years, it looked as if time was up for the Grade II listed building, which had once served as both farmhouse and arts centre.

Elements of the coursed rubble stone house date from 1660 and during a survey made by the Wiltshire Buildings Record in the 1980s a 17th century fireplace was still in situ in the west bedroom.  The building was then described as typical of a late 16th or early 17th century Wiltshire Manor House.  But records for the Groundwell estate go back much further. 

This des res was already on the up and up in 1086, appreciating from 40s to 70s at the time of the Domesday survey where it was recorded that ‘Hugh and Girald hold Grendewell from Humphrey.  Ordulf held it before 1066.’ 

However, even earlier than this, the Romans had appreciated the sheltered aspect of Goundwell Ridge and excavations made during 2004 revealed a second century Romano British farm in the area.

Local landowner Simon Wayte brought his new wife Catherine home to Groundwell House following their marriage in around 1770 and immediately began work on a major rebuild.

At the end of the 19th century the farmhouse was said to have served as a parsonage for the Blunsdon St Andrew clergy, although other sources place farmer William Lush at Groundwell in 1899.

But by 1911 the property had returned to use as a farmhouse with Evan James Hoddinott, his wife and their young family in residence.

Farming has always been a family affair and in the 1930s the Wilkins brothers rented Groundwell.  Charlie Wilkins raised his own large family there and his brother Noel is remembered for riding his horse up the staircase.

Norman Painter was the farmer at Groundwell at the outbreak of war in 1939.  The harvest the following year was described as having been one of the easiest since 1921 and without the need to call on voluntary help as had been anticipated, according to the Evening Advertiser.   A photograph of stooking the corn at Groundwell Farm was published in the edition of August 10, with the farmhouse visible in the distance.

In the mid 1970s, with the vast area of north Swindon ear marked for development, Thamesdown Borough Council purchased the farm and the farmhouse was let to the Groundwell Arts Group. 

However by 2004 the property was empty and Robert Stredder, street entertainer and former Groundwell Arts Group resident highlighted the predicament of the building as dentist Patrick Holmes awaited the outcome of complicated planning approval.  The Seven Fields Dental and Health Care Centre eventually opened in 2007 and modern street names such as Farmer Crescent, Thresher Drive and Haywain Close recall the rural history of Groundwell Farm. 

ghostly outline of former farm building

coach house

Wartime harvest - stooking the corn at Groundwell Farm

1 comment:

  1. I was born in that farmhouse in 1965. Norman Painter was my grandfather. Nice to see some photos.