Regulars at the Southbrook Inn may be unaware that their favourite watering hole was once a dairy farm. In 1986 the 18th century building received a Grade II listing but a farm has stood on this site for much longer.
When the property came up for sale in 1763 Thomas Goddard, Lord of the Manor of Swindon, was ready to sign on the dotted line, having informed his attorney, Mr Thomas Athawes, that he was ‘very well satisfied with the Title of Southbrook Farm.’
The Abstract of Title over which Thomas Goddard had cast his discerning eye dated from 1669 and is available for consultation at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham. This document provides a detailed history of the property and its various owners and occupiers across nearly 100 years.
The property in Rodbourne Cheney was included in the marriage settlement of local couple Thomas Richmond alias Webb and Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Sir William Thomson in 1690.
By 1763 the property and 90 acres of land in Rodbourne Cheney belonged to Sir Benet Garrard of Lamer in Hertfordshire and consisted of the farmhouse and outbuildings and closes of land called Great and Little Southbrook, Little Pining, Twenty Swaiths and Bottom Mead. As part of the sale Thomas Goddard also bought fields named Sheep Sleight, Hedges Ground, a ten acre field named after an earlier tenant farmer called Thomas Hedges, and Long Furlong adding a further 39 acres to the holding. At the time of the sale the farm was occupied by Anthony Wetherston with former tenant Charles Pike also receiving a mention.
Thomas Goddard paid £3,700, worth today in the region of half a million, when he signed the indenture on Southbrooke House on April 5, 1763.
Thirty years later Ambrose, another member of the Goddard dynasty, agreed a 14 year lease on the property with Thomas Washbourne, John Brunsden and Charles Barrett who paid an annual rent of £157 10s to jointly farm the 132 acre farm.
Following the Tithe Computation Act of 1836 maps were drawn up of every parish in England and Wales and the properties along with land usage, owners and occupiers were recorded, an invaluable resource for local and family historians.
In 1841 the Tithe Apportionments reveal that Thomas Wiltshire was the tenant at Southbrook, then measuring 198 acres. The familiar 17th century field names of Southbrook, Long Furlong, Twenty Swaths and Sheep Street are still listed along with one parcel of land called Dining Room Corner and a lane called Rogues Road.
By the mid 1840s the Butler family had begun their long tenancy at the farm, first William Butler and later his son John Handy Butler. The 19th century closed with William Davis signing a year to year lease on the property.
In 1898 Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard sold part of the land to builder William Hobbs, heralding the end of the farming at Southbrook. However despite the continuing development at Gorse Hill north of the railway line, Southbrook Farm retained its buffer of open fields into the 20th century.
The former farmhouse opened as a public house on March 15, 1956 when the license was transferred from the Golden Lion on Bridge Street which had closed that same year.