Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cheers and happy 170th birthday Arkell's

Bees still busy at work in the Walled Garden at Lydiard House

Who would have thought Swindon could boast two literature festivals and a heritage magazine, along with all the other fantastic activities that take place across the year? While the weather most definitely had an end of summer feel about it, there was no end to the summer activities in Swindon this week. 

Thursday saw the launch of the second Swindon Festival of Poetry at the Arts Centre in Devizes Road with words of wit and wisdom from festival organisers and guest speaker BBC Wiltshire presenter Mark O'Donnell.

Matt Holland, Michael Scott and Hilda Sheehan have put together a fabulous four day festival of words and wit, kicking off on National Poetry Day, October 3 with high points including a M4 Corridor Poetry Day and visits by Roger McGough and Alice Oswald. 

Michael Scott will be accompanying Swindon Heritage editor Graham Carter on a Vintage Bus Tour. Tickets cost £10 and sell like hotcakes, so make sure you get yours soon. The tour leaves from The Sun Inn at Coate at 10am and includes poems, heritage, and mystery locations. Telephone 01793 466454 for more details.

And on Saturday Arkell's threw open their Kingsdown Brewery for the mother of all celebrations as Swindon's oldest family firm celebrated its 170th anniversary. Beer festival organisers needn't have worried about the inclement weather forecast earlier in the week as the sun shone down on the hundreds who gathered to sample more than 40 beers from across the UK. There were classic cars and motor bikes, a vintage Daimler double decker bus and a steam engine. Music was courtesy of the Ashton Keynes Ukelele Strummers. The Swindon Heritage team were there as well, and although festival goers might have had other priorities, we sold a fair few copies of the magazine and met some interesting people. If you'd like to know more about the history of the brewery and it's founder John Arkell read the Spring edition of Swindon Heritage. For a list of stockists and how to subscribe visit our website.

For me the herald of the end of the summer is that annual jamboree, the Last Night of the Proms and this year Swindon received a mention. With an indescribable performance of Monti's Csardas by Aston Villa shirt wearing, violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy and a rousing rendition of Rule Britannia by American mezzo soprano Joyce Didonato, this year's Last Night was a record breaker. For the first time in 119 years of Promenade Concerts the Last Night conductor was - shock, horror - a woman. Marin Alsop led the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Chorus in a flawless evening of entertainment, and yes, she mentioned Swindon. I heard it quite clearly - she welcomed listeners and viewers across the world, adding "hello Parks." 

Next weekend I'm spoilt for choice, there is so much going on in Swindon from the Swindon Railway Festival at STEAM to the Mela in the Town Gardens.

Matt Holland

Hilda Sheehan

Michael Scott

Sign writer at work

Beer drinkers at work - just some of the brews on offer

Vintage scooters

Vintage Parkas

Monday, September 2, 2013

A week in which I discover the joys of living in Toothill, Rodbourne and Gorse Hill.

This week began with an endurance test, included a significant birthday, some excellent cemetery news and ended with an 10th anniversary and a fete.

Across the Bank Holiday weekend the Swindon Heritage team was out pounding the streets, delivering copies of the magazine. I covered the length and breadth of West Swindon while my two colleagues delivered the rest! I got to see areas of Toothill I didn't know existed, and how beautiful it is too, with stunning views across to Wroughton.

By the end of the week the job was done, or so we thought, until we discovered a glitch in our less-than-foolpoof system. Too big a job for pedal power, Graham left his trusty cycle behind and drove more than 70 miles, delivering to subscribers who had dropped off the list.

But by now subscribers should be satisfied, stockists stocked and with just Lydiard House to deliver to tomorrow, the Autumn edition of Swindon Heritage is out there. Enjoy!

Followers of events at Radnor Street Cemetery will know that we have had a difficult few months. An extremely successful 2011 with guided cemetery walks and local history exhibitions in the chapel was followed by months of nail chewing, heavy sighs and council doings (or should that be not-doings). I'm now delighted to report that with the support of Swindon Borough Council CEO Gavin Jones and Swindon South MP Robert Buckland, events are all set to resume at the historically significant Swindon cemetery.

There will be no more of this ...

as the Community Payback Team get to grips with tidying up the cemetery and more of these ...

as we resume our popular walks.

There will even be events like this again ...

especially as we prepare for the Great War centenary commemorations.

On Saturday we joined the good folk of Rodbourne Cheney Community History Group to celebrate their 10th anniversary at Even Swindon Community Centre. There were visitors aplenty to mull over the photographs, reminisce with neighbours and catch up with old friends who had moved away. With a number of Rodbourne residents already subscribers to Swindon Heritage we didn't expect to sell so many magazines. Glen, Brenda and Ann kept the cups of tea coming and the cakes were jolly good as well.

Then on Sunday we did it all over again, this time at the annual Southbrook Inn fete. With a Bouncy Castle, facepainting and numerous other activities in the pub grounds, our friends Diane Everett and Bob Townsend had organised a local history extravaganza in the function room at the back of the pub. Gorse Hill residents told us how much they liked living on their patch, a message we hear from every area of Swindon we visit, which must mean Swindon is a pretty alright place to live - despite what the comedians might say.

Even Swindon Community Centre - built on the site of the former Jennings Street School

Southbrook Inn annual fete

And in the function room family historians take a trip down memory lane.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Southbrook Inn

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.

Southbrook Street was built in 1906 on the former farm track.  Architect P.H. Thomas designed All Saint’s Church which opened in 1937.