Sunday, October 12, 2014

To Fitzroy and Eugenia with love - two Berkshire pigs and some meal

Today it is de rigueur for the about-to-be-married couple to circulate a gift list, but few would publish the results in the local paper.  Yet this was common practice among the great and the good of the 19th century and when the Goddard heir married he did just that.

Captain Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard, second eldest son of Ambrose Lethbridge Goddard married Mrs Eugenia Sutton, widow of Alexander George Sutton, at the Parish Church, Chippenham on June 1, 1895.  The wedding, described as being of ‘a very quiet character,’ was performed by Captain Goddard’s brother, the Rev. C.F. Goddard assisted by the Rev Canon Rich, Vicar of Chippenham and the Rev Canon Mayne, Rector of Christian Malford. Following the wedding breakfast at The Angel Hotel, Chippenham the couple left for a honeymoon in Lynton, Devon.

While the wedding might have been a low key event, the presents were in a different league altogether and were described in the Advertiser as ‘numerous and valuable.’

Heading the list were those exchanged between the couple.  The groom gave the bride a sapphire and diamond horse shoe brooch, a sapphire and diamond ring, a sapphire and diamond bangle, silver brushes and a fur coat.  The new Mrs Goddard presented her husband with a gold and enamel pin, gold initial links, silver dressing case boxes, a ring, a silver cigar lighter and a silver hunting flask.

The groom’s parents were equally generous.  Ambrose and Charlotte gave them a brougham, a light, four wheeled horse drawn carriage.

The Townspeople of Swindon clubbed together to buy a silver tea and coffee service and tray and the tenants of the Swindon estate gave a silver salver while the Lawn servants presented the couple with a silver vegetable dish and a silver thermometer.

Intriguingly, included in the list of presents is a silver cigarette box given by the Hon. Mrs Keppel.  Could this be Alice, later mistress of Edward Vll and great-grandmother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall?

Among the titled gift givers were Lord and Lady Swansea who added to the silver stash with an ink bottle and a sugar basin while Lady Peel, daughter in law of Sir Robert Peel Prime Minister and founder of the Metropolitan Police Force, gave a Chippendale table.

The more unusual gifts included some fantail pigeons from Miss N. Pegler while Mr Newman presented the newlyweds with two Berkshire pigs and some meal.

The couple never had any children of their own although Major Goddard acted as stepfather to Eugenia’s two children by her first marriage, Naomi who died aged 16 in 1910 and Thomas Alexander who lived at Westlecott Manor.

Major Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard died at his home The Lawn on Friday August 12, 1927 ending more than 350 years of Goddard family history in Swindon. 

Major Goddard’s widow continued to live at The Lawn for a further four years before leaving for America.  She returned to England and died at her home, The Cottage, Buckland on June 8, 1947. Her funeral took place at Christ Church, Swindon two days later.

Having stood empty for several years The Lawn was requisitioned by the war office to accommodate American troops during the Second World War.  It was bought by Swindon Corporation in 1946 and eventually demolished in 1952 when it was declared unsafe.

The Lawn
 Major Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard in old age

Remains of the sunken garden at the Lawn

The gazebo and ice house at the Lawn

Remains of the Lawn

Goddard family vault in the remains of Holy Rood Church.

Memorial window to Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard in Christ Church, Swindon

Old images of Major Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard, the Goddard family and the Lawn are published courtesy of Swindon Local Studies Collection. Visit the website on

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Poole family's Amazing Myriorama show

When Florence Poole married Elver Milsom in 1900 her family was at the peak of their profession, enjoying celebrity status across the country.  Florence was the daughter of Joseph Poole who with his four brothers developed novel techniques in the art of myriorama, introducing explosive special effects, which caused great excitement amongst audiences, especially when the scenery caught fire.

The family business began in the 1840s when Malmesbury brothers George, Walter and Charles Poole, itinerate musicians working south coast resorts, met old showman Moses Gompertz.

By 1863 the brothers were managing Gompertz's panorama and diorama touring productions.  However, it would be their nephews who would take the myriorama, a presentation of painted pictures moving across the stage on rollers, to new heights of popularity.

One of the Poole brothers most successful shows was 'The Bombardment of Alexandria' which included realistic gun fire achieved by a network of brass tubing loaded with small pieces of gun cotton and finely ground gunpowder.  A performance at the Colston Hall in Bristol literally brought the house down when parts of the ceiling plaster fell off.

A handbill advertising the arrival of the show at Lowestoft in September 1896 announced among the many variety acts supporting the myriorama were, soloist Miss Ada Violet Poole (Joseph's daughter) and Professor De Voye's Performing Dogs who waltzed, skipped, somersaulted and sang.

By 1897 the brothers had added 'cinematographie.' a combined film camera, projector and developer, to their repertoire.

Eldest brother Joseph and his wife Susannah led a very peripatetic lifestyle with their four children born on tour - Florence (pictured bride) in Leighton Buzzard, Minnie in Plymouth, Ada in Leek and Joseph junior in Cardiff.

However, Malmesbury continued to remain base camp for the family.  The 1881 census reveals that George had given up the travelling life and was landlord at the Railway Hotel in Malmesbury with his wife and four children, assisted by his parents John and Matilda.

By 1883 Joseph had bought a house named Verona where he established a studio for the maintenance of the paraphernalia associated with the shows.  He later went on to become an Alderman and served as Mayor of Malmesbury in 1890-91.

Florence's wedding took place on August 29, 1900 at the parish church Malmesbury.  Most of the travelling Poole clan were present for the big occasion.  The bride's parents Joseph and Susannah are to the right of the photograph on the end of the front row, with Charles and Fred in the middle row and Harry and George at the back.  In 1901 Florence's sister Ada married Elver's brother Percy B. Milsom, their brother Joseph's business manager.

At the time of the 1900 wedding the Poole family had seven elaborate shows touring the UK, Ireland and the Channel Islands.

The third generation of Poole family entertainers moved into cinema.  Charles Poole junior, son of Charles William, opened Taunton's first cinema, the Empire Electric Picture House in 1910 while Percy Milsom, Ada's husband, managed The Grand Cinema at Newport on the Isle of Wight in the 1920s.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Astill's Corner

Window bills, confectioner's bags and sermons are just a few of the seemingly endless list of printing services produced by Robert Astill at his works in Victoria Street.

Born in Coventry in 1833 Robert Astill married Margaret Delphi Considence Hall in 1866 and by 1871 the couple were living at 18 Victoria Street with their two young children. Employed as foreman at the printing works established by auctioneer William Dore, Robert Astill became proprietor probably after Dore's death in 1877.

In 1883 Astill celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Swindon Almanack, Trades' Register and Local Guide which he 'Circulated Gratuitously to Householders.'

Astill's premises occupied the large corner plot at the top of Victoria Street where Victoria House now stands. With a Victoria Street frontage measuring 93ft (28.3 metres), the area was known locally as Astill's corner. Astill had bought the property in 1885, signing a conveyance between Charles Richards Plummer and his first wife Mary, most probably the former Mary Dore and daughter of Astill's employer, William.

By the turn of the century Robert was widowed, the youngest of his eleven children, Lily Blanche, had recently emigrated to Australia where she worked as a domestic servant in the Brisbane/Gold Coast area. With the business now in the hands of his sons, Robert was preparing to retire to Zeals, a small village near Warminster.

The whole complex was placed on the market in 1903 when it was described as being 'suitable for any Large Business or Offices with Stable, Coach House, Out Buildings, Yard and Garden ground.'

The 1903 sale catalogue describes a complicated arrangement of domestic and workplace accommodation. On the ground floor there were two entrance lobbies, one opening on to Bath Road and the other on to Victoria Street.

The Breakfast Room facing Victoria Street was used by Astill as a 'Stationery and Fancy Shop' while W H Bush used the Bath Road side Drawing and Reception Rooms as a 'Hairdressing Establishment.' The stables and use of the yard were let to Mr Greenman on a weekly tenancy.

A selling feature was made of the bressummers, strong beams supporting the superstructure of the building, thus enabling a conversion into two shops if the purchaser so desired.

With a dining room, seven bedrooms, a dressing room, WC and Linen closet on the two upper floors, this building presented a serious undertaking.

There appears to be no report in the Swindon Advertiser of the auction held at the Goddard Arms Hotel on the evening of Monday February 16. Kelly's Directory of 1915 reveal that the Astill brothers still occupied the premises, then described as 103 Victoria Road after renumbering of the recently built up road linking former Old and New Swindon.

Images courtesy of Swindon Local Studies