Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard

Major Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard's dying request was that his funeral service be as simple as possible and that he wished to be buried in a "plain elm coffin made from timber grown on my estate."

The last Lord of the Manor to live at The Lawn, Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard died at the family home on Friday August 12th 1927 and less than three weeks later Fielder and Tuckett, a firm of auctioneers, valuers and surveyors, were called in to catalogue the family treasures.

An Inventory of Plate, Pictures, Busts, Statutes, Books and Jewellery fills several typewritten sheets of paper, recording items of both financial and sentimental value.  Items were listed under headings of the rooms where they were observed, for example the Dining Room, the Lobby to Drawing Room, the Blue Room and the Rose Room along with the Gun Room and the Billiard Room.

Pages and pages of books are recorded not just from the library but all over the house. An eclectic selection of titles such as Williams' Dogs and their ways is listed alongside a Welsh Dictionary, a photograph book and a scrapbook.

Among the silver plate was a tankard with lid dated 1643 and a Queen Anne crested salver on stand from 1711. There was a Georgian sugar sifter along with a Victorian one, a pair of small rat-tail sugar tongs and dozens of forks, knives and spoons.

Surprisingly there were few items of jewellery. A gold half hunter watch and chain, and seal has an explanatory annotation initialed E.W.G. "given to the Reverend C.F. Goddard (Fitzroy Pleydell's younger brother) at my husbands death."

Oil paintings of animals including two by Benjamin Marshall, an early 19th century canine and equestrian painter, hung on the walls alongside photographs of Teignmouth and Torquay.

In the Major's private room were two photographs of his parents taken on the occasion of their Golden Wedding anniversary in 1897.

Whether the inventory was made for probate or sale is unknown. Fitzroy Pleydell's widow spent a brief four years at The Lawn after her husband's death, before leaving for America where she made her home.

The Major's funeral took place on Monday August 15 at 8pm. Advertiser headlines read 'Interred at Sunset' and 'Large Attendance.'

As requested the Major's coffin was made from one of his trees, cut down in Drove Road during road widening work. Covered by a Union Jack the coffin was carried from The Lawn to the Parish church on a handbier where Canon C.A. Mayall and Dr. R. Talbot, the Archdeacon of Swindon conducted a simple service in Christ Church. The congregation was estimated to number in the thousands as Swindon marked the end of an era.

The Goddard Family - Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard is perched on the bench wearing a bowler hat

The ha-ha

The gazebo

Old images of the Goddard family and the Lawn are published courtesy of Swindon Local Studies see

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The Lawn 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

1880 General Election Riot

On the eve of voting in the Scottish Independence Referendum, the United Kingdom holds a collective breath. This is possibly the most emotive if not the most important political event to take place during my lifetime. With more than 81% of the population in England, Northern Ireland and Wales hoping for a 'no' vote, all we can do is sit back and wait.

The past two weeks has been a period of intense campaigning by those representing both sides of the argument with old fashioned tub thumping accompanied by extensive media coverage.

Press coverage more than 130 years ago also had a major influence on public opinion, resulting in a landslide Liberal victory in the 1880 General Election. But even William Morris, founder of the Advertiser, could hardly have anticipated it would lead to a riot in Swindon.

Polling day dawned dull and dismal but nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the people. This had been a long anticipated election and the popularity of the Liberal Party had seldom been greater.

The GWR Works had closed for the day, increasing the number of people on the streets and as yellow and blue supporters jostled at the polling stations the excitement reached an alarming point, according to Morris.

"At New Swindon Mr Maskelyne's [Liberal candidate] reception was unprecedented in the history of all our local demonstrations," he reported.

Supporters of Mr Maskelyne made a dash for his carriage and having unfastened the horses, "drew him in triumph through the streets of the town accompanied by some thousands of spectators cheering and shouting vociferously."

However at the closing of the poll the mood on the streets changed sharply as crowds gathered in Bridge Street. The road from the Volunteer Inn to the opposite side of  the Golden Lion Bridge was virtually impassable for several hours.

Local pubs and landlords, especially those who had declared their political allegiance, were targeted by the mob and an attempt was made to throw two publicans in the canal.

Pub windows were smashed on a route through the town centre to the railway village where the Cricketers' Arms and Thomas' in the Market Place were broken. The crowd then stormed up Prospect Hill where private houses also came under attack.

It was after 9 pm before a police presence arrived on the scene, a matter much criticised in the aftermath of the riot. Forming a cordon four deep, the officers swept through the town and eventually managed to clear the streets.

On Saturday morning stunned Swindonians returned to the town centre to view the damage.

"Every right thinking person must sincerely regret and denounce the window breaking which disgraced the election proceedings of last week," Morris reported in Monday's edition of the paper.

Highlighting inflammatory pre election campaign tactics fostered in two New Swindon coffee palaces, Morris urged that criticism should not be too severe "on the action of a thoughtless mob, provoked and irritated by the action of those who ought to have known better."

It remains to be seen how the Scottish people will react when the result of the Independence Referendum becomes known.

Sir Daniel Gooch

Mervyn Herbert Story Maskelyne 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hamblet's famous blue bricks

Today it is difficult to picture the former GWR Park on Faringdon Road without it's splendid railings, yet it is a mere four years ago since the installation of the new ironmongering. A £200,000 developer funded project was announced in March 2009 and the final section along Church Place was finished in the summer of 2010.

The park project generated an interest in the distinctive Victorian blue brick capping on the walls stamped with the imprint Joseph Hamblet from West Bromwich and canal historian Janet Flanagan contacted me about a former boatman Bill Cutler.

Bill was born in 1895, a third generation boatman, and in 1969 the Advertiser interviewed him. He told of working on his father's two horse-drawn narrow boats called Lea and Rea, bringing bricks and brewery sugar from his native West Bromwich to Swindon.

"It was a lovely life," he told the Advertiser. "Peaceful, yet you were doing some hard work."

The Cutler Family connections in the Midlands saw them perfectly placed to transport the blue bricks manufactured at Joseph Hamblet's West Bromwich brickworks.

Like Bill, Joseph Hamblet worked in the family firm where the blue engineering bricks were a speciality. In the 1890s the firm was producing more than 400,000 bricks a week, among them the ones used to cap the walls around the GWR Park.

Bill recalled bringing the bricks down from the Midlands, through Gloucester and on to the Thames and Severn Canal at Stroud. Turning off at Latton the blue bricks made their way along the North Wilts Canal, eventually joining the Wilts and Berks Canal.

The Staffordshire blue bricks, made from the local Etruria Marl red clay, had a high crushing strength and were much favoured by civil engineers. Used in bridge, canal and railway construction, the blue bricks were the Victorian equivalent of reinforced concrete. These impermeable bricks were also ideal for parapet copings and capping walls and apart from a minimal amount of damage those used on the GWR Park walls remain in excellent condition, more than 100 years later.

No record remains of how large the Cutler shipment of Hamblet's blue bricks was and in 1969 Bill made no mention of the GWR Park but said that family memory was they were destined for Clarence Street School.

When Joseph Hamblet senior died in 1894 his grandson took over the business and in 1898 it became a limited company, the Hamblet Blue Brick Co.

Labour and fuel shortages during the Great War marked the end of the Hamblet family business and Bill was later employed to fill in the Swindon canal junction through which he had travelled so many times.