Richard Jefferies Old Town Walk: Part 2

July 2015

Gosh. I can’t believe it’s been so long. But you all know how it is listeners. Life, business, etc – it all gets in the way sometimes. Gah!

Back in March – blimey – I published part one of two planned posts about the Richard Jefferies Old Town walk.

Here’s a random slide show of photographs from that section of the walk:

But last I’ve found an opportunity to move on to part 2 of this posting. Still – good things are worth waiting for eh? 🙂 Unfortunately it’s been so long I can’t now remember too much about the detail of it so. NO – I didn’t take notes. Sorry. So it’s now more a case of sharing the notes from the text version of the walk and lots of photographs.

I will say though that, yet again, a lot of urban discovery went on. For instance, despite many occasions of trooping up and down Victoria Hill I’d managed never to spot the plaque on the wall of a house commemorating the fact that Richard Jefferies had lived there for a time. Nor was I aware of the blocks of stone bearing quotations from Jefferies’ work – as described in ‘OPTIONAL’ below. All of which left me quite excited. As did the fantastic ghost sign on the side of a building in Old Town – having never approached it from that angle I’d not seen it before.

It is an interesting walk, well worth doing that helps bring to life some of the life and times of the man.

Richard Jefferies Old Town walk Part 2

At the conclusion of the last post the walk had taken us from the original Holy Rood church back to the ancient raised walkway known as The Planks and into the High Street.  From here we move to number 5 in the walk described on the text version I found on the internet thus:

5) Turn right into Devizes Road. Richard went to two schools here: Fentimans at Springhill and the Misses Cowell at Clarendon House (corner of Phillips Lane). Continue along Devizes Road and tun left into Bath Road. Number 19 was, in 1866, the premises of the North Wilts Herald. Under its editor, Mr Piper, Richard began, at age 17, his career as a journalist.

6)  Cross Bath Road and enter Prospect Place. Only a few houses remain dating from the 1850s. In Prospect Villas (now a car park) the Misses Cowell had a school which Richard attended in 1861.

7) Enter Union Street and cut through to Victoria Road. There is now a plaque on number 93. Here Richard went to live with his bride, Jessie Baden, in 1875, and here their first child, Harold, was born. They left for London in 1877. At what is now the offices of The Star were the offices of The Swindon Advertiser owned by William Morris (not Morris of Kelmscott). He was a friend to Richard and published some of his works.

Cut through Union Row to Christ Church (1831) having crossed Cricklade Street. Richard’s grandfather, John, is buried here. Walk into the churchyard; having reached the far end of the church, look right. There is a row of Jefferies graves with round-topped headstones. NB: It has to be said that we weren’t able to find a row of Jefferies’ graves though we found one or two. Also of interest in that graveyard is the memorial of the Morris** family – founders of the Swindon Advertiser newspaper.

OPTIONAL. A few yards below Christ Church is Chandler Close and Holy Rood School. In the grounds are three blocks of stone engraved (1989) with quotations from Jefferies by sculptor Caroline Webb. There are also some seats.

Return along Cricklade Street to The Square but do not leave without a brief visit to Wood Street: Richard knew it well. Here, in rooms over ‘Lay’s Tearooms’ * (now the Cross Keys), he and Jessie stayed for a short while before moving into 22 Victoria Street (now 93 Victoria Road). In Wood Street were shop properties owned by John Jefferies and bequeathed to Richard’s aunts Fanny and Martha. Martha Hall’s school was next to the King’s Arms.

*Lay’s tearooms, then the Cross Keys is now Baker Street – the pub on Wood Street.

A slide show of photographs – not necessarily in any particular order – from the Richard Jefferies Old Town walk and round and about:

** From Wikipedia about William Morris:

‘The Swindon Advertiser was founded in 1854 by William Morris (Grandfather of Desmond Morris). Originally intended to be a weekly paper, His aim was to produce a newspaper “that would act as a mouthpiece for the poor.” Morris decided to print one issue a month due to the Stamp Tax laws at the time only applying to newspapers published every 28 days.

It was originally printed as a broadsheet on 6 February 1854 and titled the “Swindon Advertiser and Monthly Record” using a hand press in his father’s shop in Wood Street. Morris was sole writer, editor, printer and also delivered it personally, selling each copy for a penny. Using the inclusion of advertisements from local businesses, the second edition doubled in size.

Other newspaper companies were influenced by Morris’ example of a penny priced paper and quickly produced their own in the region and ultimately throughout the country, resulting in the Government amending the Stamp Tax laws to a more favourable version. The paper became published weekly due to this change. In 1855 Morris could afford to move the publication to new premises in Victoria Road where it has remained. Morris funded the building of Newspaper House and added a printing shop to the rear.

Morris became infamous in some circles for his scathing and often vitriolic editorials, with one editorial about an incident at Coate Water in 1861 leading to effigies of him and copies of his paper being burned in the town.’

 

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