30th August 2013
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a busy university student needs guest bloggers to keep the blogging ball rolling. So I’m super grateful to Frances Bevan for sending me these words about some of Swindon’s old farmhouses.
Whilst my knowledge of Swindon, is at best, superficial – though my enthusiasm for the town is anything but – the same cannot be said of Frances.
As she explains herself, she is the chief writer of the splendid Swindon Heritage magazine. (2020 – the magazine is with us no more)
I was dead impressed when I read the summer issue I can tell you.
Frances also pens a number of blogs that give detailed accounts of various aspects of Swindon’s rich history – just one of which is ‘Good Gentlewoman’. In that you can read about the St John ladies of Lydiard House.
See also: https://swindonian.me/2013/05/17/ten-things-i-like-about-swindon-no-1-lots-of-parks-and-green-spaces/
Anyway, I think you’ll agree that Frances’ article gives a lovely insight into some of the buildings we do still have round and about us.
“As chief writer and co-founder of Swindon Heritage, it’s a pleasure to be invited to write a guest post for Angela’s Born Again Swindonian blog, because like her, I love living in Swindon.
Yes, I know previous generations of councillors and town planners have a lot to answer for, but although some beautiful properties have sadly gone, there are still a number of interesting and historic ones around and I’m going to raise a glass to one or two of them in this post.
With a wealth of engineering expertise to celebrate, in the latest edition of Swindon Heritage we turn our attention to a much older period of the town’s history when agriculture reigned.
Clive Carter of the Wiltshire Buildings Record Farmsteads Project, identified no fewer than 81 farms. And many of the farmhouses survive today, as private homes, community centres and yes, you’ve guessed it – pubs.
In my neck of the West Swindon woods we have several such properties. Today Lower Shaw Farm offers weekend breaks, events and courses and is home to the prestigious Swindon Festival of Literature. But it was once farmed by several generations of the wealthy Tuckey family and records exist dating back to the 17th century.
Brook House Farm
Now known as Brookhouse Farm and part of the Hungry Horse chain of pubs and restaurants, Brook Farm was once part of the Lydiard Park estate.
Margaret Beauchamp (portrayed by Frances Tomelty in the BBC series The White Queen) brought the estate to the St John family by her marriage to Oliver St John in about 1425. The present Victorian farmhouse is much altered, but the link with Swindon’s heritage remains.
Wick Farm in West Swindon
Privately owned Wick Farmhouse, another former St John property, nestles at the centre of a housing estate, believed to be close to the site of a lost medieval village.
NB – When doing the West Swindon sculpture walk I came across a lovely stained glass window in the side of what was clearly a barn conversion. And what do you know? It belongs to Wick Farm – but of course I had no idea of that then.
You can read about a Victorian murder mystery related to Wick Farm on the wonderful ‘Swindon in the Past Lane’ blog.
Here’s an appetizer: “During the 19th century Wick Farm was home to Jonas Clarke senior for over 26 years. The Clarke family were pretty unconventional by Victorian social conventions. Although married in his late twenties, Jonas soon began an alliance with a servant girl called Alice Pinnell. Thirty years and seven children later they eventually married at St. Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoze in 1853, after the death of Jonas’ first wife.”
Wick Farm gets a mention in Swindon in 50 Buildings too.
Upper Shaw Farm
In 1881 the 74 acre Upper Shaw Farm with fields named Martin’s Hill and Griffins, was farmed by William Plummer aged 76 and his three sisters, Amelia 78 and Emma and Hannah who were both in their 60s.