Wednesday 27th August 2014

Hello listeners. Here we have the second installment of posts featuring just a few of Swindon’s roundabouts and the reasoning behind their names. In the first post – Round and Round – I looked at roundabouts that are related, by dint of name and location, to some of Swindon’s industry. This time around it’s pubs. Unsurprisingly, what with coaching inns in days gone by often being on road junctions, a number of Swindon’s pubs are situated on or near to roundabouts thus giving the planners a convenient handle for said roundabout. So yesterday, on a somewhat dreek and dismal day, @Swindondriver, Swindon bear, Penny penguin and myself set out on a second EXPOTITION to check them out.

Swindon bear and Penny Penguin go on a road trip.

Swindon bear and Penny Penguin go on a road trip.

First stop on the road trip was the Rat Trap, an Arkell’s pub in Stratton St Margaret. This hostelry – or maybe it should be HOSTILERY – has an interesting little story. Originally called the ‘Speed the Plough’ (generally shortened to The Plough) the landlady in days of yore, one Fanny Stroud, devised a foolproof method of making her customers settle their bills: quite simply she locked then in the pub until they coughed up. It wasn’t long before the locals nicknamed the pub the Rat Trap – it becoming so interchangeable with its official name that, in 1875, court records referred to both.

Arkell’s bought the pub in 1899 and it’s official name remained The Plough until 1974.  However, following refurbishment and an extension being added, Arkell’s endorsed the nickname re-naming it The Rat Trap. Echoing this story, the pub’s interior features a carpet with a Pied Piper motif whilst on the outside roof there is a plough and the pub sign depicts the landlady taking money from her customers.  I wonder if the Boomtown Rats had heard this story….?

Next up on our agenda was the Crown Inn, again in Stratton.   A 19th century coaching in, the Crown Inn has, as it says on their website,  come full circle in returning to its former function as an actual residential inn even if there’s no longer accommodation for horses.  Furthermore: “An inn has stood at the junction of Highworth Road and Ermin Street for the best part of 250 years – and possibly much longer, making the site of The Crown an important one indeed to the local historian. 

The original building was sold for £60 in 1767 when it was called The Sow and Piggs. It became the Crown in 1792 – ironically the same year that King Louis XVI was losing his crown – not to mention his head – in France. 

Forty years later a new building replaced the old one, complete with the impressive arch, pretty courtyard and stable block – typical of coaching inns at this time and all of which can be clearly seen today. 

Arkells’s bought the building in 1868 and – as with many of the pubs it has brought – proved the stabilising element in the story.”

Well the food and the rooms may well be perfectly fine but the coffee most certainly isn’t. The one I had yesterday was absolutely vile I’m sorry to say.

The gallery below shows The Crown Inn:

Now we go to The White Hart, still in Stratton….and another Arkell’s pub. As Arkell’s do with all their pubs it seems, they have some history and background to this hostelry on their website:  As a change from being rooted in Swindon’s railway history, the original White Hart owed its existence to the Wilts and Berks canal which once ran nearby. As it goes on to say: “Coal merchant William Seymour was the owner by 1841 and his family kept it for many years. In those days The White Hart stood on the other side of the current Oxford Road and sold beer produced in the brewhouse on the opposite side of the road. 

Brewing naturally ceased when Arkell’s bought the freehold of the pub (and an adjoining orchard) in 1878 for the princely sum of £925. The original building remained in use for another 59 years before it was demolished to make way for another pub with the same name. Completed in 1938, the current pub is a much larger building than its predecessor … “

It seems rather a pity that there is no White Hart emblem anywhere on the pub.

The final place on the pub crawl, sorry I mean cultured tour of Swindon’s hostelry and roundabout history, was The Moonrakers – another Arkell’s pub, this one on Cricklade Road, with a roundabout named after it.

As with all these pubs/roundabouts there’s an interesting tale behind it. The legend of the Wiltshire moonrakers is well known round these parts and Swindon Web have an excellent article all about it so to get the full story go there. But in essence the story goes likes this:

A pair of Wiltshiremen, engaged in smuggling brandy, hide a barrel of the contraband from the excisemen in a nearby pond and when they return at some later time, in the dark, they are caught in the act of raking the barrel back to land.  They immediately claim that they are trying to rake cheese – the reflection of the moon – from the pond and the excisemen, amused by the apparently simple-minded rustics, leave them to it.”  The moral of the tale being of course that Wiltshire folk are not as daft as some would believe.

I don’t get to that side of town overly much and, since I was last there, the parade of shops across the road has been piffed up somewhat. The frontage in front of the shops now features some rather wonderful giant flowerpots – which immediately brought a certain ancient children’s TV show to mind … little weeeeeeed ….  flob a dob …. there are also some benches, funky asymmetric patches of lawn and wooden posts that turned out, on closer inspection, to be a rather well-thought out homage to the moonrakers legend. Fab stuff! I loved it.

So all in all our little group, @Swindondriver, Swindon bear, Penny Penguin and me, had – and despite the drizzle – an interesting afternoon of urban discovery, local history, good beer and lousy coffee.

Swindon bear & Penny penguin sample the offerings in the Moonrakers.

Swindon bear & Penny penguin sample the offerings in the Moonrakers.


#swindon #wiltshire #swindonblog  #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #whattodoinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #swindonia #BAS #bornagainswindonian #roundabouts #arkells #pubsswindon #therattrap #thecrown #thewhitehart #themoonrakers