Lawn Park: one time Goddard family stomping ground
25th November: A small amendment/correction from a regular listener. St Mark’s church, by the railway village, was consecrated in 1845. I’m not sure how long after that date, that services began. But the point being, to say that Swindon’s only church was Holy Rood until 1851, when Christ Church ‘took over’ isn’t quite correct. Thanks for that. Good to know.
Sunday 23rd November
Historical open space in Swindon’s Old Town
Today is stir-up Sunday. Next week is the beginning of Advent and the winter solstice and Christmas are hurtling towards us at warp speed. It’s also a damp and gloomy morning and I hate winter at the best of times. I most definitely suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Thus I’m sat here at the computer with the light box blasting out and writing this post by way of a hark back to the glorious summer of 2014 and a visit to The Lawn. It being yet another of those places that I didn’t know about for yonks and yonks. And even when I did know about it, it took me even more yonks to get to it.
So what is Lawn? Lawn Park is a 50 acre park that comprised the house and estate of the Goddard family. They were the Lords of the Manor of Old Swindon. Their house is now long gone and the estate a public park – though their name lives on in the nearby pub and hotel, The Goddard Arms. According to Swindon Web the 18th century house stood on the site of a Tudor Mansion. The Goddard family were Lords of the Manor from 1563 until 1927.
The Swindon Advertiser have an article here with more information about the house. There’s also a good picture of it before the wrecking ball had its way with it.
The estate included the area now known as Lawn, bounded by the high street and the site of Christchurch. It was situated next to the 13th century Holy Rood Church – which is really now just a little bit ‘goffick’. It doesn’t take a big leap of imagination to picture ghosts and spirits floating between the remaining arches. Sadly only the chancel area is left of this Norman Church which, until 1851, was Swindon’s only church. Frances Bevan, on her fab Swindon History blogspot writes about the church here where there are some lovely pictures too.
NB: In case you didn’t know, and I didn’t until I just looked it up, ‘Holy Rood’ is an Anglicisation of the Scots Haly Ruid meaning holy cross and possibly refers to the relics of the true cross on which Jesus died.
I must say the Old Town high street entrance to it is quite hard to spot – you kind of have to know it’s there. Once through the gates there’s a long avenue leading to the gardens, the remains of the house and the original Holy Rood Church. Storms ravaged the 19th century avenue of trees. Replacing them in 1992, we have an avenue of American Pin Oaks. You can also access the park from Old Walcot or the Lawns housing estate.
As is the way with stately homes and manor houses right across our green and pleasant land, the estate is in a wonderful setting with rolling grasslands, two lakes and stunning views across the surrounding area. Masters of all they surveyed indeed.
Many of Swindon’s most popular events take place here: the Old Town Festival, the Forest Festival and the May Day dawn chorus.
And, it has to be said, that an expanse of grass the size of the lawns would take an awful lot of mowing. Of course back in the hey day of The Lawn the Goddard family would have had staff to do the work for them.
Nowadays you’re more likely to be doing it yourself. If your garden is any sort of size then a good mower is essential and even more essential than that is taking care of your mower. This article here: http://yardday.com/mowers/maintain-gas-lawn-mower is full of great advice about doing just that.