Lawns Park: one time Goddard family stomping ground
25th November: A small amendment/correction from a regular listener: St Mark’s was consecrated in 1845 ( I’m not sure how long that was after services began) so to say that Holy Rood was the only church in Swindon until 1851, when Christ Church “took over” is not 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) so 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 Lawns – yet another of those places that I didn’t know about for yonks and yonks and even when I did know about it’s taken me even more yonks to get to it.
So what is The Lawns? The Lawns Park is a 50 acre park that was once the house and estate of the Goddard family – the Lords of the Manor of Old Swindon. Their house is now long gone and the estate is now a public park though their name lives on in the nearby pub and hotel, The Goddards Arms. According to Swindon Web the 18th century house was built 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 and a good picture of it before it was demolished.
The estate included the area now known as The Lawns and was 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 the only church in Swindon. 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 miss – 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. The trees of the 19th century avenue were ravaged by storms so a new avenue of American Pin Oaks was planted in 1992. See the plaque in the pictures below. The park can also be accessed from Old Walcot or the Lawn 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 are held 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 Lawns 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.