The Southbrook Inn Swindon
The Southbrook Inn Swindon – with thanks as ever to my chum Chris Eley for his photographic expeditions.

The Southbrook Inn Swindon
My regular guest blogger, Rebecca Davies, sent me a charming account of an older couple she once visited in Ferndale. It’s a lovely story, well worth a read and it’s further down in this post.

But, as Ferndale is her story’s setting, I decided to tie it in with a Swindon in 50 More Buildings post. One that centres on the Southbrook Inn Swindon. And that happens to be in Ferndale.

About the Southbrook Inn

In this Swindon Advertiser guide to Ferndale you’ll find mention of the Southbrook Inn. The pub, now a Grade II listed building, had a former life as the Southbrook farmhouse. And in that existence it was the only building in the area. It’s hard to imagine now isn’t it? That what we know as Swindon once was green fields and not much else.

In 1908, Swindon’s expansion brought the farm, and the land surrounding it, into the borough. 1956 saw the farmhouse converted into a pub with the transfer of the license from the Golden Lion on Bridge Street which had closed that same year.

Frances Bevan’s ever wonderful Swindon history blogspot gives us more of the Southbrook’s back story and its long relationship with generations of the Goddard family. They of the long-gone house on Lawn in Old Town.

Says Frances: ‘When the property came up for sale in 1763 Thomas Goddard, Lord of the Manor of Swindon, was ready to sign on the dotted line. Having informed his attorney, Mr Thomas Athawes, that he was ‘very well satisfied with the Title of Southbrook Farm …

… In 1898 Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard sold part of the land to builder William Hobbs, heralding the end of the farming at Southbrook.  However despite the continuing development at Gorse Hill north of the railway line, Southbrook Farm retained its buffer of open fields into the 20th century.’

The above are small extracts from Frances’ blog. DO follow the link above to Frances’ blog for the whole Southbrook story.

A bit about Ferndale

Before I move on to Rebecca’s lovely story some Ferndale facts.
The area became known as Ferndale after the building of Ferndale Road. Today that runs all the way from Gorse Hill to Cheney Manor. But in Victorian times the road was considerably shorter. All of this changed in 1902 after the building contractor Edwin Bradley began to construct houses along the road.

1908 saw the consecretion of All Saints Church, in Southbrook Street. The first building was a temporary one designed for use as schoolrooms.

During the Second World War, enemy bombs hit Ferndale killing twenty-five people in the area. The church held several funerals for those killed in the bombings.

A Swindon Story by Rececca Davies Bsc. (Hons).

This is an account of an elderly couple I once met in Swindon.  This must have been in about the middle 90s?  I do not recall the exact year.  It was some years ago but not a very long time ago. At least it seems so to me. I will admit I have a limited sense of time.

I was delivering something to a Swindon address though what or why evades me. The subjects of my delivery duty were a retired couple. Pleased to see me they invited me in for a cuppa.

Their house was a small one. I do not know which street it was in. It may have been one of those small cul-de-sacs off of Ferndale road. But I am not sure – though I can visualise it even now. It was one of those Victorian terraced houses. You know the sort. They have a front door that takes you straight into the living room. Inside there is an open staircase up to the first floor and the kitchen out the back. If you’ve seen that sort of house you will know what I mean.

A room full of memories

Inside this living room was full of knick knacks. Hanging on the walls, covering the shelves and sideboard and placed on the edge of the stairs. Plates, ornaments, cups, mats, a wide selection of stuff.

It must have been a nightmare to dust. And they were all holiday souvenirs from all over the world. Central Europe, Australia, South America, Hawaii, China, Kenya. You name it – they had a souvenir from it.

Curiosity got the better of me

I wondered if they were someone connected with the big liners, like my Great Uncle Sid. Though I didn’t get the impression of either enough money or of then being globetrotters. My imagination went into overdrive. So it was no good – I had to ask them about it.

It turned out that they had indeed never been abroad. Though yes, they did get their eclectic collection of souvenirs themselves.

It had been their habit to take a weekend trip to the city every month. Each time they spent a weekend in London they visited a different ethnic area. They knew where the obscure ones were too – often in a single cul-de-sac. Though where they got the information on how to locate these places I didn’t find out. Bear in mind I visited pre-internet days – and they had made their journeys before even then.

They met the people and sampled the food and took home to Swindon a souvenir of their adventures. And in doing so they explored the entire world.

London – and then the world

London, like all great cities, has always been an international city. Roman London must have seemed astoundingly multicultural to the rural dwelling Briton. And the city of today is, of course, famed for its diversity. But as for using this attribute for global exploration…well, why not? I’m sure many people have done as my nameless couple did.

The chap did not specify but I suspect he was ex-railway – this is Swindon after all. Both my father and grandfather were in the Works. So he must have had a BR rail pass which would have helped with the travel expenses.

I felt so moved and impressed by their tale – as you might imagine. I asked them if they were going to write a book about their adventures. Or at the very least, they could write a London guide of unsurpassed originality and interest. (Not to mention utility). Yet they regarded their explorations as nothing out of the ordinary at all. This saddened me very much, but I said nothing.

They took their adventures to their grave. But I remember their story and am telling you it now.

A worthy tale, don’t you think?

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