1-3 Faringdon Road Swindon – W G Little Milliner and Draper
This building on the corner of Faringdon Road, now has flats in its up level. And the fabulous Love Brownies cafe on the ground floor. But this unassuming building has an interesting back story. That of WG Little – and therein lies a problem, a concern with the conversion of this building. See below for more on that. *
W G Little Milliner and Draper
Born in Chippenham to a Scots family, William Graham Little arrived in Swindon in 1874.
A most successful draper and milliner, WG Little was also a leading councillor. He saw his community duty as something that he wanted to continue after his death.
Thus he took steps to ensure that the great wealth he amassed in this lifetime would benefit Swindonians when he was gone. In particular he wanted his legacy to help young people. Thus, came the establishment of a trust fund. Following his 1927 death, the fund has paid out well over £1million, targeting needy Swindon children and putting up money to promote his other passion: music.
Little came from a time when Swindon was home to people of true vision, who felt a genuine duty to the community. He was the embodiment of a spirit of philanthropy that defined the town. That and a caring instinct still evident in the fantastic work of caring volunteers and organisations in Swindon today.
Yet that legacy is now forgotten. Read more about that in this piece for the Swindon Link magazine by Graham Carter.
Little’s forgotten and rather large legacy
There’s much more on Little’s legacy, and a great archive photo, in this Swindon Advertiser article, The Large Legacy of Mr Little. ‘Some of Little’s money, as stipulated, even went into re-building The County Ground. And the cash continues to roll in today, largely providing children from struggling families with school uniforms.’
One Swindonian, the late Joyce Line, studied English Literature at Oxford under the tutelage of Chronicles of Narnia author CS Lewis thanks to a grant from the WG Little Fund. And another, Paul Cooke attended RADA, the celebrated school for dramatic arts, with assistance from the fund.
The stench of the filthy lucre
The aforementioned Adver article tell us that Little, who never married, died at 70 in 1927 leaving an estate of £47,213 – equivalent today of around £2.5 million. As you’d predict the stench of filthy lucre filled the air when Little’s family, with whom he had largely lost touch, heard of his demise.
Having bequeathed £100 (£5,455 today) to a sister, Frances, he left the bulk to the town he loved. Naturally, his horrified kin weren’t allowing his hard earned fortune to slip through their fingers – not without a fight.
The family contested the will with ferocity. But after five years of be-wigged gentlemen thrashing it out in court, they lost. And that paved the way in 1932 for the WG Little Scholarship and Band Concert Fund.
It does seem a shame, given is philanthropy, that the town doesn’t better remember W G Little. So, when next you’re on Faringdon Road, look up above 1-3 and give a nod to the charity of W G Little.
* And the problem?
See this failed petition: https://www.change.org/p/swindon-borough-council-save-swindon-s-heritage-1-3-faringdon-road
‘….Until very recently, No’s 1 & 3 Faringdon Road were not owned by Swindon Borough Council. But were left and held in trust for the benefit of the community by WG Little, a deceased former Alderman. He built the premises in 1892, with Swindon Borough Council as the sole Trustee of the WG Little Trust …
The purpose of leaving the buildings in trust was so that they could be rented out and earn funds to supply the WG Little Trust with ongoing income. Income that could be redistributed for the above aims.
* If these buildings are sold off as flats they will cease to provide this service to our community.
Furthermore, the premises have a long history of community and voluntary sector use and have housed organisations such as Citizens Advice, Voluntary Action Swindon and the Swindon Racial Equality Council since at least the 1960s, further adding to the community heritage and significance.’
So, * draw your own conclusions.
But info on the charity here on the Charity Commission website.
Love Brownies now residing in the building:
See also this blog from Frances Bevan: