Granville House Old Town – Swindon.

Often referred to as The White House this Grade II listed property deserves a place in Swindon in 50 More Buildings for more than one reason. And not least of which is that it’s a striking building on a generous plot with an actual stable block and coach house to its rear! 

Granville House Old Town 1860 - in the snow
Granville House Old Town 1860 – in the snow

Historic England

Built circa 1880, according to Historic England,* this house is a substantial and unusual home with a host of wonderful features. And, rather wonderfully, the incumbents of the house are retaining as many of them as they can. Fair play! That said, it’s a listed building so – y’know.

*Local Studies, in the central library, have the house’s date of building as being circa 1878 – at least that’s when it first appears in listings. Also, there’s an announcement in the Swindon Advertiser in June 1878 that one Dr Powne was the first resident and intended to move his surgery from Wood Street to Granville House. They further tell me that W.H Read is a possible candidate for being the builder of this house, given that he constructed two villas on Bath road in 1878. But that’s far from being a certainty as there’s no further information to support that theory.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a tour of the house and it is rather super.

But it’s not only for the original metal stairs to the garden, the servant’s entrance and staircase, the dumb waiter and the gorgeous stained-glass window on the west wall (and I’ll come back to that) that this ‘ole house is interesting. It’s also, arguably more so, of note for some of the people that have lived there.

Swindon Advertiser advert when Granville House went up for sale in 1878
Swindon Advertiser advert when Granville House went up for sale in 1878

Levi Lapper Morse

In the first instance, well after the aforementioned Dr Powne anyway, we have one Levi Lapper Morse, Mayor & Justice of the Peace for Swindon living there. And it doesn’t get much more ‘of note’ than Levi Lapper to be honest.

If you want to know more about our man Morse this post about Stratton Methodist Church links to a site with further info on him – well the Morse family. But if you follow Swindon history at all, you’ll know (or at least you ought to) that Levi Lapper founded Morse’s department store on Regent Street. Educated at the High School, Swindon, LL Morse was Swindon’s mayor in 1901 and Liberal MP for Wilton, Wiltshire from 1906 to 1910. 

Levi Lapper Morse - his photo in the civic offices
Levi Lapper Morse – his photo in the civic offices – he looks rather stern doesn’t he?

After Morse, came Mr J B Cole, outfitter of New Swindon. He bought the property in 1896 and he it was who installed the stained-glass window to the west wall – next door to the Bath Road Methodist church. There’s a delightful little story attached to this window. The deeds of the house state that, whosoever lives there must pay to the church £1 per year for the use of God’s sunshine coming through the window! LOVE that!

1901 saw James Carson Rattray MD living in this house. Sounding a little like a certain Gilbert & Sullivan song that refers to ‘… along with his sisters and his cousins and his aunts’, Dr Rattray shared Granville House with:
his brother Sam (also a doctor); Pat (another brother), a dental student, and sisters Bella who served as his housekeeper – and Mary. Phew!

If you want to know more about Rattray then I urge you to visit Frances’ Bevan’s excellent Radnor Street Cemetery blog here.

The 1930s

During the 1930s the property underwent significant change, The White House as it became known became a doctor’s surgery until the 1960s when a dental practice took over. 

The current residents bought it somewhere round 2012 – the dentist had been retired for about seven years then.

During their renovations of the house, the present incumbents found these ‘autographs’ left by builders in 1933. As they’ve been there so long they’re going to leave them there and frame them. What a wonderful bit of Swindon history that is.

1930s builder's names left on the wall
1930s builder’s names left on the wall

Some random shots of a few of the wonderful features in this fab house

It’s crystal clear that the family now living in Granville House adore it. What’s more they’re passionate about its history and want to preserve it as much as they can. As demonstrated by their intention to save and to frame the names left on the wall by the 1930s builders. I love that. That’s one example alone of what a labour of love for them this building is.

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