9. The Southbrook Inn Swindon

9. The Southbrook Inn Swindon

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?

Please Boost Harry’s Healing Fund

Please Boost Harry’s Healing Fund

January 2021

This post is not the normal fare for Born Again Swindonian. But I’m sharing a plea for help from a Swindon family because TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE FOR HARRY’S HEALING FUND.

Harry, has the most aggressive type of brain cancer: Grade IV Glioblastoma. 

Harry's Healing Fund


The best way to explain is to share some the text from the families’ go fund me page:

2020 was the year that changed our world; you could say it stopped entirely.

Like many of you reading this now, every so often we’d see or hear of a family pleading for donations that could make it possible to help their loved one.

With sympathy, we’d give what we could. But never imagining that we’d ever experience or understand anything of the horrors they lived through every day. That was, until April 2020, when we were struck with the trauma and instant grief that comes with a life limiting diagnosis: Harry, had the most aggressive type of brain cancer; Grade IV Glioblastoma. 

Whilst families up and down the country stood outside their homes clapping for the NHS, we sat anxious vigils outside a hospital ward. Soon to receive the earth-shattering news: that our precious Harry, had the most aggressive type of brain cancer; Grade IV Glioblastoma.

Even more challenging, he presented a VERY rare case. Instead of being in his brain, it had begun and spread throughout his spine. Thus -due to its location – inoperable.

There’s more background information on the GO FUND me page. But let’s cut to the chase and get to what the family need:

What they need

They’ve learned they are limits to Harry’s treatment options under the NHS.

For them to access further options – experimental though they are – they need to look towards private clinics and trials and THEY’VE GOT TO ACT NOW!

First steps

The family must search specialists far and wide for drug protocols and supplements with potential to make Harry’s treatment more effective.

They also must see if he’s eligible for some of the experimental treatment going on in German clinics involving multi peptide vaccines and immunotherapy.

None of these further options will be possible without the generosity of others. So they plead to you now . Please give what you can so that we can continue to try to keep this extraordinary man in our lives


Imagine their situation!

The family must search specialists far and wide for drug protocols and supplements with potential to make Harry’s treatment more effective.

They also must see if he’s eligible for some of the experimental treatment going on in German clinics involving multi peptide vaccines and immunotherapy.

Harry is at the centre of all their lives. He’s a much loved and adored son. Harry is also a brother, a fiancé and a friend. He’s a grandson, cousin, nephew and all-round valued community member.

There are so many good causes I know. I personally feel like I’m forever putting my hand into my virtual pocket. I understand compassion fatigue. We none of us can help everyone no matter how much we might want to. But if you can – even only a small amount – please do. This really IS a matter of life and death. Time IS running out for Harry.


Find them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/1346989149/posts/10225554132703972/?d=n

And here’s a video update from Sinead Nolan – Harry is her fiancé

International Holocaust Day 2021 Swindon

International Holocaust Day 2021 Swindon

International Holocaust Day 2021 Swindon


International Holocaust Day 2021 Swindon:
The day when the victims of genocides the world over are especially remembered, Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) takes place on Wednesday 27 January. And Swindon will mark the day once again.

HMD 2021 marks 76 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945. And 2021 is also the 76th anniversary of V-E Day, the end of the Second World War.

What will happen

Due to Covid19 restrictions, there will be no live ceremony by the Cenotaph. Instead, there will be an online ceremony only.

At 12 noon on Wednesday 27th January there will be a short ceremony via Zoom online for Swindon.

NB: Attendance at International Holocaust Day 2021 Swindon is by invitation only. Anyone with sincere and authentic interest in marking this day is welcome to join the online ceremony. To receive an invitation, link, and password, please contact  matt@lowershawfarm.co.uk

International Holocaust Day 2021 Swindon - candles and star of david

Theme: To be a light in the darkness

This theme, to ‘be a light in the darkness’, relates to the Nazi Holocaust of the Second World War yes. But also to later genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. As well as present-day situations around the world and closer to home.

Be a light in the darkness is an affirmation and a call to action for everyone marking Holocaust Memorial Day.

This theme asks everyone to consider different kinds of ‘darkness’. For example, identity-based persecution, misinformation, denial of justice; and different ways of ‘being a light’. That might be resistance, acts of solidarity, rescue, and illuminating mistruths.

The unprecedented times through which we are currently living show the very best of which humanity is capable. But also – in some of the abuse spread on social media – the much darker side of our world.

Be a Light in the Darkness . . . encourages individuals, families, and groups to stand together with their friends and neighbours. And to make a stand against wrongful persecution and  oppression.

The Holocaust Memorial Trust

At 7pm on 27th January, the national Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, will hold an online ceremony  that will run till 8pm.

Then, the HMD invites everyone to Light the Darkness by asking households across the UK to light candles and put them in their windows. This is to remember those murdered for who they were. And to show that we stand against prejudice and hatred today.


The aftermath of the Holocaust and of later genocides continues to raise challenging questions for individuals, communities, and nations.

There is ample evidence that ordinary citizens standing by during the targeting of their neighbours, enabled persecution.

First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.

Martin Niemöller


Holocaust Memorial Day was first marked, on a national basis, in 2001. The day is now established as an annual day of remembrance. Local authorities, faith and community groups and individuals were asked to take a lead in developing local memorial events and appropriate activities.

In Swindon, we’ve marked this day for every year of this century.


If you have appropriate personal stories or readings that you wish to share at the online ceremony contact the organizer Matt Holland beforehand.

Call 01793 771080 or email matt@lowershawfarm.co.uk

You can find further information and a more national perspective about Holocaust Memorial Day at www.hmd.org.uk

Rapper launches Festival of Tomorrow Challenge

Rapper launches Festival of Tomorrow Challenge

Rapper launches Festival of Tomorrow Online Challenge  - screenshot from YouTube

January 2021

Rapper launches Festival of Tomorrow Online Challenge

Science rapper, Jon Chase, launched a challenge to young people across social media this week, in the lead up to next month’s Festival of Tomorrow. Some of the best entries will have the chance to get streamed alongside Jon’s own RAP science show, during next month’s festival.

The science rapper launched the challenge on Science Swindon’s social media channels including:

  • TikTok
  • Twitter
  • Facebook and Instagram with a chorus from his own rap A Better View. That came with a challenge to youngsters to create their own performance.

Our challenge

“We’re challenging Swindon students to tell us what you want science to do for your future. Upload your videos to any social media. Use the hashtag #FestivalOfTomorrow and tag Science Swindon, by 8 February.

Science Swindon on Twitter
Science Swindon on Twitter

You can rap, sing, present, perform a demo or tell a story, on your own or in a group! No Powerpoint allowed! Only you and something you’re passionate about!” explained the Science Rapper.

“Make sure you get permission to upload to social media. And I’ll be selecting some of my favourites to stream at the festival on 20 February.”

Jon is the UK’s foremost proponent of Science Raps. He’s performed them at:

  • The Science Museum
  • The Royal Society
  • The Royal Institution …
  • … and at many theatres, libraries and science festivals across the UK.

His raps have featured on CBeebies’ Rhyme Rocket, CBBC’s Space Hoppers and Channel 4 Learning. They’ve also seen inclusion the Bitesize science online learning resources.

The south west branch of the Institute of Physics will also be exhibiting at the virtual festival.

The Festival of Tomorrow

February 2020 saw the first Festival of Tomorrow held at STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway – in partnership with New Elements. It’s returning this year in a format to fit our current Covid circumstances. There’ll be over two months of exciting online challenges and activities along with a schools’ programme. All focused around a two-day virtual festival on 19th and 20th of February.

Festival information is available at scienceswindon.com Tickets will go live later this month.

Companies and organisations interested in getting involved should contact: info@scienceswindon.com

See the launch video here:

About Liddington Hill Swindon

About Liddington Hill Swindon

January 2020

About Liddington Hill Swindon
One of many splendid things about Swindon is the great number of parks and open spaces we enjoy. Both in and around the town. And Liddington Hill is a mere one of those areas of great natural beauty that envelope and caress the town near and below it.

about liddington hill - looking at Liddington clump

A literary circular walk

Liddington Hill circular walk
4.5 miles – allow at least 2.5hours
Terrain: No stiles, can get muddy, one steep descent

The national trials website details a lovely Liddington Hill literary circular walk.

On this walk you can discover Shipley Bottom – ooh er missus. That, it seems, is a fine example of an enclosed coombe or short valley described by writer and poet Edward Thomas (1878-1917) as ‘walled on every side by down and sky,’

The walk follows a route used by a somewhat forgotten poet, Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915). Sorley studied at Marlborough College from 1908 to 1913. His experience on the downs inspired such poems as Barbary Castle.

On Liddington Hill you’ll find a memorial to two famous sons of Swindon:  Richard Jefferies (1848-1887) and Alfred Williams (1877-1930). They both wrote about the hill. Well I say that – but as far as I know, all that remains is the triangulation pillar used to replace a dedication plaque to Alfred Williams. American soldiers during WWII used that plaque for target practice and damaged it. It’s now on display in the Richard Jefferies’ museum at Coate. 1940 saw a replacement plaque installed but that got removed by persons unknown, never to be seen again.

The plaque now at the Richard Jefferies Museum

The plaque now at the Richard Jefferies Museum
See the bullet holes!

The self-taught Williams described Swindon railway life and Wiltshire villages. See my book Secret Swindon for more about him and Richard Jefferies. Scholars of Jefferies believe his wanderings across the downs of Wiltshire inspired his rapport with the natural world. That was something he expressed in The Story of My Heart – his autobiography.

The two views that we see here, looking down on Swindon from Liddington Hill, are a wee bit changed from when Williams and Jefferies’ day.

Alfred Williams’ poem: Liddington Hill

On this Poetry Atlas website there’s a poem written by Williams’ about this beloved Liddington Hill. Here’s the first stanza:

The friendship of a hill I know
Above the rising down,
Where the balmy souther breezes blow
But a mile or two from town;
The budded broom and heather
Are wedded on its breast,
And I love to wander thither
When the sun is in the west.

Alfred Williams

Liddington Hill as a Starfish Site

There’s a relatively intact control bunker for a co-located Starfish and Quick Light (QL) site at Liddington Hill overlooking Swindon.

The bunker lies at the edge of the small copse on the eastern summit of the hill, Liddington Clump. You can see those trees from the M4 motorway.

control bunker on liddington hill
Control bunker for a co-located Starfish and Quick Light (QL) site at Liddington Hill

Starfish sites were large-scale night-time decoys created during the Blitz to simulate burning British cities. The intention of them was diverting German bombers from their intended targets so they’d drop their cargo over the countryside. You can read more about Starfish sites here.