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 Ferndaleyou’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.
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.
The Wiltshire Mummers’ Play: Mummers plays are an old Christmas tradition in many parts of the country. A group of friends would dress up, and go round the neighbourhood performing a little play. This had a set script. But, thanks to oral transmission, this would have varied from district to district. In return they received money and food, and, no doubt, drink.
They also (a bit like the traditional Punch and Judy shows) would have contained topical references. F. A. Carrington tells us that the version he recorded mentioned Napoleon Bonaparte. But he cut this out.
Today these interesting tradition have seen revival. In Wiltshire, a group called the Potterne Christmas Boys perform the play.
Their Facebook page, from where the above image is taken, says:
Guardians of the traditional Potterne Mummers Play, we tour the pubs round the Devizes area in the week before Christmas, to present our version of the traditional folk play, and collect a few quid for local charities and the Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
‘Key characters in the plays include the heroes, who vary somewhat, and are usually King or St.George and father Christmas. The adversaries include Valiant Soldier, Turkey Snipe (Turkish Knight) and there are usually several others that drop in that include Little Man Jack, Little Man John and old Almanac and there is always a Quack Doctor, who carries the reviving elixir brought in to revive the loser of the sword fight between a hero and an adversary.
Local schoolteacher, Bernard Baker revived The Potterne Play back in 1953. Mick Hiscock, the Moonraker Morris and others subsequently kept it going.’
Sadly, they are unlikely to take place this year, but maybe, now you have the script shown below you can put your own on?
The cast of characters in the Wiltshire drama are:
1. OLD FATHER CHRISTMAS. 2. MINCE PIE. 3. A TURKISH (evidently a Saracen) KNIGHT. 4. ST. GEORGE. 5. An ITALIAN DOCTOR. 6. A character called LITTLE JACK.
The Wiltshire Mummers’ play – from around 1838
(Slightly Adapted from the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, Volume 1, 1853).
Enter OLD FATHER CHRISTMAS.
FATHER CHRISTMAS; (Merrily). Oh! Here come I, old Father Christmas, welcome, or welcome not, I hope old Father Christmas will never be forgot. Make room! Room! I say! That I may lead Mince Pie this way. Walk in Mince Pie, and act thy part, And show the gentles thy valiant heart.
Enter Mince Pie MINCE PIE; (Joyful). Room! Room! You gallant souls give me room to rhyme, I’ll show you some festivity this Christmas time.
Enter a TURKISH KNIGHT, with a wooden sword. TURKISH KNIGHT; (Boldly belligerent). I am a valiant Turkish Knight, And dare with any man to fight; Bring me the man that bids me stand, Who says he’ll cut me down with audacious hand, I’ll cut him and hew him as small as a fly, And send him to Satan to make mince pie.
Enter ST. GEORGE with a wooden sword. ST GEORGE; (Belligerently bold). Oh! In come I, St. George, the man of courage bold, With my sword and buckler I’ve won three crowns of gold; I fought the fiery dragon and brought him to the slaughter; I won a beauteous Queen a King of Egypt’s daughter: If thy mind is high, my mind is bold, If thy blood is hot, I will make it cold.
[ST. GEORGE and the TURKISH KNIGHT fight; the latter falls).
TURKISH KNIGHT;(Squealing like a sissy).Oh! St. George spare my life! FATHER CHRISTMAS; (Vaguely concerned). Is no Doctor to be found To cure this man who’s bleeding on the ground?
Enter the DOCTOR.
THE DOCTOR; (Improperly enthusiastic). Yes! An Italian Doctor’s to be found To cure the Knight who’s bleeding on the ground: I cure the sick of every pain, And raise the dead to life again.
FATHER CHRISTMAS; (Glumly). Doctor, what is thy fee? THE DOCTOR; (To business).Ten pounds is my fee, But fifteen I must take of thee Before I set this gallant free.
FATHER CHRISTMAS; (Sighing). Work thy will, Doctor.
THE DOCTOR; (prideful). I have a little bottle by my side The fame of which spreads far and wide, I drop a drop on this poor man’s nose.
[THE DOCTOR touches the TURKISH KNIGHT’S nose and he instantly springs on his feet quite recovered.]
Enter LITTLE JACK, a small man, with several dolls strapped at his back.
LITTLE JACK; (Cheekily). Oh! In come I, little saucy Jack With all my family at my back. Christmas comes but once a year And when it comes it brings good cheer: Roast beef, plum pudding, and mince pie, Who likes that any better than I?
FATHER CHRISTMAS; (Loudly and heartfelt). Me! [He gestures to the audience to join in].
MINCE PIE; (Sums up). Christmas ale makes us dance and sing; Money in purse is a very fine thing. Ladies and gentlemen give us what you please ALL; (Cheers). MERRY CHRISTMAS ALL!!
Carrington, F. A. (1853) On Certain Wiltshire Customs, Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, Volume 1, 1853. (p. 79-86).
And now for some mincemeat
If you’re wondering what that’s got to do with Mummers the answer is: nothing at all. Except that Rebecca likes to make her own so is sharing her recipe!
As she says: ‘Pretty every much everyone loves mince pies, and some people love making mince pies, me, I make the mincemeat. Shop bought mincemeat consists of pureed apple, palm oil and the odd raisin. I can do better than that!
I was told by a person who makes home preserves for the market that good mincemeat is not cost effective to make for retail. Hence the uninspired products on the market. So by making your own you get the chance to experience truly wonderful mince pies.’
Now in the immortal words of Jimmy Young – Google him:
This is what you do!
Put lemon and apples though mincer (or finely chop or grate), add to other ingredients in bowl, mix well and jar up. If a little dry, add more water/sherry.
ANGLO SAXON ART IN WILTSHIRE, INTERLACEMENTS AND VINES by Rebecca Davies BSc (Hons).
We call it Celtic. Though it’s also Pictish, Viking, or Anglo Saxon. We call it Interlaced though it can be freeform, zoomorphic, spirals or tessellated. What am I talking about? I’m referring to the genre known as Insular art. (Some of which comes from the Mainland…) (Bain 1977).
But, whatever it is – we know it when we see it.
I don’t have a speciality subject in archaeology but for many years now I’ve had an interest in Early Medieval Christianity. I’ve travelled all over Britain to see antiquities of that period. Thus, I’m now particularly familiar with the collection on the Isle of Man, doubly interesting as it consists of Viking as well as Celtic examples. (Kermode 1994).
In which your scribe enters the Early Medieval Scriptorium
Celtic art is ideal for someone like me who is no artist but can do technical drawing. Yet it requires consistency and an awful lot of patience. Some examples are infamously intricate.
Recently I went on a course to further my knowledge of this art form. On the course I learned about parchment and how to cut quill pens. It also covered marking out the geometry using a compass and straight edge, and the traditional pigments. This was as close to texts such as the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels as anyone is going to get these days.
The course was in Cromarty (a little north of Inverness) so this was a rather long journey – worth it though.
This art form is often associated with the West of Britain and so I wanted to know if there were any examples of it here in Wiltshire. (Wiltshire is only in the West Country if the inhabitants feel like it). Well, as it turns out, there are quite a lot of pieces, all produced in the Anglo-Saxon period (Circa 500-1066 A.D.)
The Anglo-Saxons were skilled in many different media, though not enthusiastic builders in stone. Thus they’d have made most buildings from timber. That said, there are stone churches. We’re so fortunate in Wiltshire to have one of the finest and most unaltered Saxon churches – that of St Lawrence in Bradford upon Avon. And a great many more contain elements of Anglo-Saxon carvings.
Artistic cues for Anglo Saxon Art in Wiltshire
The artists took their cues from both Celtic knotwork and Norse gripping beasts. Athough a favourite design element of their own was the foliate element, and so we see examples of all these concepts in Wiltshire. (Meehan 1995). Countering that are more classical figures and tessellated design elements.
Some examples of Anglo Saxon Art in Wiltshire now follow – Not an exhaustive list!
BRADFORD UPON AVON
St Lawrence’s church is famed for this magnificent pair of angels. (St Lawrence’s church website).
CODFORD ST PETER
Much has been made of this fellow’s posture. I reckon it’s a mere ploy to get him into the space in a tidy fashion.
I’m much more sympathetic to the monsters found in churches, rather than the angels – being a monster myself. Here are two Norse dragons.
Cricklade church is famous for its tower – visible for miles around. In the north porch are two much older carvings – part of a cross shaft and a grave cover respectively.
Eysey is a deserted village north of the Thames at Cricklade with its church demolished in 1953. Found in the river, these pieces are now in the museum. (Cricklade Museum website).
Knook has this grand example of a knotwork border and a Norse style tympanum.
According to the very helpful website `Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture`, there are no less than nine examples of this art in Ramsbury church. Here are three of them.
St Mary’s church at Rodbourne Cheney church is old and indeed has a couple of carving fragments.
To begin with I assumed that examples of this art were only found in the Celtic (i.e. western) parts of the country. I was very wrong, as you can see. Which goes to show how important research is. But, I enjoy researching new things very much…
SARSEN STONES: THE OLD ONES OF THE DOWNS, By Rebecca Davies BSc (Hons)
Introduction to Wiltshire’s Sarsen Stones
Wiltshire’s Sarsen Stones
A Canadian friend came to stay and, since they were a Neo-pagan, I decided to show them Avebury stone circle, a favourite place of mine. This didn’t go exactly to plan. For a start they were most upset because some Early Medieval people had decided to build their village on a sacred site.
To my perplexment and sadness my visitors found this was quite unacceptable. But then I’ve found that neo-pagans can be perplexing and saddening.
I once showed another new-ager Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, a stirring Shinto tale, and they were most horrified. But then, explaining that the world’s most technologically advanced society is pagan often doesn’t work out well.
I thought better of trying to explain that Avebury was not a sacred site to the Saxons and, after pacifying them with a pint of cider at the Red Lion, took them up the byway leading to Fyfield Down.
This was to show them wild sarsens in their natural habitat.
I am gratified to say that they enjoyed this trip very much.
Origins of the names of Wiltshire’s Sarsen Stones
t’s probable that the stones themselves got their names from the Knights Templar who had a Preceptory at Rockley. (Blackwell & Fowler). They called them Saracen stones because they’re alien to the soft chalk. Their other name, Grey Wethers derives from the way they look like a flock of sheep, particularly on a misty morning. (Delorme).
“I shall conclude with the stones called the Grey Wethers; which lye scattered all over the downes about Marleborough, and incumber the ground for at least seven miles diameter; and in many places they are, as it were, sown so thick, that travellers in the twylight at a distance take them to be flocks of sheep (wethers) from whence they have their name.” (Aubrey)
Formation and geology
Sarsens are the remains of a tough overlay of the chalk, now eroded away, formed of silicate cemented sand and are a very dense rock; one cubic foot weighs 150 lb. (Delorme).
These rocks are the survivors of sandy islands in the Cretaceous seas, Many sarsens have holes in them formed by the roots of tropical trees. They’re relics of a more fanciful time. (Hungerford Virtual Museum).
Later the stones were part of a periglacial landscape, redistributed by meltwater. Fyfield downs contain many examples of this climatic era for the geological student to seek out. (Hungerford Virtual Museum).
Sarsens are always found on chalk downs. Yet it’s not inevitable that chalk downs harbour sarsens. You can find them from Kent to Suffolk and across the channel on the French chalklands around Dieppe. Oddly though they seem to be absent from the Isle of Wight. (Delorme).
Nor are they exactly plentiful on Salisbury plain. They are common on the Marlborough downs, both in fields and in the forest.
West Wood is today famed for its bluebells. But in the past there was a considerable extractive industry in these woods including sarsens. There are the remains of sarsen crushing machines and plenty of loose cut stone.(Archaeology Data Service.)
Recently it was proven that this is the source of the sarsen component of Stonehenge. (BBC News).
The usage of sarsens
Over the millennia the sarsens have had many uses. In the first instance they were erected as part of megalithic monuments such as Avebury stone circle and Stonehenge. Then later their superior strength lent form to Windsor castle. (Delorme).
Exploring the village of Winterbourne Monkton I saw sarsens at every turn.
Sarsens are tactile, they invite touching and climbing upon. They come in a variety of colours, greys, creams, oranges and browns. Sarsens are well worth visiting.
The best place to see sarsens today is Fyfield Down. But there’s also a small National Trust estate at Lockeridge Dene and Piggledene which are a bit more accessible. All three places are Geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest. (National Trust).
But yet, there are many sarsens round and about Swindon, mostly upon the east side. (Hidden Swindon).
Pretty much all parks have them. You may well have seen them without actually noticing them.
Rebecca Davies is a private Researcher. Coming from the antiquity rich county of Wiltshire it was only natural for her to become aware of our ancestors and ancient landscapes. In her early forties, quite by accident, she left her home town of Swindon and travelled to Cornwall to study Archaeology. This has enabled her to develop special interests in Early Medieval Christianity, Industrial History, Vikings and Experimental Archaeology. (Though really she is fascinated by anything curious she might grab at).
She would describe herself as apart from University, mostly self-educated. Her interests are “eclectic” ranging from Bushcraft to Local history to Classic Cars. She does not think Swindon to be boring at all.
Her ambition is to have even more adventures in Heritage.
Jubilee Lake Nature Reserve RWB – Royal Wotton Bassett
Here’s a smashing guest post from Lis Mcdermot about Jubilee Lake Nature Reserve Royal Wotton Bassett. Until recently I had no idea about this place. And, as you’ll see, it took Lis a while to realise it too!
We had lived in Royal Wootton Bassett for eleven years before we realised there was a lake!
In 1940 the Town Council purchased Wootton Bassett Lake. But it wasn’t until 37 years later, in 1977 that it became Jubilee Lake Park, renamed to mark Queen Elizabeth ll’s Silver Jubilee.
2007 saw the lake area designated as a Local Nature Reserve. It is a beautiful, small area of ancient woodlands and meadows, located north east of the town, a little over a mile from the High Street.
After parking in the lake car park you can choose to either walk though a little copse or walk down the tarmac road. The latter being a much easier option for anyone pushing either pushchairs, or wheelchairs.
Taking the road
The road though has quite a steep incline as you near the lake, which can make it hard work on the way back up to the car park. The copse has a little stream that runs down through the middle. In spring months it’s with blue bells and wild garlic; a wonderful aroma.
f you choose to take the road you’ll pass the large children’s’ play area, and Jubilee Tea Rooms where you can stop for tea and cakes, or ice cream on extra hot days.
The park has plenty of activities for children including quiz leaflets. You can colllect these from either the Lake Tea Rooms, or the Town Council Office on the High Street. There are also public toilets in this area.
Seasons in the sun – or maybe the snow
If you visit the lake often during the year, you can watch the seasons change. During the spring it’s lovely to watch the family of geese swimming with their newly hatched chicks.
n the summer the meadow beside the lake is the perfect spot to sit and read, or simply enjoy the sunshine with the family. Later in the year, the trees look magnificent dressed in the Autumnal colours. The area is very quiet, and it’s easy to forget that you are on the edge of a small town.
There is also a thriving Angling Club and you often see fisherman sitting in quite contemplation around the edge of the lake with the rods. NB: You need a license for fishing.
The walk around the lake is not that long. So, if you’re walking there for exercise, a mere one walk around never feels quite enough. It’s a somewhat small lake, as lakes go after all. Yet it’s a beautiful area, and well worth visiting.
At present during the Corona Virus pandemic, there is one-way system in place, to ensure people are able to self-distance more with ease.
For more information about the Angling Club, please contact Terry Strange on 01793 346730.
This summer (2019) we finally got around to walking the second half, John Lewis to Coate Water in our tour of the River Ray Parkway part 2.
We went out the back of the Mannington Retail Park, looking for the old green signs that show the way. We found the first one on the edge of a field used by dog walkers, pointing us towards the Old Town Rail Path, following Sustrans Route 45.
NB: This stretch of this walk is approx 5 miles
Blagrove Fitness Trail
Lydiard Country Park
Old Town Rail Path
Coate Water Country Park
Blue Route 45 signs – Old Town 2 miles, Wroughton 2 miles
Discovered a new thing already, anyone have a clue what “Blagrove Fitness Trail” is (or was!) ?
The route now follows the road through the Signal Way industrial estate, sneaks out at the end of Berenger Close (which we almost didn’t find), and over the top of Evelyn Street, still following the old Rail Line.
Next to the Piper’s Way roundabout we discovered another sign.
Lydiard Country Park
Coate Water Country Park
Old Town Rail Path
From the sign we headed south along Piper’s Way, crossing over to take the off-road path around the allotments on the east side. Just after the allotments a further sign pointed us off road, onto a track that leads all around the edge of the Broome Manor Golf Complex.
Here we were excited to discover a stone marker, planted in memory of Cassandra Clunies-Ross, carved by Sarah Chanin in 1992. The work is carved in Sarsen stone and was commissioned by Thamesdown Borough Council’s, Great Western Community Forest Team. The stone marks an area of what was then new woodland.
The inscription reads:
Casso’s Wood – planted January 1992 by friends, in fond memory of Cassandra Clunes Rosss, ecologist-forester. 1965-1991. That her work to conserve woodland here and abroad is not forgotten.
The last part of the trail had us squeezing past nettles and wondering if we were going the right way, before suddenly finding Broome Manor Lane, and the familiar sight of the Coate Water Park.
The final Parkway sign stands to the west of the lake, near the miniature golf course.