Last year, when writing Swindon in 50 Buildings, I knew I simply had to include Thomas Turner’s villas on Drove Road. Since the book’s publication, I’ve had a mind to write a bit more on here about Thomas Turner Swindon brick-maker and his brick-making enterprise. But I never quite got round to it. Then not long back I saw a super blog by Swindon historian Frances Bevan so figured – why reinvent the wheel? I may as well feature that with my own photographs. Well, I say mine, actually there Chris Eley’s, whom I despatch on photographic missions.
The Catalogue Houses
There’s several houses in Swindon that feature Mr Turner’s work. But it’s arguable that these two are the most notable. With the colloquial nickname ‘The Catalogue Houses’ – that’s exactly what these houses are. And there’s more than a touch of the whimsey about them.
The two cottages along with Jessamine Cottage, were 19th century show homes, built to display every brick and tile, every finial and moulding, made in Turner’s works.’
And do read the rest of Frances’ blog for more detail about Thomas Turner.She has some lovely detail in there about him. And there’s a picture too, of where he now lies in Christ Church in Old Town.
For the well-to-do
Imagine having the where-with-all back in the day to have your own home built? To rock up to Drove Road, look at these villas and pick out bricks and decorative elements for your own home? An early version of the Ikea catalogue – but for bricks instead of Besta storage units.
Thomas made the bricks on his manufacturing site on Drove Road – on what is now Queen’s Park.Wandering around that delightful oasis it’s hard to picture the clay it, that once it was.
Turner’s family home sat a spit up the road from these villas. It’s currently the Miller and Carter Steakhouse restaurant.
Now – get exploring! Whip your smart phone out and call up Google maps and go looking for other houses bearing Thomas Turner features.
You can find typical Turner decorative features in Belle Vue Terrace, Hunt Street and Turner Street (named after our man) off Westcott Place. These houses were built with his own bricks as were other streets linking New Swindon and Old Town.
On those houses, and on others he built in Lansdown Road, Kingshill and Westcott Place you’ll find a repeated pottery plaque or keystone in the form of a bearded man surrounded by shell motifs and running vines. It’s said that this face is the likeness of Daniel Lynch, a worker at Turner’s Stratton St Margaret brick, pottery and tile yard.
One of the entries in Swindon in 50 Buildings,is The Crumpled Horn pub over in Eldene. So, I figured this blog series of Swindon in 50 More Buildings should include a pub too. And this news about the Hall & Woodhouse pub out at Wichelstow is a good enough reason to make it this one.
NB: When this place first opened, the website had stock photos of a country house that wasn’t Lydiard House. And a steam engine absolutely not made by the GWR. People were upset – with good reason. Lazy and unnecessary. Ergo, I’m happy to report that the local attractions page on their website does now feature actual Swindon places.
The Hall and Woodhouse Canal-side Hostelrygets national recognition for innovative pub in Swindon
Hall & Woodhouse at Wichelstowe, Swindon, has won the coveted ‘New Build Award’ in the prestigious CAMRA Pub Design Awards 2020.
A CAMRA award – Campaign for Real Ale
The awards, held by CAMRA, in conjunction with Historic England, celebrate exceptional pubs across the country. These are pubs that have undergone conversion or conservation work. That or they’re newly built.
Hall & Woodhouse in Wichelstowe first opened its doors to guests in February 2019. This follows a £5million investment. The canal-side pub sits in the new housing expansion at Wichelstowe and has become a flagship symbol of the emerging community.
The pub’s designers took inspiration from its surroundings, looking at creative ways to:
A. Incorporate the canal B. Reflect industrial Swindon’s architectural heritage into the pub’s interior and striking exterior.
An innovative, purpose-built canal boat named Lady Rose protrudes from the front entrance of the building. It contains self-serve beer pumps in sectioned booths that can seat up to 20 people.
Mark James, Property Director at Hall & Woodhouse, said: “It’s important to us to create a welcoming atmosphere that makes guests feel at home. A place where they can relax over a coffee or a meal, or enjoy a drink with friends.
A labour of love
Hall & Woodhouse, Wichelstowe was a real labour of love for our design team. They spent months sourcing unique features to enhance the pub’s iconic appearance. A walk around the pub surrounds you with pieces of Swindon’s history and artefacts conveying our 240 years of brewing heritage.
Glazed drinking and dining areas extending along the canal frontage, represent a terrace of traditional boathouses. The gabled roofs opening onto the water’s edge, form an extensive area of covered outdoor space. And the taller accommodation block symbolises traditional canal-side warehouses.
Juxtaposition in the internal decor
The internal décor is a juxtaposition of industrial structure and soft furnishings. The walls are adorned with images of local boatbuilding, the Hall & Woodhouse family and the company’s brewing heritage.
We sourced with care, knick-knacks from all over the country to enhance the building’s atmosphere.
Andrew Davison, chair of CAMRA’s Pub Design Award judging panel, added: “The New Build Award is rarely awarded. It’s a testament to the quality of Hall & Woodhouse at Wichelstowe that it has won.
“The commitment Hall & Woodhouse make to individual, location-specific design is praiseworthy.”
About Hall & Woodhouse
Hall & Woodhouse is an independent Dorset family company. They brew award-winning Badger Ales and run an estate of high-quality pubs in the south of England.
The GWR Weighbridge Swindon on Penzance Drive – near the Outlet Centre and the Pattern Store – soon to be the Pattern Church.
Once the home of Archer’s Brewery – now a restaurant.
Photograph taken during the Covid-19 2020 lockdown. This road is never normally quiet like this.
Swindon’s GWR Weighbridge
This GWR weighbridge – part of ‘A’ shop, came into life in 1906. Penzance Drive is now a busy thoroughfare, with housing on the opposite side, going to the Outlet Centre – itself once part of the mighty GWR Works. But imagine the area as it was – packed with railway sidings and full of rolling stock.
Locomotives came into this building for weighing and balancing along a single track.
A few years later came a breeze block extension and a 1920s interior refurbishment.
The Swindon Book by Mark Child tell us that, photographs taken in the place, over the next decade, depict balancing machines named ‘Henry Pooley and Sons, Birmingham and London – and dated 1930
Between the GWR period and the the buildings’ current use, Archer’s brewery inhabited the place.
According to Quaffle (love that name) Archer’s beer first was brewed in London Street before moving to the weighbridge.
Founded in 1979, by former RAF pilot Mark Archer Wellington and his wife, Wendy, they set up up their brewery in an industrial unit, that once was part of the GWR carriage and wagon works on the aforementioned street.
The Pattern Store and the Turntable
A few yards down the road from the weighbridge, and on the opposite side of the McArthur Glen Outlet centre, is the Pattern Store – becoming the Pattern Church and the turntable.
As the Pattern Store, that building features in Swindon in 50 buildings. As part of a triumverate with the turntable and the water tank on its roof, it features too in my forthcoming Born Again Swindonian Guide. I hope to have that out in the summer.
‘Windmill Hill Business Park is an imaginative collection of high quality office buildings. It’s set in a beautifully landscaped business park setting. It overlooks the Wiltshire countryside and lies less than 20 minutes from Swindon town centre and the railway station.
The environment is peaceful and relaxed, with lakes and pedestrian walkways to the local shops. Easy connections to the Wiltshire cycleway and direct access to J16 of the M4 a quarter of a mile away.’
But what about the windmill?
As a 2015 Swindon Advertiser article explains: ‘This graceful structure, with its majestic sails, originally adorned the fields of Chiseldon around six miles away before its dramatic though not unproblematic rebirth.’ Onto Windmill Hill that is.
Built in the 1820s, next to Chiseldon church, local historians claim the windmill still did its thing as late as 1892.
The rationale for putting the windmill there it that, it seems, there used to be a medieval post mill on the site. That traditional business activity gave the name to the centre and the reason to move the Chiseldon windmill to where it stands now.
In the absence of any archaeological remains of the windmill there is one compelling piece of pictorial evidence.
Among the St John monuments in St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoz is the Golden Cavalier. That’s a tribute to Sir John St John’s son Edward who died from wounds received at the 2nd Battle of Newbury in 1644.
On the base of the statue there is a relief carving of the Cavalier leading his troop . Alan Turton, writing in English Civil War Notes And Queries 1985 about the presence of a Post Mill (windmill) in the carving says:
‘the whole design may show Captain Edward St John parading his troop in the park, hence the railings, of his family home at Lydiard Tregoze where there is also a Windmill Hill on the estate.’
Another remnant of Swindon past
Close by to this windmill is another hidden remnant of Swindon past – now serving as the site office for the business park.
Now office accommodation, this is the Marsh Farm, Farmhouse.
The 101-acre dairy farm, once part of the Lydiard Park Estate belonged to the St John family.
The tithe map apportionments, produced in 1841, record ancient field names such as The Shannells and Picks Mead.
An Agreeable Church and a Railway Church: St Augustine’s Church Swindon
I have to say, I think this is a delightful church. Perhaps because it’s a brick rather than stone building, the church has a warmth to it. Sir John Betjeman visited it several times and even invited its choir to his Wantage estate. I enjoyed my visit to it anyway.
Along with first St Mark’s (by the GWR Park) then St Barnabas in Gorse Hill and St Luke’s on Broad Street, St Augustine’s came into being to meet the spiritual needs of the burgeoning population of New Swindon. Those who came to Swindon to work in the GWR Works.
Designed by W A H Masters the church is in the Diocese of Bristol and province of Canterbury. It’s dedicated to St Augustine of Canterbury and is one of only a few churches Roman Basilica style churches in the south of England.
Fleur Kelly completed a series of gorgeous Byzantine artworks, like the one below, between 1987 and 1995.
Visit the church , and I urge you so to do, and you’ll find they have a handy leaflet that gives a short tour of the church and a brief history. It tells us that: ‘The acoustics in the church are good and that there’s a strong musical tradition there. In its early years, the choir often numbered 50 voices, singing in churches and cathedrals across the country.
Back in the 1960s, the church choir presented a steam locomotive plate to the choir of Westminster Abbey. And while we’re on the subject of trains – the following is lovely to see:
St Augustine’s began life as a former schoolroom, across the road from where Daniel (Sir) Gooch House now stands.
Church records show the earliest recorded baptism as being in 1885, while the licence for the performance of Divine Services was issued on 2nd April 1881.
And I loved these mosaics. Having seen them on the church’s Instagram feed I wanted to see them for myself.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Revelation 22:13
The Prospect Beerhouse is a building with an interesting history – both during and after its period as a beerhouse. And it’s now the home of friends of mine. It’s a curious thing, because when you’re in the house you do get a feel for its early life.
John Stooke’s book, Last Orders, has an entry for the Prospect Beerhouse – historically 20 Prospect Place. This is much to the delight of its current owners.
This building stands where South Street and Prospect Place join. According to John, in his book, ex-stonemason John Jones established the Prospect Beerhouse in 1848, with the Jones family running the place throughout its history as a beerhouse.
It seems that by 1850, John’s 68 year old mother held the licence – though, come 1853 the back door had John Jones’ name over it once more.
According to Last Orders, all appearances are that Jones’ beer selling venture didn’t end well – it seems that Frederick Large – in his Swindon retrospective recalls an 1865 incident of the landlord’s furniture being thrown out of the house and onto the street.
Life After Beer
The current residents of this house in Prospect Place, my aforementioned friends, have done some research into the well-known, Gateshead-born, founder of Swindon Ironworks: William Affleck – 1816-1894. His son Fred, occupied the former beerhouse, now domestic residence.
AS Mark Child points out in his Swindon Book, innumerable pieces of ironmongery – drain covers in particular – around Swindon bear his name. Why? The Affleck Ironworks that’s why.
During the 1850s, Affleck established his Prospect Works, off Eastcott Hill.
1887 saw the Old Town cattle market laid out and Affleck’s Prospect works supplied most of the pens.
And gardening too
With a slight touch of the bizarre, it transpires that Affleck was a talented gardener too. In 1869, Affleck placed an advert in the local paper for the sale of Capital Swedes. It’s interesting that the advert gave no address – only his name. So we can assume he was well known for his swedes and that people knew where to go for them. Given that he describes the swedes as capital, do we assume that 1869 was a good year – swede-wise?