7. Shaw House – Old Shaw Lane

7. Shaw House – Old Shaw Lane

August 2020

Shaw House – Old Shaw Lane

It’s ever curious is it not – how stuff pops up on social media relevant to somewhere you’ve not long since been to? In this instance the co-incidences relate to Shaw House, on Old Shaw Lane.

I tend to think of Old Shaw Lane as being a bit of bygone Swindon. But of course it’s not – not really. Because this side of town – the western expansion – wasn’t Swindon. Back then Swindon was the settlement on the hill. Old Swindon – Old Town as we call it now.

I wrote about the western expansion where I live, in Secret Swindon. And Frances too has mentioned it in this blog post. ‘Development on the western expansion of Swindon began in the mid 1970s. First came Toothill, then Freshbrook, Grange Park (where I live) and Westlea. Shaw and Middleleaze followed in the 1980s.’

Covid Constitutionals

During this whole lockdown and Covid carry on I’ve taken to meandering around on what I call Covid constitutionals. During lockdown in particular I couldn’t get any further than my bladder would take – so that meant roaming West Swindon. I did feel a bit like I was in the Truman Show…

And one of my recent meanderings took me down Old Shaw Lane past the house that you see below – Shaw House.

Frances Bevan again:

‘The lane that runs between the former Lydiard Millicent parish boundary and the tributary of the River Ray dates back to the Middle Ages.  Building was slow along the thoroughfare known as Shaw Street in 1668 and two hundred years later there were just two farmhouses beside the lane. Shaw Farm, once owned by Viscount Bolingbroke, stood at the south east end and Lower Shaw Farm near the west end.  A further 13 houses and cottages straddled the verges.’

Shaw House, Old Shaw Lane

Social Media Strikes

A mere few days ago, this blog by Frances Bevan appeared on my Twitter stream about one Mary Tuckey. And where did Mary Tuckey live? In none other than Shaw House!

Frances wrote about Mary’s great niece, Jane Helena Tuckey, in her splendid book Struggle and Suffrage in Swindon. It’s a great book – I heartily recommend it to you – and you can find a bit more info on it in this post on Born again Swindonian.

Across the lane from this house is Lower Shaw Farm – another old farmhouse that Frances writes about on her blog.

On and around and about Old Shaw Lane

Remnants of rural life are all around us if we take the time to look. As the photographs above testify.

Indeed, with #LookdownLookaroundLookup that’s the thrust of my new publication, my Born Again Swindonian guide book.

And my last word, and staying on this particular snatch of days gone by and linking to Frances one last more (as my granddaughter says) she has a blog post with the most appropriate name – Rural Remnants

Thomas Turner Swindon Brick-maker

Thomas Turner Swindon Brick-maker

July 2020

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.

Indeed, as Frances writes in her blog, Brickmaker Extraordinare, ‘When brick and tile manufacturer Thomas Turner wanted to advertise his wares he certainly thought of an eye-catching method. In 1889 he built two properties known as the ‘catalogue houses.’

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.

Thomas Turner Swindon Brick-maker - turner's drove road villas aka the catalogue houses
Thomas Turner Swindon Brick-maker - architect plans for the Drove Road villas in Swindon.

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 TerraceHunt 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.

6. The Hall and Woodhouse Canal-side Hostelry

6. The Hall and Woodhouse Canal-side Hostelry

The Hall & Woodhouse Canal-side Hostelry

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 Hostelry gets national recognition for innovative pub in Swindon

The Hall & Woodhouse Canalside Hostelry - Hall and Woodhouse

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.

The Hall & Woodhouse Canal-side Hostelry - the half-in-half-out canal boat

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.

The Hall and Woodhouse Canal-side Hostelry

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.

Please visit https://www.hall-woodhouse.co.uk/ for more information.

5. The GWR Weighbridge Swindon

5. The GWR Weighbridge Swindon

May 2020

To be clear, this post is about the GWR Weighbridge Swindon as part of the GWR Works – not the Weighbridge Brewhouse as the restaurant that it is now.

The GWR Weighbridge Swindon

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

Archer’s Brewery

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.

See this Historic England entry for technical detail: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1355885

4. The Windmill Hill Windmill

4. The Windmill Hill Windmill

May 2020

During the current coronavirus pandemic I’ve been undertaking #Covid19constitutionals that I’ve recorded on this blog’s Born Again Swindonian Facebook page.

Today’s such stroll took me on a visit to the Windmill Hill windmill. And, moreover, a Swindon in 50 more buildings post.

It’s only taken me 26 years in Swindon and a pandemic to get me to find out more about it. I even used to work on the aforementioned location, in Trigonos.

What is Windmill Hill?

Good question, the eponymous site upon which said windmill sits, is in fact a business park. One that’s stuffed to the gills with futuristic buildings that opened to great acclaim back in 1984. And I can see why. This website has some great photographs and drone footage of the business centre.

‘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.

A 2008 Swindon Advertiser article, written by Frances Bevan tells us the following:

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.’

Plaque on the chiseldon windmill

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.

Marsh Farm - Windmill Hill 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.

Read more about it here.

Marsh Farm - Windmill Hill Business Park
Marsh Farm – Windmill Hill Business Park
Overlay old map of where the windmill used to stand in Chisledon.
Overlay old map of where the windmill used to stand in Chisledon.
3. St Augustine’s Church Swindon

3. St Augustine’s Church Swindon

Inching along with Swindon in 50 More Buildings, this post is about St Augustine’s Church Swindon, Rodbourne. Having covered St Mark’s and St Barnabas (Gorse Hill) in Swindon in 50 Buildings, I had to get St Augustine’s into this blog series.

St Augustine's Church Swindon

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.

St Augustine's Church Swindon - Byzantine style painting

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:

Early History

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

And lastly – the loaves and the fishes:

The loaves and the fishes at St Augustine's Church, Swindon