1837 to 1901
The Bell Family Estate
The 1840 Tithe Map & Apportionments List which can be viewed at the Wilts & Swindon History Centre in Chippenham names all landowners & tenants & shows all buildings in South Marston in 1840 & provides a basis for tracing all post-1840 landownership & building in the village.
In 1840 a few absentee landowners owned more than half of the village’s 1646 acres, including the Earl of Carnarvon (South Marston Farm 209a., occupier William Pinniger, & Priors Farley Farm 100a., occupier John White), Alfred Batson (Marston Farm 123a., William Large), Rev. James Grooby (Manor Farm 115a., William Pinegar), Thomas Bunbury (Oxleaze Farm 75a., Henry Howes), Henry Coleman (Rowborough Farm 92a., Richard Love), Mary Crowdy (Stones Farm 59a., John Hall), John Phipp (Nightingale Farm 50 a., Harriet White), Mary Smith (Church Farm 68a., Thomas Smith), John Mountford (The Manor 31a., John White), Jon Kempster (Longleaze Farm 27a.).
The vicar was Rev. Edward Rowden, the Titcombe family owned Gordon Cottage & the cottage that once adjoined St Michael’s Cottage (which was yet to be built) & all other houses, owners & tenants can be seen. No houses are shown adjoining the South side of the road from Pound Corner to the Manor.
The 1840 Tithe Map also gives many field names, recalling the meadows “The Little Hayes, The Great Hayes & The Laines” South of the canal, the marsh “Great Marsh” (now The Carpenters Arms) , the former open fields “Munday’s Leaze & Denford’s Leaze” on the West side of Old Vicarage Lane & former owners “Ring’s Ground, Cusse’s Meadow, Horton’s Close & Blandy’s”.
The 1841 Census records the village population as 442.
David Backhouse in his history of Swindon pubs mentions 3 South Marston pubs of the 1840’s: the Carriers Arms (established 1827), the Carpenters Arms & the Royal Oak (a canalside pub, now Acorn Bridge Farm).
Alfred Bell bought the manor, farms and houses from the Earl of Carnarvon &; others in the 1850’s and acquired a village in a poor state. The Bells built new houses, built the school in the 1860’s & the Old Vicarage, demolished the Elizabethan manor house & replaced it, & refurbished & extended the church. The late 1800’s saw a similar transformation of the village’s buildings to that probably witnessed in 1200 & 1600 with old stone & thatched cottages replaced by Victorian “villas” of stone, brick & slate.
Do any pictures of the original manor house exist?
Farming declined &; an agricultural community became railway workers &; soldiers. The 1901 Census records the population as 348, a decline of 94 since 1841, probably due to the decline in agriculture & the relocation of workers into industrial Swindon.
The National Archive holds photographs of the school & the school children from the turn of the century.
Books by Alfred Williams & Cornelius Head (Nelus) give an insight into Victorian times.
In 1918 the Bell estate was dispersed & the 1918 Auction Catalogue & Map lists numerous village farms and fields, “old fashioned” cottages & “modern” Victorian villas.