Category Archives: History

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Advertiser: The sleeping city beneath our feet

I missed this article when it was originally produced by Swindon Advertiser, but I thought that it would be worth reproducing here for local village interest.

SLEEPING under a Swindon bypass is a Roman city that archaeologists say is twice as big as they first thought. The site, to the east of the A419 near Covingham, has been known about since the 18th century when it was referred to by well-known antiquarian William Stukeley.

Bryn Walters, director of the Association of Roman Archaeology in Swindon, and archaeologist Bernard Phillips have been keeping the hidden town under observation for years. They have discovered it had homes, shops, a temple and a mansio, which was an imperial lodging house.

Bryn said: “It is a cursus publicus, which is like a motel for imperial civil servants scurrying about on government business. It is one of the first mansios unexcavated in Britain and sadly it is now under a pick your own farm.’’ The core of the Roman town is protected as a Schedule Ancient Monument, which has caused problems with erecting sound barriers alongside the busy A419 at Covingham, because there are burial sites there. Bernard was there in 1967 when they first found the burial sites.” He said: “We found cremations as well as burials which dated from early second to fifth century.” 

He came across some extraordinary finds, including a skeleton of a man aged 35 to 45 with a purse and a silver coin still attached to the pelvis.

Coin of Magnus Maximus.

 “The head on the coin was Emperor Magnus Maximus, AD 383-388,’’ he said. “We also uncovered evidence of a lot of arthritis of the spine in our finds and they had well worn teeth where
they would grind the grain between stones and then eat the bread with stone in it.”

When the A419 bypass to the M4 motorway was built, a lot of the Roman town was lost.

“The bulldozers smashed through some impressive buildings including a polygonal temple by the bridge,’’ said Bryn. “We saw part of the 3ft high walls and the white tessellated floors, like mosaics. There were also fine blocks 6ft thick which were part of an outer wall or gateway. It is a tragedy this was lost.”

Swindon today is on the M4 corridor with easy access to London, Bristol and Bath and it was the same in Roman times as Ermin Street was the main road leading from Londinium (London) to Corinium (Cirencester) and at the apex of three tribes.  In the south were the Atrebates, to the South West were the Belgae and our own tribe would have been in the North, called Dobunori.

Domesday Reloaded – South Marston

If you are of a certain age then you may remember the Domesday Project. Modelled on the Domesday book from 1086, commissioned by William the Conqueror, it was a project commissioned in 1986 by the BBC. The intent was to provide a snapshot of our communities and everyday life, and it achieved this by inviting over 1 million individuals to contribute articles about their home area. This information was compiled onto Laserdiscs and was intended to be navigated around using a trackball, which was cutting edge technology at the time, which could be read by BBC Master Computers.

The intent was this equipment could be used in schools. However due to the cost of the equipment it never took off, and very few people got to see the fruits of the work.

Now 25 years later in our age of the world wide web, digital photography, email and social networking, its time to have a look at those entries again, to bring the project up to date, and perhaps to lay down another layer of local history.

The BBC have now made all of the original content from the Domesday Project available online, on a website called Domesday Reloaded.

You can rediscover and explore images and articles from the original project to find out how life in Britain has changed… and how some things have stayed the same.

In addition, you will be able to update the project by re-photographing the images today and updating text entries.

To see the Domesday Reloaded information for South Marston, and potentially update it for future generations visit here.

Swindon Advertiser – Town poet in the spotlight

Swindon Advertiser published an article about one-time South Marston Resident, Alfred Williams.

In a town quick to celebrate a working class hero, Swindon lags behind in its recognition of writer Alfred Williams, an omission about to be addressed by the recently formed Alfred Williams Heritage Society.

Alfred was born in South Marston, one of Elias and Elizabeth Williams’s eight children. A carpenter employing one boy at the time of the 1881 census, Welsh born Elias deserted the family soon afterwards. Continue reading Swindon Advertiser – Town poet in the spotlight

History – The Twentieth Century

World Wars, Spitfires & the demolition of the Manor

The Census population figures are:

1911 387
1921 363
1931 396
1951 374
1961 540
1971 533
1981 529
1991 703
2001 859

1914-18: 8 South Marston soldiers died in World War I & are commemorated on the War Memorial near the Church.

1918: the 1918 Auction Catalogue &; Map for the disposal of the Bell Estate can be compared with the 1840 Tithe Map & Apportionments Register to show the changes & new buildings in the village over that period.

The Bell Estate included 709 acres, the Manor House (built c.1860 in “the Tudor Style”, possibly imitating the original manor house & re-using some of its materials & features) & Lodge, 8 farms & 30 cottages, almost half of the land & buildings of the village:

Farms: Manor, St. Julien’s, Church, Rowborough, Priors Farley, Stones, South Marston &; Longleaze, all built c.1700-1800;

Cottages: Gordon, Leaze (2), built c.1750; Red House, Fairthorne (4), Old Post Office, Exton (2), Elm (2), River (4), all early 1800’s; Rowborough (2), St. Mary’s, Meadow, Manor (6), a ll1840-1870; Dryden (2), St. Michael’s, c.1890.

The following are Listed Buildings: the farmhouses at Marston, Longleaze, Hunts Copse, Nightingale, Church, Manor, Burton Grove (& Barn) & Priory Farms, Lock Keeper’s Cottage,  Red House & Gordon Cottage.  The Council’s Listing Descriptions give full details of these buildings & suggest that Priory Farmhouse is the oldest, built c.1650.

The Church also is Listed & the description refers to “doors C12 from earlier church, C13 chancel, C15 tower, West door [porch] & South Chapel 1886, 1886 restoration, Memorials [Duke, Freke, Southby] 1719-1770”.

The National Archive holds photographs of the School (1900) & Manor Farm (1920) & the National Monuments Record in Swindon holds more than 50 aerial photographs of the village from 1942 to 1988 (produced on 7 days notice if you telephone first & quote ref. 15980).

1938-45: the Air Ministry chose South Marston as a new site for aircraft production which began in 1940 with the Master & then Stirling Bombers & Spitfires for World War II.

1945-1985: Vickers-Armstrong purchased the aircraft site, built Spitfires, then Attackers, Swifts & Scimitars until 1961 & component parts for aircraft, hovercraft & the railway before selling the site to the Honda car manufacturer in 1985.

1985-2008:  Honda car production began in the 1980’s & continues today.  Part of the former Vickers site is a multi-business industrial park.

1980’s: the Victorian Manor house was demolished in the 1980’s & replaced by estates of new houses built in its grounds &; the adjoining fields.

We especially welcome any contributions to this section, maybe a project from the school, memories of those who lived through the war years, stories or photographs; in fact anything of interest during this century !

History – Victorian

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.

History – Georgian

1714 to 1837

The Southby Family & North Wiltshire Cheese.

The Southbys appear to have purchased the manor from the Hungerfords in 1661 & the Southby & Duke families were prominent in the village from 1670 until 1800. The Church Records reveal more than fifty baptisms, marriages & burials for the families. John Southby was followed by Anthony Southby &; then Henry Southby & his wife, Elizabeth, who had ten children from 1689 to 1706; Robert & Jane Duke; and Anthony Southby (jnr) & his wife Anne who had ten children from 1719 to 1737. Both Southbys & Dukes have memorials in the Church.

National Archive documents held at the Wilts & Swindon History Centre include numerous Southby family deeds from 1661 to 1767, together with another 100 18th Century deeds for the village, but the content &; legibility is not clear!

Richard Southby who lived in Highworth appears to have sold the manor (“lately occupied by John Curtis”) to Francis Warneford of Sevenhampton in 1767 but it is difficult to explain why, 6 years later, the 1773 Andrews & Dury map of Wiltshire indicates the Southbys still to own the manor house. The 1667 deed from Southby to Warneford refers to a number of field names including Home Close, Home Ground, Didpitt, Sheep Close & Bare Furlong. “Bare Furlong” is probably the “Berefurlong” referred to in the Hungerford Cartulary as being part of the vast East Field in the 13th Century. Leaden Hill also referred to in deeds at this time was “Ledenhull” in 1365. Francis Warneford appears to have sold or leased the Manor to Mary Dyke.

The open expanses of arable fields and common marsh & meadow which had supported the Medieval villagers were gradually enclosed from 1400 onwards forming the field pattern which we see today. Enclosure was used to contain livestock but as demand for cheese & butter rose dairy farming became more intensive & new farmsteads began to appear. Most of the farmhouses which currently exist were built in the 1700’s (see Swindon Council’s Listing Descriptions) and by 1770 there were as many as fifteen farms. The new farms concentrated on cows and cheese (not milk, which could not be kept), many of the farms had a purpose built “cheese room” & North Wiltshire cheese was as famous as Cheddar.

The booming cheese industry & its transportation to new markets further afield following the construction of the canal & then the railway saw land bought in the village by wealthy local & national businessmen: the Frekes from Hannington, the Hippisleys & the Ashfordby-Trenchards from Stanton Fitzwarren, the Warnefords from Sevenhampton, Walter James James & the Earls of Carnarvon & Radnor (deeds in the National Archive).

The National Archive also holds bills for a dairy farm (1762-72) rented by Thomas Titcombe from the Hippisley Estate, a 1795 lease of Rowborough Farm (which now had a farmhouse) &; for the agricultural workers 30 deeds (1729-1906) for the Red House & 4 adjoining cottages (Fairthorne).

The 1801 Census records the village population a s 252. Common family names in the Church Records include Green, Smith, Whiteman, Wells, Jeffries, Bridges, Wilkins, Edwards, Titcomb, Sellwood & the farming families of Horton, Litten, Kempster, Pineger, Stone & Morse. Baptisms from 1813 also listed the occupations of the fathers, mainly labourers but also farmers, dairymen, fellmongers, lock-keepers, carpenters, shoemakers, carriers, blacksmiths & one soldier, William Kemble. William Kemble survived Napoleon, returned to life as a labourer, married Mary Spackman in 1813, suffered the deaths of his infant sons in 1814 & 1823 & left the village.

The Marriage register indicates occupation or place of origin from 1700 onwards, most newly weds being of this parish (“tp”) & or the surrounding villages. Burials from 1813 include the age of the deceased, several living into their eighties & one, John Mundy of the durable Mundy family, aged 92 at his death in 1825. Was he a descendant of Elizabeth Munday, the first recorded baptism in 1539?.

It is hoped that enthusiasts will contribute further information regarding the canal(1800) & the railway (1830); the National Archive holds documents regarding both.

The 1840 Tithe Map & Apportionments List gives a comprehensive picture of the village in 1840.

History – Stuart

1603 to 1714

Documentary Record & The National Archive

The Church Records indicate a village population of about 125 in 1603 & the village is mentioned as prosperous in the Wiltshire Inquisitions Post Mortem of Charles I (c.1630). Reference throughout the Inquisitions PM of South Marston residents Munday, Gyves, Organ, & Ringe to “land lately enclosed out of the marsh” or “of the common fields” suggests that enclosure had taken hold by 1600, forming most of the field patterns we see today (which are also shown on the 1840 Tithe Map).

The Church Records list five baptisms for the family of Mr James Goddard from 1599 to 1605, three baptisms for the family of his son, Thomas, from 1632 to 1636, one for Richard Goddard in 1653 and eight for James & Ellenor Goddard from 1653 to 1673. The Church Records indicate them to be gentry & they might have been part of the Goddard family who owned Swindon Manor at this time but although their arrival in the village coincided with the departure of the Hungerfords it does not seem that they purchased the manor which appears to have been sold by the Hungerfords to the Southbys in 1661 (following the expiry of the lease to Organ?).

The most burials in the Church Records, thirteen, occurred in 1644, including an un-named soldier, killed in a local skirmish in the Civil War? Family names recorded in this century included Akerman, Kinge, Bennett, Becke, Fisher, Walker, Wilde, Butler, Stone, Crook, Berry, Baker, Baily, Goldingham, Rogers, Powell, Humphryes, Waldron and Mundy.

The Mundy, Munday, Mundaie, Mundey, Mundie, Mundye name appears throughout the records from 1539 to 1840. In 1625 there are five consecutive burials for the Mundy family (one of the outbreaks of plague?) & the 1625 Inquisition Post Mortem of Henry Munday deceased states that he owned a house in the village &; 75 acres of land.

The National Archive includes wills, deeds & leases of several generations of Mundays (1604, 1666, 1676, 1679 & 1735) & the Wiltshire & Swindon Archive Catalogue Wills Search which reveals 120 wills of South Marston residents from 1500 to 1900 including 9 for the Mundys (1626, 1666, 1671, 1683, 1713, 1735, 1825).

The National Archive is an online database of historical documents held in museums across the Country & holds hundreds of deeds, documents, wills &; photographs for South Marston from 1500 to today, most are held at the Wiltshire &; Swindon History Centre in Chippenham, some are barely legible &; it would undoubtedly be a lifetime’s work to decipher them.  They include deeds of the Cusses & their farm (1620, 1632 &; 1658-1712), documents tracing the house, marriage, death, mortgages &; inheritance of the Akerman family & deeds heralding the arrival in the village of the Southbys in the 1760’s.

The 1629 Inquisition PM of Joan Gyves of Marlborough, daughter of Thomas Cullerne, refers to 70 acres of land at Great Rowborowe, East Rowborowe & Great Rowborowe Hamme & a lane called Rowborowe Lane but no farmhouse &; the National Archive includes deeds of the fields Great Rowborough (1712) & East Rowborough (1713).

The Goddards, Organs, Cusses, Mundays &; latterly the Southbys are the likely farming gentry &; employers in 17th Century South Marston.

Maps of Wiltshire from 1681 to 1744 indicate that South Marston was on a primary route, from Highworth to Marlborough.