The Bell Family Estate.
The 1840 Tithe Map and Apportionments List which can be viewed at the Wilts and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham names all landowners and tenants and shows all buildings in South Marston in 1840 and provides a basis for tracing all post-1840 landownership and 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, and 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 and the cottage that once adjoined St Michael’s Cottage (which was yet to be built) and all other houses, owners and 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 and The Laines” South of the canal, the marsh “Great Marsh” (now The Carpenters Arms) , the former open fields “Munday’s Leaze and Denford’s Leaze” on the West side of Old Vicarage Lane and former owners “Ring’s Ground, Cusse’s Meadow, Horton’s Close and 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 and the Royal Oak (a canal-side pub, now Acorn Bridge Farm).
Alfred Bell bought the manor, farms and houses from the Earl of Carnarvon and 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 and the Old Vicarage, demolished the Elizabethan manor house and replaced it, and refurbished and extended the church. The late 1800’s saw a similar transformation of the village’s buildings to that probably witnessed in 1200 and 1600 with old stone and thatched cottages replaced by Victorian “villas” of stone, brick and slate.
Farming declined and an agricultural community became railway workers and soldiers. The 1901 Census records the population as 348, a decline of 94 since 1841, probably due to the decline in agriculture and the relocation of workers into industrial Swindon.
The National Archive holds photographs of the school and the school children from the turn of the century.
Books by Alfred Williams and Cornelius Head (Nelus) give an insight into Victorian times.
In 1918 the Bell estate was dispersed and the 1918 Auction Catalogue and Map lists numerous village farms and fields, “old fashioned” cottages and “modern” Victorian villas.
A picture of the new manor house, dated 1905, can be found on-line (Google images: ‘South Marston manor house’).
The location of the manor house can be approximated by viewing (and zooming into) this map published in 1883: https://maps.nls.uk/view/102339923
Compare that with Google maps, satellite view, of the modern village.
The school has an archive full of information, with some interesting pictures: