About the SMRA

Jenny McEwen: 01793 825312



South Marston

Welcome to the new and improved South Marston Village Website. This website supports community groups and businesses in South Marston.

Try the following:
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We hope you find it useful – and would welcome your comments and feedback on anything related to this site, its contents or South Marston. If you would like to contribute to the website, then contact the webmaster.

Friendly Club Holiday – Rhyl – September 2009

Monday 14th – Friday 18th September – Club Holiday

Our first attempt at a club holiday was a success; everyone indicated they were glad they signed up to go. The holiday base was Rhyl in North Wales. The weather was fine and the hotel adequate. Trips out were to Betws-y-Coed and Chester. The trip home was over the Horseshoe Pass to Llangollen.

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.