The Twentieth Century

The Twentieth Century 150 150 Admin

World Wars, Spitfires and 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

8 South Marston soldiers died in World War I and are commemorated on the War Memorial near the Church.

The 1918 Auction Catalogue and Map for the disposal of the Bell Estate can be compared with the 1840 Tithe Map and Apportionments Register to show the changes and 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 and re-using some of its materials and features) and Lodge, 8 farms and 30 cottages, almost half of the land and buildings of the village:
Farms: Manor, St. Julien’s, Church, Rowborough, Priors Farley, Stones, South Marston and 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 (and Barn) and Priory Farms, Lock Keeper’s Cottage, Red House and Gordon Cottage. The Council’s Listing Descriptions give full details of these buildings and suggest that Priory Farmhouse is the oldest, built c.1650.

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

The National Archive holds photographs of the School (1900) and Manor Farm (1920) and 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 and quote ref. 15980).

The Air Ministry chose South Marston as a new site for aircraft production which began in 1940 with the Master and then Stirling Bombers and Spitfires for World War II.

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

Honda car production began in the 1980’s and continued until 2021. Part of the former Vickers site became a multi-business industrial park.

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

The school has an archive full of information, with some interesting pictures.

Old maps of Swindon is an excellent source of old maps on-line.

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.

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