Farming today – or at any rate yesterday
30th August 2013
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a busy university student needs guest bloggers to keep the blogging ball rolling. So I’m really delighted to introduce my second guest writer, Frances Bevan. Whilst my knowledge of Swindon, is at best, superficial – though my enthusiasm for the town is anything but – the same cannot be said of Frances. As she explains herself, she is the chief writer of the splendid Swindon Heritage magazine. I was dead impressed when I read the summer issue I can tell you. Frances also pens a number of blogs that give detailed accounts of various aspects of Swindon’s rich history – just one of which is ‘Good Gentlewoman’ in which you can read about the St John ladies of Lydiard Park.
Anyway, I think you’ll agree that Frances’ article gives a lovely insight into some of the buildings we do still have round and about us.
“As chief writer and co-founder of Swindon Heritage, it’s a pleasure to be invited to write a guest post for Angela’s Born Again Swindonian blog, because like her, I love living in Swindon.
Yes, I know previous generations of councillors and town planners have a lot to answer for, but although some beautiful properties have sadly gone, there are still a number of interesting and historic ones around and I’m going to raise a glass to one or two of them in this post.
With a wealth of engineering expertise to celebrate, in the latest edition of Swindon Heritage we turn our attention to a much older period of the town’s history when agriculture reigned. Clive Carter of the Wiltshire Buildings Record Farmsteads Project has identified no fewer than 81 farms, and many of the farmhouses survive today, as private homes, community centres and yes, you’ve guessed it – pubs.
In my neck of the West Swindon woods we have several such properties. Today Lower Shaw Farm offers weekend breaks, events and courses and is home to the prestigious Swindon Festival of Literature. But it was once farmed by several generations of the wealthy Tuckey family and records exist dating back to the 17th century.
Now known as Brookhouse Farm and part of the Hungry Horse chain of pubs and restaurants, Brook Farm was once part of the Lydiard Park estate. Margaret Beauchamp (recently portrayed by Frances Tomelty in the BBC series The White Queen) brought the estate to the St John family by her marriage to Oliver St John in about 1425. The present Victorian farmhouse is much altered, but the link with Swindon’s heritage remains.
Privately owned Wick Farmhouse, another former St John property, nestles at the centre of a housing estate, believed to be close to the site of a lost medieval village.
In 1881 the 74 acre Upper Shaw Farm with fields named Martin’s Hill and Griffins, was farmed by William Plummer aged 76 and his three sisters, Amelia 78 and Emma and Hannah who were both in their 60s. Today it’s home to the Hop, Skip and Jump project.
Of course there won’t be any surviving farmhouses in sprawling North Swindon, I hear you say, well you could be in for a surprise.
And if you haven’t seen a copy of Swindon Heritage yet, the Autumn edition will be on sale at various town outlets from Saturday, August 31. For a list of stockists visit our website on www.swindonheritage.com. “
NB: Wick Farm – Interestingly when I was out doing the West Swindon sculpture walk I came across a lovely stained glass window in the side of what was clearly a barn conversion. And what do you know? It belongs to Wick Farm – but of course I had no idea of that then. You can read about a Victorian murder mystery related to Wick Farm on the wonderful ‘Swindon in the Past Lane’ blog. Here’s an appetizer: “During the 19th century Wick Farm was home to Jonas Clarke senior for over 26 years. The Clarke family were pretty unconventional by Victorian social conventions. Although married in his late twenties, Jonas soon began an alliance with a servant girl called Alice Pinnell. Thirty years and seven children later they eventually married at St. Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoze in 1853, after the death of Jonas’ first wife.”