A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 9. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.
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As has been shown, there were five separate estates in Swindon, excluding Walcot, at the time of the Domesday Survey. (fn. 1) The largest was the 12-hide estate of Odin the Chamberlain, which probably was merged eventually in the manor of High Swindon. Its demesne was worked by 2 serfs with 2 ploughs. On the rest of the estate 6 villeins and 8 bordars had 3 ploughs, making a total of 5 ploughs on the whole estate, although it was reckoned that there was land for six. On this estate there were 30 a. of meadow and 20 a. of pasture. (fn. 2) On the Bishop of Bayeux's 5-hide estate, which may have descended to the lords of the manor of Nethercott (later called the manor of Eastcott, Westcott, and Nethercott), there was 1 hide in demesne, on which 4 serfs and 1 plough were occupied. On the rest of the estate there were 5 villeins and 2 bordars with 2 ploughs. There were 30 a. each of meadow and pasture. (fn. 3) A connexion with later manors cannot be established for the other three Domesday estates, and the Survey gives little information about them. On Ulward's 2-hide estate and on Alfred of Marlborough's 1½-hide estate it was estimated that there was land for 6 plough-teams, (fn. 4) and on Ulvric's estate of 1 hide and 1 virgate there was only land for half a plough. (fn. 5) Thus in Swindon in 1086 on the two estates for which the information exists there were 27 servile tenants with 5 ploughs, while there were 3 ploughs for demesne working. For Miles Crispin's estate of 2½ hides at Walcot Domesday Book offers no information about tenants or ploughs. (fn. 6)
By the 13th century the land of Swindon was divided between five manors. (fn. 7) Walcot lay in the east, largely upon heavy clay-land; Broome occupied all the south of the parish where stretches of lighter soils are to be found; High or West Swindon occupied the top of Swindon Hill, where, besides the beds of Purbeck and Portland stone, there was a mixture of clay and sandy soils; Low or East Swindon stretched from near Gorse Hill in the north to Piper's Corner in the south, thus lying to a large extent upon the clay, but also taking in some of the lighter soil of Swindon Hill; the manor of Nethercott, Eastcott, and Westcott covered all the north-western part of the parish between the Wootton Bassett and Cricklade roads, and so was situated mostly on the low-lying clay-lands, but extended southwards up the slopes of Swindon Hill nearly to the Bath road.
No information has been found to make possible any account of the rural economy of these manors in the Middle Ages. There was, apparently, at High Swindon in the 13th century a park stocked with deer for the lord's hunting, (fn. 8) and there is reference to overstocking the common at Broome with 100 sheep in the early 14th century. (fn. 9)
At the beginning of the 17th century there were 13 free tenants on the manor of Nethercott, Eastcott, and Westcott. (fn. 10) Their arable holdings, which varied in size from 1 rood to 16 acres, lay scattered throughout three fields, namely, West, East, and North Field, and also in a region described as 'on the hill'. This last place may possibly represent a recent conversion of grazing land to arable. With the aid of the tithe map of 1840 it is possible to locate roughly on the map of modern Swindon the three arable fields of this manor. (fn. 11) North Field lay approximately in the angle formed by the junction of the Gloucester railway line with the main line to Bristol. East Field lay south-east of this to the south of the modern Fleming Way as it runs between Princes Street and York Road. The site of West Field is not so certainly known, but it probably lay north of Westcott Place. 'The hill' may be the region, later called Lapper's Hill, lying just north of the railway station.
Between 1640 and 1649 the manor of Eastcott (alias Nethercott, Eastcott, and Westcott) was dismembered and its lands sold to some 30 small freeholders. (fn. 12) The holdings so created, however, still lay dispersed in the common fields and meadows of the manor. One holding, sold in 1641, included, for example, 3 half-acres lying in 4 ridges in middle furlong, 1 yard in Long Lands, 3 separate yards in Chesly Furlong, and 1 yard in Hollow Chesly, all of which were within the West Field. (fn. 13) In the Breach this same freeholder had two separate acres. In the East Field he had a half-acre, another half-acre and a yard in Wool Lands, and a half-acre in Rushmore. On Eastcott Down he had 2 separate half-acres and a yard. In Eastcott Meadow he had a yard and a half-acre in Hill Mead, a half-acre in Long Hides, which was moveable every year, and a yard in North Groves, also moveable every year. With this holding went common of pasture for 3 rother beasts, a horse, 15 sheep, and a calf.
Farming these holdings made up of parcels so widely scattered obviously presented great difficulties. To overcome these, and to facilitate the conversion of more arable to pasture, which it was considered most desirable to do, the common fields of this manor were inclosed in 1656–7. (fn. 14) A surveyor was employed to measure up all the dispersed holdings, and in their stead consolidated blocks of land, both in the former open arable fields and in the meadows, were awarded. Blocks were allotted in all the former arable fields and on Lapper's Hill, and in a field called Down Field, which may originally have been rough downland grazing, but which by 1641 contained at least some arable. (fn. 15) Allotments were similarly made in Eastcott Mead, Great and Little Breach, Eastcott Marsh, and North Breach. One allotment in Benbrook, which had once been the lord's meadow within the common meadow of the manor, was made to Gabriel Martin, son of the last lord of the manor. (fn. 16) All these had probably been at one time meadow lands, but were now, like the arable, to be divided into small inclosed fields. Already by the year of the inclosure a pasture ground, called New Ground, had been made within the north arable field. (fn. 17)
In all 668 a. were inclosed. But, divided among some 31 landowners, the individual holdings so formed were mostly quite small. The largest holding was 81 a. lying in 3 compact blocks, allotted to Gabriel Martin (see above). Of the other holdings 2 were just over 50 a., 4 between 40 a. and 50 a., 4 between 20 a. and 40 a., 3 between 10 a. and 20 a., and 16 under 10 a., 8 of which were under 5 a. An allotment of about 46 a. at the south end of Eastcott Mead was also made to Thomas and John Vilett in lieu of rectorial tithes. (fn. 18) With the award went the stipulation that the lands allotted should be satisfactorily inclosed with mounds and ditches. Footpaths and ways of access were provided for, and it was ordered that springs and watercourses should be maintained and allowed to flow freely.
Although the evidence is lacking, it is most likely that the low-lying lands of the manors of Walcot and East Swindon, in the north-eastern part of the parish, were similarly inclosed in the course of the 17th century. Their cold clay-lands were eminently suited to pasture farming, for which small inclosed fields were required. They were particularly suited to dairy farming, but beef, bacon, mutton, and wool were produced as well. (fn. 19) On the manor of East or Lower Swindon much of the land in the north lay in Swindon Marsh. (fn. 20) But it stretched southwards up Swindon Hill and beyond towards the manor of Broome. The lower arable field of East Swindon lay in the north, and mention of grounds within it called New Closes in 1642 suggests that it was at least partly inclosed. (fn. 21) There was also in the 17th century another arable field in the southern part of the manor with land in it abutting upon the highway to Wroughton and in the neighbourhood of Westlecott Way. (fn. 22)
On the manor of West Swindon there was little early inclosure of arable. Here in the 17th century there was one large arable field known as West Swindon Field, which extended approximately from the Devizes road in the east to Okus on the west, and from the Sands (later the Bath road) in the north to Mill Lane and Westlecott Road in the south. (fn. 23) Within it lay the Swindon quarries, (fn. 24) which must have added considerably to the difficulties of cultivating the scattered strips into which the field was divided.
A sale of nearly 65 a. in 1648 shows how dispersed a single holding might be. (fn. 25) About 32 a. lay in two fields, themselves but subdivisions of West Swindon Field. But within these two fields the 32 a. were distributed in quite small portions among the furlongs and pieces into which the fields were divided. The portions ranged in size from ½ to 8 acres. Even where the land lay within one furlong, the most usual subdivison of the arable field, it could be scattered, as, for example, the three half-acres 'in several pieces in the furlong against the linches'. The other 32 a. of the holding were similarly widely dispersed. The largest portion was a block of 11 a. lying between 'the scrags and the quarry'. With the entire holding went common of pasture for 80 sheep in the fields and wastes of the manor.
In 1798 the great field of West Swindon measured about 237 a., including 22 a. of waste ground, which could not be used for agricultural purposes. (fn. 26) That year the field was divided into 18 furlongs, the largest containing 19 a. and the smallest 3 a. In addition to the furlongs there were 3 small pieces, 3 linches, 4 a. at Brinchcomb Bottom and Common Hill, which had recently been converted into arable, and 25 a. of inclosed land called the New Inclosure. Only on the inclosed land was wheat grown. Of the 3 pieces one (about 2 a.) was rough fallow, another (about 1 a.) had late-sown barley, and the third (about 3 a.) was partly rough and partly plain fallow. East Linch (about 6 a.), which lay north of Okus Road, was upland pasture; Middle Linch (about 1 a.) grew vetches and clover grass, and West Linch (about 2 a.) was sown with barley. The land in the various furlongs was used as follows: barley, late and early sowings 57 a.; fallow 23 a., including 7 a. on which sheep were penned; hops and broad clover 19 a.; cinquefoil 18 a.; beans 11 a.; oats 9 a.; vetches and clover grass 8 a.; peas 5 a.
The common pasture of West Swindon manor lay on the southern slopes of Swindon Hill, roughly along the line of the modern borough boundary as it runs from the Wootton Bassett road towards Westlecott Stalls. (fn. 27) Here were three common pasture grounds—Siddowne, Mandowne, and West Swindon Mead. (fn. 28) Siddowne and Mandowne probably remained open downland grazing until well into the 19th century. West Swindon Mead, however, seems to have contained a number of inclosed meadows, certainly by the end of the 17th century. (fn. 29) Meadows there called Foremead, (fn. 30) Two Lights, (fn. 31) and Six Lights (fn. 32) are mentioned at that time and throughout the 18th century. By the time of the tithe award in 1842 West Swindon Mead appears to have been divided into West, South, and Long Mead. (fn. 33) In addition to the common pasture a number of inclosed meadows had been made on this manor by the 17th century. A meadow called Tismead was described as a new inclosure in 1642. (fn. 34) By the end of the century there were certain closes of meadow known as West Swindon Closes, which from the tithe map seem to have been situated just south of the Bath road. (fn. 35) Closes named in the 18th century include Stone Close, Pounds Close, Kembles Close, Kingshill Close, Holloways Close, and Martin's Close. (fn. 36)
Leases of holdings consisting of parcels of land scattered about West Swindon Field continued to be made throughout the 18th century. (fn. 37) An early19th-century lease of 6 a. within the New Inclosure was accompanied by the stipulation that the scattered parcels should be inclosed with a double quickset mound. (fn. 38) But since most of the holdings on this manor were in the hands of two or three families only, it is likely that little but piecemeal inclosure took place. In 1822 a lease of Okus Farm by Ambrose Goddard for 7 years included, among other lands, 166 a. in West Swindon Field, 71 a. in in West Swindon Mead, the Closes, Siddowne, Mandowne, and Brenchcomb. (fn. 39) Thus a large part of West Swindon manor came to be farmed by the tenants of Okus Farm.
At the beginning of the 19th century the land of the parish was chiefly meadow and pasture. Of the crops grown in 1801 wheat covered 122 a.; barley 138 a.; oats 62 a.; potatoes 24½ a.; peas 25 a.; beans 43 a.; turnips and rape 57 a. The poor at this date were encouraged to cultivate all waste ground with potatoes, which were said to be abundant. (fn. 40) But it was for pasture that the land as a whole was best suited and in 1830 it was said that some of the best grazing land in the kingdom lay in this parish. (fn. 41) In 1842 it was reckoned that meadow and pasture covered 2,261 a. and arable 739 a. (fn. 42)
In 1842 there were 11 farms in the parish. These included Upper Eastcott Farm (160 a.), Lower Eastcott Farm (93 a.), and Court Knapps. (fn. 43) These three holdings may be said to have been working the land of the former manor of Nethercott, Eastcott, and Westcott. On the manorial lands of West and East Swindon, which came into the hands of the Goddards in the 16th century, (fn. 44) there were in 1842 Church Farm (144 a.), Lower Town Farm (83 a.), Marsh Farm (179 a.), and Okus Farm (339 a.) all of which were at that date being farmed by tenant farmers. (fn. 45) On the manor of Walcot, acquired by the Goddards towards the end of the 18th century, (fn. 46) there were Upper Walcot Farm (247 a.) and Lower Walcot Farm (128 a.), both likewise let to tenant farmers. (fn. 47) The farm of the manor of Broome was not acquired by the Goddards until 1840 when it comprised some 674 a., (fn. 48) and was thus the largest farm in the parish. The absorption of some of these farms for the extension of Swindon in the later 19th century has been dealt with above. (fn. 49) Until the mid 20th century the farms on the east side of the town continued to be worked. But in 1954 the two Walcot farms were acquired by the corporation for housing estates, and their purchase was followed the next year by that of all the other farms on this side of the town. (fn. 50) By 1965 the only farm-land remaining within the borough boundary was that belonging to the two farms at Broome, which were formed out of Broome Manor Farm.
Trade and Industry.
Until the establishment of the G.W.R. works in the mid 19th century Swindon was a small market town of no more consequence than many others in Wiltshire. The main local industry was quarrying. In all probability the Roman camp at Wanborough was built of Swindon stone, (fn. 51) and in 1301 roofing tiles of Swindon stone were being used at Sevenhampton. (fn. 52) The meadow lands to the north of the town and the downlands to the south carried the cattle and sheep which provided the raw material for local leather and wool trades. A skinner named John Oryot lived in Swindon in 1354. (fn. 53) In 1451 two Swindon woolmongers, John and Walter Morleys, were robbed of 2,500 woolfells at Salisbury. (fn. 54)
It was during the 17th century that, overcoming the geographical disadvantage of 'it being no thoroughfare', Swindon received its first obvious stimuli to economic growth, first, from the expansion of the weekly market which attracted local commerce, (fn. 55) and then from the discovery and working of a seam of fine Purbeck Limestone, from which arose a traffic with the London market. (fn. 56) Contemporary records reveal quite a wide range of trades and crafts, including those of clothier, shearman, tailor, mason, stonecutter, weaver, and silkweaver. (fn. 57) Further evidence of trading and commercial pursuits can be found in the instructions given in 1680 to the steward of the manor to guard against the washing of dyed wool and mats in the church well and skins in the mill-pond. (fn. 58) At the end of the century a rather more complete picture of the town's economy can be formed from the employments listed in 1697. There were then 14 masons, 4 weavers, 3 coopers, a glover, a feltmaker, a woolman, and a cheesefactor; also 4 smiths and 4 carpenters, together with 7 shoemakers, 6 tailors, 3 drapers, 2 bakers, 2 butchers, and 2 barbers. The town contained 40 labouring families as well. (fn. 59)
John Aubrey gives the year 1640 or thereabouts for the discovery of the Purbeck Limestone strata, on which the reputation of the Swindon quarries came to be based. (fn. 60) They lay only five feet under- ground and so were dug in shallow quarries. Aubrey suggests that the stone was transported via the Thames from Lechlade to London, where it was used for interior masonry. It was, he says, especially 'excellent for paving halls, staircases, etc.', being white, taking a little polish, and remaining dry even in wet weather. (fn. 61) By Aubrey's time it had been used in a number of the town houses of the aristocracy. The limestone quarries lay to the west of the town in the West Field, surrounded by the open-field arable plots. Earlier quarrying of building stone had been on another site, for the 'old quarre', referred to in 1641, lay 'at the townes end of East Swindon'. (fn. 62) The earliest recorded quarry in the West Field was the half-acre site of which Guy Hopkins purchased the lease in 1669; it lay east and west of the road which ran to Westlecott. (fn. 63) The quarries were worked as small enterprises. One of the more substantial of the 17th-century quarriers was Rise Brown, who had interests in Windmill Quarry, Flaxlands Quarry, Westcott Quarry, and the 'old quarre'. (fn. 64) Towards the end of the century a number of quarriers purchased the leases of quarry sites; £40 was paid for a ½ a. site in 1687, (fn. 65) £25 for an acre site in 1694, (fn. 66) and £22 for ½ a. in 1697. (fn. 67) In 1695, after paying £15 for ½ a. in the West Field, John Robinson had converted it into a quarry from which he had dug and sold a quantity of stone. (fn. 68) Two years after his death in 1697 his quarry was sold for £14 and in 1705 was disposed of for £9. (fn. 69)
It was part of the duty of the steward of the manor to superintend quarrying activities. In 1680 Thomas Goddard charged his newly-appointed steward to inquire into quarrying on or near the highway, to see that the manor court viewed quarries and presented those structures where quarries were 'hazardous', and to report new quarries. (fn. 70) The terms of quarry leases likewise aimed at controlling the extraction of stone. A lease of 1687 warned against undermining adjacent land and enjoined upon the quarrier to dig 'straight and down' to prevent encroachment. (fn. 71) At the end of the lease the quarry was to be filled in so as to restore it to tillage. In the 17th and 18th centuries frequent presentments were made in the manor court of quarriers who failed to fence off their quarries by the side of the highway to Westlecott. (fn. 72)
There is record of at least 9 families of quarriers in the later years of the 18th century: those of Farmer, Archer, Ewen, Hopkins, Humphries, Bury, Cox, Jones, and Simmons. (fn. 73) Prominent among them was the Hopkins family, who had been quarry owners at least since 1669. Guy Hopkins left to his wife in 1729 all his 'quarry houses, quarries, gardens, and freehold lands lying in Swindon field'. (fn. 74) Between 1739 and 1748 the family relinquished a number of quarry sites to the lord of the manor, an indication perhaps of either the end of the working of the Purbeck seams or a contraction in the family's business. (fn. 75) The family were still quarriers late in the century. Another family, that of Humphries, had taken possession of a ½ a. quarry site in 1707. (fn. 76) In 1744 William Humphries took an apprentice, (fn. 77) in 1745 acquired a ¾ a. quarry near the Westlecott road, (fn. 78) and in 1752 was presented in the manor court for not getting the stone ready to erect a blindhouse. (fn. 79)
How long the Purbeck seams continued to be worked is unknown, but in all probability the quarries in the West Field were by the end of the 18th century approaching exhaustion. In the 1790s quarries at the top of Kingshill were mentioned in the court book for the first time. (fn. 80) These were the quarries which provided so much of the undressed building stone for the 19th-century development of Swindon. About the beginning of the 19th century, when the whole of the space on the western brow of the hill towards Westlecott was excavated, quarrying was reckoned never to have been so busy. (fn. 81) A principal cause of this activity was the building of the Wilts. and Berks. Canal which used Swindon stone in the building of bridges, the erection of the canal office house at Swindon wharf, and the paving before buildings on neighbouring wharves. (fn. 82)
There is no proof that the building of the canal led to the export of Swindon stone on any large scale. The superintendent of the canal showed little interest in fostering such trade, for his own business interests were concentrated in the Monkton Farleigh quarries. (fn. 83) No record of the export of stone eastward from Swindon exists before 1852, and there was only one short period of extensive trade westward in 1840–1, when 5,500 tons of stone were transported from Swindon to Semington. (fn. 84) Between 1852 and 1860 only 440 tons of stone were recorded as shipped by canal, most of it way-stone for parishes along the canal. (fn. 85) In only five instances was paving stone exported, the largest consignment being 10 tons early in 1854. Much larger quantities of stone were, in fact, being imported into Swindon from the quarries of west Wiltshire. Between 1864 and 1878 imports of stone amounted to 29,425 tons. (fn. 86) The development of Swindon, in both the old town and the railway settlement, had outstripped the supply of stone from home sources.
In the early years of the century an estimated 300 to 400 hands were employed in the quarries, (fn. 87) and they formed a distinctive element in the town's population, 'standing about on Saturdays in scores' in their flannel jackets. (fn. 88) As the century drew to a close, however, the quarry industry contracted. There had been at least 3 stone merchants and quarry owners in 1851 (fn. 89) but in later decades quarrying leases were granted to outsiders, including an Oxford builder and a Manchester architect. (fn. 90) In 1899 Joseph Williams, a builder, was granted a lease to dig 62 perches on the Okus quarry site. (fn. 91) In the first decade of the 20th century 3 quarriers are known to have been working this last important Swindon site: they were Edwin Bradley, George Organ, and a Mr. Wiltshire. Between 1904 and 1922 Bradley entered upon a number of quarrying leases. (fn. 92) In 1913 he, along with Organ, entered into an agreement with Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard to fix the price of stone at 2s. 6d. a yard for building stone. (fn. 93) In 1933 the firm of Edwin H. Bradley purchased from the Goddard estate 2 a. of the Okus site, which became the headquarters of their building construction business. (fn. 94) Quarrying on the Okus site continued until the late 1950s. In 1965 the firm, specializing in the manufacture of compound building blocks, was employing 300 office staff and maintenance technicians at Swindon. (fn. 95)
In the 18th and early 19th centuries developments took place in Swindon, characteristic of those to be expected in a country market town. By 1719 an attorney had become established there who took apprentices. (fn. 96) There were two attorneys in 1784, when besides grocers, there were also the following crafts and professional men: 2 surgeon-apothecaries, a woolstapler, a brandy merchant, a saddler, a currier, 2 tallow-chandlers, 2 ironmongers, and an upholsterer. (fn. 97) The following 50 years saw some development of Swindon as a commercial centre. Three firms of attorneys were in practice in 1831, and there was a local bank, originally Strange, Garrett, Strange, and Cook, but by then known as Strange, Strange & Co., composed of a family of Swindon tradesmen. (fn. 98) In the earlier part of the century the Strange family had accumulated a large part of the town's trade, for not only were they bankers, but also grocers, cheesefactors, coal- and salt-merchants, undertakers, and drapers as well, and the owners of a ready-made clothes warehouse. (fn. 99) Between 1836 and 1839 the North Wilts. Bank opened a branch in Swindon, (fn. 100) and in 1842 Strange's was taken over by the City of Gloucester Banking Co. (fn. 101)
The remark of Richard Jefferies that the opening in 1810 of the Wilts. and Berks. Canal, which passed through the low-lying northern part of the parish, gave the 'first push' to the enormous development of Swindon in the 19th century, seems to overemphasize its contribution to the industrialization of the town. (fn. 102) The canal, however, certainly helped to increase the volume of its trade, especially before and during the early years of the railway. Its most notable contribution lay in making Somerset coal available to the Swindon area, a factor which Brunel did not ignore when choosing Swindon as the site for a G.W.R. engine depot. But this trade dropped off sharply as the century progressed: in the period 1838–47 34,815 tons of coal were imported, but in the following two decades fell away to 25,184 and then to 14,659 tons. (fn. 103) Between 1868 and 1877 no more than 6,750 tons were imported. Tonnages of other imports carried by canal fell from 7,984 to 2,347 tons. (fn. 104) Export tonnages, never very great, similarly slumped. The canal had never been profitable, and the G.W.R. in time robbed it of the trade it had managed to establish, although figures tend to confirm the assertion that the advent of the railway and the erection of the railway works for a time stimulated canal trade. (fn. 105) In the later 19th century the Wilts. and Berks. Canal had a sorry history of decay, financial loss, and changed ownership. By 1906 all traffic had ceased and in 1914 the canal was closed. (fn. 106)
The establishment by the G.W.R. in 1841 of its engine depot and repair shops in the northern part of the parish, beyond the canal, naturally altered the whole course of Swindon's history. (fn. 107) The colossus of heavy engineering which came into being grew into one of the largest engineering units in the country, dominating the economic life of Swindon. This, of course, was not apparent at the outset, for the works and the adjacent railway settlement lay quite separate from the old town, with pasture land between and no connecting road. The two communities appear to have had little to do with one another in the early years, apart from the trade brought to the shops and beerhouses of the old town by the railway workers. (fn. 108) The newcomers were, indeed, strangers to the inhabitants of the old town, drawn from other parts of the country for their engineering crafts and skill. In 1851 more than 55 per cent of New Swindon's 2,371 inhabitants came from outside Wiltshire, having origins in the main in the counties of the West and South-West, in London, and some eastern counties, and in the North. (fn. 109) Later there came influxes of considerable size from the Midlands, and from Wales. But despite the acute shortage of accommodation in the railway settlement in the early years, railway workers apparently intermingled little with the inhabitants of Old Swindon, for no more than a handful of them had taken up residence there some eight years after the opening of the works. (fn. 110) One of the first immigrants to have an influence beyond the railway settlement was David Morrison, who became the leader of Chartism in Swindon and the neighbouring villages. (fn. 111)
An account of the Swindon railway works has been given elsewhere in the Wiltshire History and will, therefore, only be dealt with briefly here. (fn. 112) The reasons for Brunel's choice of Swindon as the site for a main engine depot and repair sheds are well-known: the change in gradient westwards from Swindon, the junction with the Cheltenham line, and the supply of Somerset coal. (fn. 113) The engine and repair houses came into operation in 1843 with an establishment of 423, a sixth of whom were skilled artisans. (fn. 114) With the construction of locomotives beginning in 1846, the number of employees increased more than fourfold in the space of two years. (fn. 115) This industrial explosion was the first of a series greatly to expand the size of the Swindon works and gave rise to some social problems, the most obvious being the shortage of housing.
The building of New Swindon has been described above. (fn. 116) But building could not keep pace with the expansion of the works. In 1845 Daniel (later Sir Daniel), Gooch, who as Locomotive Superintendent was in charge at Swindon until 1864, was urging the speedy completion of new cottages, since in some instances 10 or 12 people were living in 2 rooms, and when the night men got up the day men went to bed, and workers were leaving Swindon because they could not get a place of any kind to live. (fn. 117) The problem of accommodation continued for many years.
Almost from the outset additions were made to the railway shops, and for more than 60 years the works continued to expand while New Swindon grew up round them. By 1849 the original workshop space had been doubled. (fn. 118) Thereafter the erecting of new shops was almost continuous to accommodate the growing agglomeration of different kinds of railway engineering which came to be performed at Swindon during the 19th century. One main addition, built in 1861, was the rail-mill which at full capacity was reckoned capable of producing 19,300 tons of rails a year. (fn. 119) The most important addition, in terms of the increased volume of employment created, was the carriage works, transferred to Swindon in 1868. (fn. 120) By this date the inhabitants of Swindon were in little doubt about the economic advantages of having the railway works in their midst. Three years earlier a number of them, including some in the old town, had addressed a memorandum to the G.W.R. directors, expressing the view that, with the rest of the company's engineering works there, New Swindon was 'the fittest place' for the carriage works. As an added inducement they drew attention to the large population of artisans and labourers already there and the facilities of the railway town which could 'readily be extended to meet any increase'. (fn. 121) Early in the 20th century the carriage works alone were employing 5,000 workmen. (fn. 122)
Periods of industrial depression were experienced in the works. The first, and perhaps the most serious, occurred in 1849 when the number employed dropped from the 1,800 it had been the year before to 667. (fn. 123) There were also slumps between the late 1870s and mid 1880s when a lull in the demand for stock and a curb on expansion reduced wages. (fn. 124) The production of carriages was also halted for a time in the early 1890s. (fn. 125) But, on the whole, the Swindon works were not badly hit by the 'Great Depression'. Work created by the conversion from broad to narrow gauge and the introduction of new equipment to be manufactured accounted in part for this. (fn. 126) In 1875 the number employed was 4,000; by the end of the century it had risen to 11,500, and by 1905 it was over 14,000. (fn. 127)
For the first three decades of the 20th century this large labour force was engaged upon the production of locomotive engines, carriages, wagons, and fittings for rolling stock and permanent way in what by the beginning of the century had developed into one of the largest undertakings in British industry. (fn. 128) In 1924 14,369 people were employed and in 1939 the works covered more than 326 a. (fn. 129) But during the 1920s the peak in the number employed was reached and thereafter a decline began. The slump of 1930 affected the works considerably and some workers left Swindon. (fn. 130) In 1936 the number employed was 11,500 and this had dropped to 10,500 by 1939. (fn. 131) But much of this reduction was due not so much to the slump as to improved technical efficiency, and it is true to say that railway engineering in Swindon never experienced a truly severe or lasting depression. (fn. 132) Nationalization brought about some changes in the structure of the works and standardization of engines meant a reduction in some of the specialized work of the foundries and other shops. (fn. 133) In 1952 10,119 people were still employed (fn. 134) but the 1960s saw the long-expected contraction of the works so that by 1965 only 5,620 people were employed. (fn. 135)
Early in the 1950s the works had the capacity to build two or three new engines a week, and to repair over 1,000 annually. (fn. 136) In 1959, however, because of the conversion of the Western Region of British Railways to diesel motive power, the manufacture of steam locomotives ceased. The Swindon works had, therefore, during the early 1960s to change over from the 'world of steam', where the product, the steam locomotive, was almost entirely works-built, to the assembling and equipping of diesel locomotives, whose main parts had to be imported into the works. This entailed a reduction of productive capacity in certain sectors of the plant, and the re-equipping of the works for the building and maintaining of diesel engines. (fn. 137)
The scale and self-sufficiency of this heavy en- gineering plant was a great source of strength to the Swindon economy. Part of this strength lay in bringing together many varieties of engineering skill. By 1849 there were already employed in the works draughtsmen, engine-turners, fitters, coppersmiths, brass-finishers, grinders, gas-fitters, smiths, springmakers, and boiler-smiths. (fn. 138) A tradition of skill was created which passed from one generation of craftsmen to its successor. Despite criticisms levelled against so massive an undertaking, such as those mentioned in Alfred Williams's Life in a Railway Factory, the works continued to retain, at least to the outsider, the semblance of a 'complete industrial community'. (fn. 139) As such it possessed its own hierarchy, industrially significant within the works and socially significant within the town, its management and the town's leading figures were not infrequently drawn from the body of successful apprentices trained at the Mechanics' Institute.
For about a hundred years after the establishment of the railway works Swindon was practically a oneindustry town. The few other 19th-century industries were all small. When the amount of building which had to be done is considered, it is not surprising that apart from the G.W.R. and the quarry owners, the largest single employer of men in 1851 was a builder, George Major, with 30 men working for him. (fn. 140) Numerous small brick-works flourished too. One between Drove Road and Victoria Road, belonging to the family of Turner, was probably started in the 18th century and its products are to be seen in many of Swindon's streets. (fn. 141) Another source of employment was cabinet-making. Charles Collier employed 13 men about the middle of the century, and shipped some of his joinery by flyboat from Swindon wharf. (fn. 142) Cabinet-making was still of some significance in Swindon in the early 20th century. (fn. 143) The connexion between Old Swindon and the neighbouring farming community was maintained by the numerous small engineering concerns specializing in the manufacture of farm machinery. One of them in mid century was owned by George Kerr, an iron and brass founder, who employed 8 men. (fn. 144) His business was later acquired by Messrs. Suter and Edwards, much of whose raw materials and equipment were brought to Swindon by barge. (fn. 145) Another local engineer was William Frampton, who specialized in cheese vats. (fn. 146) The engineering firm begun by William Affleck in the 1850s had premises at the Prospect Works and by the end of the 19th century had expanded to employ a 'large staff of men', adapting its numbers to the 'changed character of the town from an agricultural to a busy commercial centre.' (fn. 147) Besides the above-named engineers, there were others whose businesses were catalogued in local directories between the early 1840s and the late 1860s. Six are so mentioned, with such descriptions as iron and brass founder, millwright, machine maker, agricultural implement agent, and winnowing machine maker. (fn. 148) There was also a 'working and consulting gas engineer', who supervised the gasworks, built about 1851. (fn. 149)
Some of the businesses and trades closely connected with the countryside persisted in Old Swindon: they included those of a bacon factor, corn and hop factors, and brewers. (fn. 150) There were, in addition, hat, boot, and shoe manufacturers in High Street. Old trades to continue were those of woolstapling and currying. The Shepherd family, who had been prosperous woolmen in the 17th century, still continued their business. (fn. 151) The Reynolds family, to whom are ascribed origins of similar date, continued as curriers. Robert Reynolds was employing 10 men in mid 19th century, and began a boot manufacturing business in Mill Lane which specialized in boots and leggings for the country trade. (fn. 152)
In the later 19th century a clothing industry was established in Swindon. The clothing factories served the local community as auxiliaries to the railway works, for they could employ the female labour which was otherwise unemployed in a town of heavy engineering. One of the first factories to open belonged to J. Compton and Co., who supplied the G.W.R. with uniforms under contract, and occupied premises in Sheppard Street. (fn. 153) This became the largest clothing factory in the town, the number of employees increasing from 300 to 1,000 by the end of the century. By 1860 there was also a factory in Fleet Street, where Charles Lea operated a 'steam machine clothing manufactory'. (fn. 154) Charles Wills and Sons, a Bristol firm, opened a factory at Swindon in 1886, (fn. 155) which employed 400 work people in the early 1900s, half of whom were 'out-door' workers. Another factory, opening in 1902 with 75 employees, belonged to the Cellular Clothing Company, who specialized in undergarments and ladies' clothing. (fn. 156)
The clothing factories helped in the 19th century towards the process of diversification, chiefly by providing some employment of women. This process continued in the 20th century with the opening of a tobacco factory of W. D. &. H. O. Wills in Colbourne Street in 1915, followed by the transference in 1919 of the Garrard Engineering and Manufacturing Co. Ltd. from Willesden to Newcastle Street, Swindon. (fn. 157) Both these factories depended on female labour, Garrard's employing 3,000 in 1960 and Wills' 650. Early in the Second World War the Plessey Company, makers of radio components, moved to a factory in Kembrey Street, and employed about 2,300 there in the early 1950s, again mostly women. (fn. 158) Also during the Second World War Vickers-Armstrong, aircraft manufacturers, took over an airfield at South Marston on the outskirts of Swindon, and in 1960 drew on a labour force from the Swindon area of about 3,000. (fn. 159) R. A. Lister Ltd., taking over the former Admiralty wartime engineering workshops at Wroughton for their subsidiary, Marine Mountings, likewise drew on Swindon for workers. (fn. 160)
Some of these firms came to Swindon to escape the war-time hazards of more congested areas. After the war the corporation adopted a determined policy of encouraging such firms to remain and of attracting new and diversified industries to the town in order to avoid complete dependence upon the railway works. (fn. 161) This policy, which needed for its fulfilment an increased population drawn from elsewhere, was put into effect by means of the Town Development Act, 1952, which led to the acceptance by Swindon of industry and population transferred from the Greater London area. (fn. 162) New industries were attracted to the Cheney Manor industrial estate acquired by the corporation and developed from 1955 onwards. There a variety of firms established themselves, including specialists in precision engineering, such as member companies of the Plessey Group, the Metal Box Co., and several smaller concerns. (fn. 163) In 1965 the estate also contained some branch factories of clothing firms, small engineering and proto-type casting firms, a G.P.O. engineering depot, and distribution stores and warehouses. In 1954 the Pressed Steel Co. established a factory just over the borough boundary, in Stratton St. Margaret, which in 1965 employed 6,595 people, (about 1,000 more than the railway works at the same date). (fn. 164) Also in 1954 the corporation acquired Parsonage Farm, in the same parish, for development as an industrial estate and about eight years later, in 1962, work began on another such estate at Greenbridge, also in Stratton St. Margaret. (fn. 165)
Domesday records the existence of two mills in Swindon in 1086. Both were valued at 4s. One was on the 12-hide estate of Odin the Chamberlain; (fn. 166) the other on the 5-hide estate of the Bishop of Bayeux. (fn. 167) The bishop's estate has been identified with the manor of Nethercott (alias Eastcott and Westcott); (fn. 168) that of Odin the Chamberlain probably formed part of the medieval manor of Swindon (alias Over and Nether, or West and East Swindon). (fn. 169) But it is impossible to connect the mills of Domesday certainly with any later mills in Swindon.
When Thomas Goddard acquired the manor of Over and Nether Swindon in 1563, two water-mills were included. (fn. 170) One of these was certainly the mill which stood south-west of the church of Holy Rood in 1773. (fn. 171) It was supplied with water from a spring called Church Well which flowed through a large pond north of the mill. The mill had an overshot wheel, reckoned by Morris to be over 30 ft. high. Morris also affirmed that the machinery of the mill could be operated by a primitive form of turbine. (fn. 172) The mill was demolished about the middle of the 19th century, according to Morris, on the termination of a lease to a Mr. Kemble. (fn. 173) Shortly before 1867 the mill-pond was filled up, (fn. 174) but its site, marked by a shallow depression to the south-west of the ruins of Holy Rood, could still be seen in 1964.
A mill and land in Eastcott and Nethercott were conveyed to William Goldhyne and Margery his wife by Robert de Colcote, of High Swindon, and Maud his wife in 1339. (fn. 175) A mill in West Swindon belonged to William Stichell at the time of his death in 1618. (fn. 176) William's heir, John, mortgaged the mill in 1631, along with other property, to Henry Cusse. (fn. 177) In 1659 William Stichell, probably John's son, with his wife Frances, Arthur Vilett, and William Lawrence of Broome sold the mill and 5 a. of land to Timothy Dewell, the incumbent of Lydiard Tregoze. (fn. 178) At the time the mill was occupied by Thomas People. (fn. 179) From a description of the property conveyed to Dewell it is clear that this was the mill on the River Ray, just south of the road to Wootton Bassett, which went by several names, but which, by the 19th century had become known as Ladd's Mill (see below). In 1691 the mill, then called Arthur's Mill, was leased with land in Eastcott by John Cullum, a London woollen-draper, to Stephen Lawrence of Broome. (fn. 180) The mill is marked as Hall's Mill on a map of 1773. (fn. 181) In 1780 it was owned and occupied by Roger Hall, but that year was called Westcott Mill. (fn. 182) It was owned and occupied by Richard Simmonds, quarrier of Swindon, in 1805 when it was sold as Ladd's Mill to the Wilts. and Berks. Canal Company under powers enabling the company to acquire mills on streams likely to be affected by the needs of the canal. (fn. 183) It was subsequently sold by the company and in 1851 was occupied by Henry Brooks, miller. (fn. 184) It was included in the sale of property belonging to J. H. Sheppard in 1870. (fn. 185) No trace of it remained in 1964.
There was a windmill on the manor of Swindon held by Aymer de Valence (d. 1324). (fn. 186) This was possibly the mill which stood on the site of the King's Arms Hotel in Wood Street, formerly called Windmill Street. (fn. 187) It was pulled down some time before 1867, although in 1967 some traces were thought to remain in the stables behind the hotel. (fn. 188) The furlong in Swindon West Field called Windmill Furlong in the 17th and 18th centuries probably took its name from this mill. (fn. 189)
In 1849 Isaac Holdway, who had leased part of Okus Farm from Ambrose Goddard the previous year, built a corn windmill there. (fn. 190) The mill still functioned in 1851, but shortly before 1854 was destroyed by fire. (fn. 191) A map of 1887 marks a corn-mill at Swindon Wharf on the north side of the Wilts. and Berks. Canal, (fn. 192) but this seems to have been worked for a short time only, and is not marked on maps of the 20th century. A flour-mill, known as Swindon Town Mill, was built for Ernest Clement Skurray in 1893. The mill ceased to operate as such in 1924 and was that year sold for a garage. (fn. 193)
Markets and Fairs.
There was a market in Swindon in 1274 which, it was alleged, had been held for 15 years without warrant, and damaged that at Marlborough to the extent of 40s. a year. (fn. 194) Nevertheless, it clearly continued, for in 1289 the town was referred to as 'Chepyng Swyndon', (fn. 195) and in 1336 as Market Swindon. (fn. 196) A market was regularly mentioned as appurtenant to the manor, (fn. 197) so that the grant of a weekly market on Mondays to Thomas Goddard in 1626 (fn. 198) must really have been a confirmation. Before the Civil War the market was a 'petty, inconsiderable one', but Aubrey said that it gained much in importance because the plague and the presence of a parliamentary garrison discouraged the graziers from going to Highworth. In 1670 Swindon continued 'a gallant market for cattle'. (fn. 199) In the early 19th century Swindon market was clearly still of some importance for cattle, although it was then held only monthly. Morris has vividly described the 'candle and lantern' market, held in the early hours of Monday morning, and over by breakfast time. The cattle were formed into two rows along High Street, occasionally reaching into Wood and Cricklade Streets, and inspected and sold by lantern light. Later in the century, however, the cattle market was not held so early in the day, so that the rows of cattle became a nuisance to the tradesmen of the town. (fn. 200) In 1848 it was said that it was tolerated only because the inhabitants feared losing the town's great reputation as a cattle market. (fn. 201) It is clear, however, that inconvenience to buyers and sellers caused a serious decline in the business, which was only halted by the enterprise of William Dore. About 1860 he began holding sales in a private yard near the Queen's Hotel at the station, generally on days other than market days and so evaded payment of toll. This did not pay, and about 1865 Dore built another yard just below Christ Church, where he held sales on market days. (fn. 202) In 1870 he moved to another yard in Lower Town where fortnightly sales were begun. (fn. 203) In 1873 Dore acquired a larger yard in Marlborough Road and by 1875 his sales were held weekly, and had almost entirely superseded the old market still held in High Street. (fn. 204) The pig market, held in the Square, had also become a nuisance, (fn. 205) and by the later 1870s Dore was selling all kinds of stock in large numbers. Thus in 1879 2,600 cattle, 6,590 sheep, and 993 pigs were sold in his yard. (fn. 206) A public market-yard adjoining Dore's yard on the south was provided in 1887 by A. L. Goddard in an attempt to revive the old Swindon market. (fn. 207) In 1889 Goddard leased this market to the Swindon Central Market Company which thenceforth sub-let the market rights to various firms of auctioneers. (fn. 208) In 1930 the company purchased the market from the Goddard estate. (fn. 209)
After the death of William Dore in 1877 his firm of auctioneers and its successors continued to hold cattle sales fortnightly in the yard acquired by Dore. In 1949 this yard was bought by the Swindon Central Market Company and was amalgamated with the company's cattle market next door. (fn. 210) The combined cattle market and sale-yard were thenceforth managed by a firm of auctioneers called the Amalgamated Livestock Auctioneers. (fn. 211) During the Second World War the Swindon cattle market had a considerable trade and was the clearing centre for wide agricultural area. By the 1960s, however, trade was declining, although in 1965 the market was still held every week. (fn. 212)
In the early 19th century corn was sold in Swindon market by a small sample only, giving rise to a 'gin and water' market in which business was carried on over that drink in public houses. About 1840 Ambrose Goddard offered to give up tolls on corn for a number of years to persuade farmers and dealers to establish a 'pitched' market, in which the sample consisted of a whole sack out of the load. To provide for this two rows of movable posts and rails were made and put up in the Square each Monday, against which farmers placed their sacks if weather allowed. In 1852 the Swindon Market Company was formed to improve accommodation. It built a market-house facing the Square on the south side, to the design of Sampson Sage. This is a building of stone ashlar having an impressive five-bay front with classical pilasters and a central pediment. It was not, however, used for its original purpose and the arcaded lower story, evidently designed as a produce market, soon had its arcades filled in and was let to a firm of wine merchants. It had always been intended that the large upper room should be used for public purposes, thus giving rise to the building's name of the Town Hall. Only one small room was used to store the posts and rails and as a sack office, and the corn market remained in the same state as before. (fn. 213)
To remedy this the Swindon Central Market Company was founded in 1863 and built the present corn exchange, designed by Wilson and Wilcox of Bath, in 1866. A tower of four stages, built in 1864, forms a link between the corn exchange and the adjoining Town Hall; it is designed in an Italian Renaissance style, having an open top stage with Venetian windows, and is of Swindon stone with Bath stone dressings. Corn markets were held in the corn exchange until early in the present century; in the 1880s the trade was very large, (fn. 214) but by 1904 it had much declined, largely because of the decrease of corn growing in the district. (fn. 215) By 1910 the building had been converted to a skating rink (fn. 216) and was subsequently used as a cinema. In 1964 it was used as a dance and bingo hall.
Produce and butcher's meat were presumably always sold in the market. The cross which was mentioned as in need of seats in 1662 (fn. 217) was probably for the accommodation for those that brought these goods. Late in the 17th century Thomas Goddard accepted the church-house of Swindon, previously used to house a few poor people, for conversion into a market-house. (fn. 218) It is not clear whether this was the small market-house in the centre of the Square which was pulled down in 1793. (fn. 219) About 1800 the meat market was apparently very small, only attended by one butcher who was the sole source of fresh meat in the town. (fn. 220) In 1848 poultry and butter were sold weekly and cheese monthly. (fn. 221) In New Swindon facilities for the sale of country produce were first provided in a covered market attached to the Mechanics' Institute. (fn. 222) In 1892 this was replaced by a new market off Commercial Road, provided by the local board. (fn. 223) The triangular building provided 17 shops, while the centre was an open space for country dealers. This was roofed over in 1903 (fn. 224) and in 1906 was acquired by the corporation. (fn. 225) In 1965 it was used mainly for the sale of fruit and vegetables, and small items of hardware. Fridays and Saturdays were the principal market days. (fn. 226)
The market charter of 1626 also granted two fairs on the second Mondays in May and December. (fn. 227) There can be little doubt that, like the market, the right to hold these fairs was merely being confirmed. In 1775 four fairs were being held, on the Monday before 5 April, the second Monday after 11 May, the second Monday after 11 September, and the second Monday in December. All were said to be for cattle, pigs, and sheep, and the last for fat cattle as well. (fn. 228) These dates were regularly mentioned with minor variation from then on. (fn. 229) In the earlier 19th century the first fair was famous 'the country over' for the sale of in-calf heifers, and the second supplied them to those who had mistakenly bought barreners. The last was of great repute for fat cattle, while the March and September ones were hiring fairs which were well-attended. Large numbers of horses were sold at the fairs; they were lined up in what is now called Devizes Road, and gave it its former name of Horse Fair. The sales of cattle and horses dwindled later in the century before the competition of the large-scale auctions held regularly in the town. Horses in particular were sold at the White Horse Repository of Deacon and Liddiard, founded in 1871. In the 1880s some 1,300 horses a year changed hands there. (fn. 230) The September hiring fair was still held as late as 1913, when, although it was 'an apology for the old-time function', a considerable amount of business was done. (fn. 231) As the 20th century progressed the fairs became more and more insignificant. By 1965 when the corporation acquired the right to hold them, they had become merged and amounted to no more than a few roundabouts in High Street. (fn. 232)