A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 9. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.
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Until 1845 Swindon had only one parish church, namely, the church of Holy Rood, lying in the middle of what was to be called the old town. By 1845 another church was needed for the new G.W.R. housing estate situated over a mile from the parish church. That year, therefore, St. Mark's church was built and in the next the district chapelry of Swindon New Town was created out of the ancient parish of Swindon. The chapelry covered the northern part of Swindon, which in 1846 was but little built over. Even before the arrival of the railway the ancient parish church was proving to be too small for the town's population and furthermore was structurally unsound. In 1851, therefore, Christ Church, Cricklade Street, was built and the church of Holy Rood was closed and dismantled.
In 1881, when the population of St. Mark's parish was 7,628, having risen by more than 5,000 over the last 30 years, a second parish for the new town was formed out of parts of the parishes of Christ Church and St. Mark. This was the parish of St. Paul, New Swindon. Two years later the first of St. Mark's daughter churches, St. John's, was built to serve the then newly built-up Queenstown area of the parish. Two more daughter churches were needed for St. Mark's before the population began to shift away from the centre of the town to live in the suburbs on the north and east. These were St. Saviour's in the south-east, built in 1889, and St. Luke's in the east, built in 1901.
The expansion of the town north of the railway line in the 1870s created a need for churches in the Gorse Hill and Rodbourne districts. In both areas work was first conducted from mission churches, but in 1890 the parish of St. Barnabas, Gorse Hill, was created, and in 1908 that of St. Augustine, Rodbourne. In 1908 church work was also begun from a temporary building in the Southbrook district, then beginning to be developed as a suburb, but it was not until 1929 that the parish of All Saints, Southbrook, was formed.
Following the common course of urban history, the need for churches in the centre of the town subsequently declined while on the outskirts it rose. The first mission church for the parish church of Christ Church was opened on the west side of the old town in 1926. The large-scale expansion of Swindon in the Walcot area after the Second World War led to the building of Christ Church's second daughter church, St. Andrew's, which was opened in 1957 to serve the new Walcot estates. To meet the requirements of the other new estates to the north and east of the town two new parishes were formed, namely St. Peter, Penhill, in 1956, and St. John the Baptist, Park, in 1962.
In the centre of the town the church of St. John, the first of St. Mark's daughter churches, was closed in 1956. In 1965 the parishes of St. Mark and St. Paul were amalgamated and the church of St. Paul was demolished. The site of St. Paul's was then sold for commercial development except for a plot which was reserved for the building of a small chapel of ease. The clergy and funds belonging to the former parish of St. Paul were transferred to provide for the conventional district of Covingham formed in 1965 to serve the latest of Swindon's new estates.
After an account of the ancient parish church, shorter accounts follow of the churches mentioned above.
The church of Swindon is first mentioned towards the end of the 12th century when it was given to the Augustinian priory of Southwick (Hants) by Robert Pont de l'Arche. (fn. 1) This church most probably stood upon the site of the parish church, later dedicated to Holy Rood, in which there are thought to have been traces of Norman work. (fn. 2)
In spite of this grant it is possible that the priory subsequently lost the church since licence to appropriate it was not granted until 1325. (fn. 3) Even then appropriation did not apparently follow immediately and licence was again granted in 1357. (fn. 4) A vicarage was not ordained until 1378. (fn. 5)
With the grant of the church to Southwick the advowson passed to the prior of that house. In 1203 and 1204, however, William Pont de l'Arche claimed it by assize of darrein presentment. (fn. 6) Pont de l'Arche sued again in 1228 and although the outcome is not known the dispute may well have been settled then. (fn. 7) The prior presented in 1302 and normally thereafter until the Dissolution. (fn. 8) In 1381 because the office of prior was vacant the king presented. (fn. 9) Nine years after the dissolution of Southwick the king granted the advowson to Thomas, Lord Seymour of Sudeley, but Seymour did not exercise the patronage before his attainder and execution two years later in 1549. (fn. 10) In 1560 when the rectory of Swindon was granted to Thomas Stephens of Inglesham, (fn. 11) the advowson was included in the grant and Stephens presented that year and in 1575, 1579, 1580, 1581, and 1584. (fn. 12) The advowson was, however, never again conveyed with the rectory, in spite of the fact that in many of the conveyances it was said to be included. (fn. 13) In 1623 Thomas White of Thornhill (in Clyffe Pypard) presented William Gallimore to the living, but there was evidently some doubt about the validity of this, for Gallimore later resigned and was presented again by the king. (fn. 14) From then on the patronage belonged to the Crown and in 1965 was exercised by the Lord Chancellor. (fn. 15)
Just before Southwick was dissolved the prior leased the rectory for 41 years to Thomas Stephens of Burderop (in Chiseldon). (fn. 16) By 1560 Thomas was dead and that year his son, also called Thomas, of Inglesham, received a grant of the rectory, including the advowson, from the Crown. (fn. 17) Thomas Stephens the younger died in 1596, and left his possessions, including the rectory of Swindon, to his son John for six years with remainder to another son, Nicholas. (fn. 18) In 1602 John Stephens, with Bridget his wife, and Nicholas Stephens conveyed the rectory to two persons, apparently in trust for Nicholas Vilett, (fn. 19) who in the same year acquired it, (fn. 20) although a year later the vicar, Miles Kendal, disputed the right of Nicholas's wife to a seat in the chancel, even going so far as to assault her as she sat there. (fn. 21) From this date, however, the rectory remained with the Vilett family. When the new parish church was built in 1851 the vestry assumed responsibility for the fabric of the old church and the Rollestons, descendants of the Viletts, transferred their liability as rectors for the maintenance of the chancel to the new church. (fn. 22) About the middle of the 20th century the Rollestons compounded for their liability entirely. (fn. 23)
In 1291 the church was valued for taxation at £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 24) In 1341, before a vicarage had been ordained, land, tithes, oblations, and mortuaries were worth £9. (fn. 25) The rectory was valued at £10 13s. 4d. in 1538 (fn. 26) and was leased for that sum, (fn. 27) although it was reckoned to be worth £40 more. (fn. 28)
In 1341 2 virgates of land belonged to the church. (fn. 29) Some of this was allotted to the vicar when a vicarage was ordained. (fn. 30) But 16 a. of arable and an acre of pasture were included in the grant of the rectory to Thomas Stephens in 1538. (fn. 31) The land presumably passed with the rectory to Nicholas Vilett in 1602 and was probably sold by his successor, Thomas Vilett, to Thomas Goddard in 1633. (fn. 32) The chief value of the rectory, therefore, lay in the great tithes and throughout the 17th and 18th centuries these were the subject of numerous leases and conveyances between the Viletts, Goddards, Martins, Webbs, and other Swindon landowners. (fn. 33) The rectors claimed all the great tithes except those from one yardland which had been assigned to the vicar. (fn. 34) In 1608 Henry Martin was withholding all tithes from his farm at Eastcott, claiming a right to do so granted by the Crown. (fn. 35) How far he was successful in his claim is unknown, but when Eastcott was inclosed in 1657 Thomas and John Vilett were allotted 46 a. at the south end of Eastcott Marsh in lieu of tithes due to them in Eastcott, Nethercott, and Westcott. (fn. 36) In 1842 annual rent-charges in lieu of tithes were awarded to some 16 landowners. (fn. 37) The rest of the great tithes had already been compounded for at this date. (fn. 38)
The rectory house stood on the east side of the Square. It was occupied by the Viletts as lay rectors and by William Vilett Rolleston who succeeded his uncle William Vilett. But W. V. Rolleston left Swindon at the beginning of the 20th century (fn. 39) and in 1964 the house was derelict.
The ordination of the vicarage in 1378 allotted a generous share of the profits of the church to the vicar. (fn. 40) In 1535 the vicarage was worth £15 7s. 2d., about £5 more than the rectory. (fn. 41) In 1835 the average net income of the benefice over the past three years was £302. (fn. 42)
By the terms of the ordination, the vicar was entitled to the great tithes from one yardland belonging to the rectory as well as to all the lesser tithes of the parish. (fn. 43) An annual composition of £5 for the lesser tithes due from Broome Farm was made about the beginning of the 17th century, (fn. 44) and in 1650 Thomas Goddard compounded with an annual payment of £20 for the tithes from his manor of Lower Swindon. (fn. 45) Besides these two payments the vicar in 1671 was entitled to tithes in kind from the tithing of Walcot, West Swindon Closes, Okus Farm, and most of Eastcott. He also had the tithe of sheep, wool, and lambs from West Swindon Fields, 25s. for 18 beast leazes on Mandown, and about £3 for 88 beast leazes on Siddown. (fn. 46) In 1704 the tithes due to the vicar were valued at £56 12s. 7d. (fn. 47) In 1842 366 a. were found by the tithe commissioners to be free by prescription from the payment of vicarial tithe. All other vicarial tithes were commuted for £269. (fn. 48)
In 1378 the vicar was granted, besides a curtilage and garden, some meadow, pasture, and arable land. (fn. 49) In the 17th and 18th centuries the vicar's glebe amounted to some 20 a. (fn. 50) and was about the same size in 1887. (fn. 51) The vicar was also granted in 1378 as his dwelling certain houses 'in the rectory'. (fn. 52) This apparently meant within the grounds of the rectory house. In 1671 the vicarage was described as a substantial house in the Planks, built chiefly of stone. (fn. 53) It was enlarged by the Revd. Edmund Goodenough in c. 1790 who also enclosed part of the garden with a wall. (fn. 54) In 1848, at the time when the new church was being designed, the house was considered unsuitable as a residence for the vicar and was offered for sale. (fn. 55) In 1965 the former vicarage house still stood immediately south of the rectory garden near the junction of the Square and the Planks. The oldest part is an L-shaped stone house probably dating from the 17th century. Late-18thcentury work includes internal alterations, a garden door with an open pediment and fanlight, and a tall brick wing to the south. The building was further extended for industrial purposes in the 20th century and in 1965 was used as storerooms and offices.
The church was charged with certain pensions and payments. An annual rent of £5 to Southwick Priory was ordained in 1198–9 soon after the church was granted to the canons. (fn. 56) This was still paid in 1291 and 1341 (fn. 57) but is not heard of thereafter. By 1291 a pension of 13s. 4d. was being paid to Wallingford Priory (Berks.). (fn. 58) It is mentioned again in 1341 (fn. 59) and may be represented by the payment of 8s. in lieu of tithes which was due to the priory from the Vicar of Swindon in 1538. (fn. 60) Annual pensions of 13s. 4d. to the Bishop of Salisbury and 6s. 8d. each to the Archdeacon of Wiltshire and Salisbury Cathedral Chapter were ordained when the church was appropriated in 1357. (fn. 61) The 6s. 8d. was still being paid to the chapter in 1535. (fn. 62) At this date there is mention of yet another payment from the church, namely £2 annually to Malmesbury Abbey. (fn. 63) This presumably originated in the payment of 2 lb. of wax which it was agreed in the 13th century should be paid annually to Malmesbury for tithes from land in Swindon. (fn. 64) In 1532 a portion of 16s. from the church was granted by the king to St. George's Chapel, Windsor, but no more is known of this payment. (fn. 65)
In 1547 a small rent from land on Eastcott Down was assigned for the maintenance of the rood light in the church. (fn. 66) The land was probably the half acre called 'le Rode' which was conveyed in 1565–6 to William Gryce. Included in the grant were two houses in Swindon called Trinity Houses which had likewise at some time been given for the maintenance of a light in the church. (fn. 67) At unknown dates several pieces of land were given for the repair of the church. These lay scattered throughout the parish and in Stratton St. Margaret. There were also a number of houses in the town which had been given for the same purpose. In 1748 some of the land was sold to pay, it was thought, for the rebuilding of part of the church. (fn. 68) Rent from church property amounted to £17 12s. in 1783 and an investment of £100 produced £4 10s. in interest. (fn. 69) All the land was sold and the proceeds invested between 1841 and 1884, but in 1888 four houses, nos. 31–34, Cricklade Street, were bought. The rents of the houses, and the profits of £3,297 stock were used for the repair of the church and to supplement the salaries of the parish clerk and caretaker. (fn. 70) In 1953 nos. 33 and 34 Cricklade Street were sold and £332 invested. The other two houses were still held by the repair fund, then known as the Church and Poor Lands Charity. (fn. 71)
Few of the vicars of Swindon achieved renown beyond the parish. Narcissus Marsh (d. 1713), mathematician and divine, who became Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and eventually Archbishop of Armagh, was a Wiltshireman by birth and held the living for a year (1662–3). (fn. 72) Some incumbents are known to have been non-resident and may have played but a small part in church life. Richard Hagheman, presented in 1302, was immediately given leave to study at Oxford for 7 years. (fn. 73) Thomas Smith (1758–90) had dispensation to hold the rectory of Codford St. Mary with the vicarage of Swindon, (fn. 74) and, for a time at least, while Vicar of Swindon he served the chapelry of South Marston, about 3 miles distant. He resided in Swindon, however, and employed a curate to assist him, who also lived in Swindon. (fn. 75) Matthew Surtees (1809–23) did not reside, and throughout his incumbency a curate lived in the vicarage house. (fn. 76)
One of the vicars to make the most impact upon the parish was H. G. Baily (1847–85). He came to Swindon just as the new town was being established, and worked vigorously for the parish of the old town in its greatly altered circumstances. He was a member of the first Swindon School Board and opposed its undenominational policy: during his incumbency new church schools were built in King William Street and the old parish church replaced. Baily farmed the glebe himself. He resigned from Swindon in 1885 to become Rector of Lydiard Tregoze. An obituary notice described him as a vigorous and popular preacher of uncompromisingly evangelical views. (fn. 77)
In 1672 there were 572 communicants in the parish. (fn. 78) In 1783 there was a service with prayers and a sermon on Sunday mornings and prayers in the afternoons. Communion was celebrated 7 times a year and it was reckoned that there were generally 40 to 50 communicants at the Easter celebration. (fn. 79) Church attendance was not considered by the vicar to be very good in spite of the fact that there was little dissent in the town at the time. (fn. 80)
The need for a church for the new town was met in 1845 when St. Mark's was dedicated. (fn. 81) But a bigger and more substantial church was clearly needed in the old town too. Thus in 1850 work was begun on the large and imposing church of Christ Church at the top of Cricklade Street, on land given by Ambrose Goddard. (fn. 82)
On 30 March 1851 380 people attended morning service and 440 were present in the afternoon. (fn. 83) From the outset the strongly evangelical traditions of the old church were observed in the new one. There was no surpliced choir, altar lights were never used, and the preacher preached in a black gown. (fn. 84) An attempt to introduce altar lights and surplices by the vicar, H. Armstrong Hall, in 1885 met with such determined opposition that the experiment had to be abandoned and Hall retired soon afterwards. (fn. 85)
In 1913 congregations were sometimes so large on Sundays that the church hall in Devizes Road, built in 1912, had to be used as extra accommodation. (fn. 86) In 1926 it was believed that another church was needed within the parish, and St. Mary's, Commonweal Road, was built as a mission church. (fn. 87) Only a temporary structure was erected and this has not been replaced by any more permanent building, possibly because the need for it has been entirely justified. After the Second World War the Walcot area of the parish began to be built over with new housing estates. In 1956 two representatives were co-opted to represent Walcot on the Christ Church church council and two years later the new church of St. Andrew, in Raleigh Avenue, Walcot, was opened as a daughter church of Christ Church. (fn. 88)
The church of HOLY ROOD stood immediately to the south of the Lawn. It was apparently a humble structure by any standards. Morris, who knew it well, described it as the most insignificant ecclesiastical building in the whole neighbourhood and it was, moreover, 'hopelessly out of condition.' (fn. 89) At the time of its abandonment it consisted of a nave with clerestory and steep pitched roof, side aisles, chancel with a north aisle and vestry, north and south porches, and a somewhat stunted west tower rising in two stages and surmounted by a small bell-cote. (fn. 90) The nave was separated from its north aisle by an arcade of two bays with double-chamfered arches of the later 13th century. The arches sprang from a short round pier adorned with either dogtooth or 'nailhead' decoration. The pointed chancel arch sprang from corbels carved with a male and a female head. The 14th-century nave arcades of four pointed arches were supported on octagonal piers without capitals. (fn. 91) The exterior, apart from the chancel, appears to have been of 15th-century date.
The church was partly rebuilt in 1748 when a brick tower was added. (fn. 92) According to Morris this tower was supported within at the four corners by the trunks of four yew trees growing in square formation. It was presumably at this time that the chancel with its round-headed windows was rebuilt and the roofs of nave and chancel ceiled. A vestry was added in 1820 and a gallery in 1823. By 1845 there were galleries over the north and south aisles and at the west end. The west gallery contained an organ. About 1800 box pews flanked a central aisle, which was paved with large flags, a two-decker pulpit stood at the junction of nave and chancel, and hatchments of arms hung on either side of the east window. (fn. 93)
The faculty of 1852 providing for the closing of the church stipulated that it should be taken down with the exception of the chancel which was to be maintained by the parish. In fact it appears that the nave was allowed to fall into ruin and little was done to preserve the chancel before 1949 when the corporation assumed responsibility for it. (fn. 94) In 1964 the chancel was roofed and had been made weather- proof by blocking in the chancel arch. The bays separating the chancel from its aisle were also then blocked. Of the nave only a fragment of the 14thcentury arcades of octagonal piers survived.
It is thought that the gazebo in the grounds of the Lawn was built with stones from the church tower as nearly as possible to the same dimensions. (fn. 95)
The large stone church of CHRIST CHURCH was designed by George Gilbert (later Sir Gilbert) Scott in the style of the late 13th century. (fn. 96) It was dedicated in 1851. It comprises chancel, clerestoried nave of three bays with aisles, transepts, and a western tower with broach spire. Tower and spire, which are a land mark for many miles around, are said to be copied from the church of Buckworth (Hunts.). (fn. 97) The chancel was refurbished in 1883 and an oak screen added to the west porch in 1888. (fn. 98) The south porch was added in 1916 in memory of Henry and Harriet Kinneir. In 1935 a side chapel, designed by Sir Harold Brakspear, was added on the south-east and by 1964 was known as the Lady Chapel.
The elaborate reredos, font, and pulpit, all of alabaster and marble, were presented at different dates by members of the Goddard family: the reredos in 1891 by Pleydell and Jessie Goddard in memory of their brother, Ambrose Ayshford Goddard; the font in 1905 by Edward Hesketh Goddard in memory of his wife, and the pulpit in 1906 by Pleydell Goddard and his sister, Jessie, in memory of their parents. A window in the north transept, designed by Martin Travers, commemorates F. P. Goddard (d. 1927), the last lord of the manor to live in Swindon. In it is a view of Liddington seen through the flowers in the garden of the Lawn.
Five bells of 1741 by Abraham Rudhall were brought from the old parish church in 1851 and a 6th was added that year. (fn. 99) Two trebles were added in 1883. In 1924 all the bells were re-cast and a 9th and 10th were added, making the second ring of 10 bells in Wiltshire.
In 1553 a chalice of 12½ oz. and plate of 57 oz. were taken from the old church for the king's use. (fn. 100) With the exception of a massive tankard-shaped flagon, hall-marked 1738 and presented to the old parish church in memory of John Neate (vicar 1703–19), all the plate in Christ Church is of 19thcentury date. It includes a pair of bell-shaped chalices with patens, hall-marked 1851, a credence and paten given by James Edward Goddard Bradford and his wife, Charlotte, in 1886, and three brass almsdishes inscribed 1885. The registers date from 1640 and are complete.
In 1842 G. H. Gibbs, a director of the G.W.R. Company, died, leaving £500 towards building a church and a school for the company's new housing estate in Swindon. (fn. 101) The company whole-heartedly supported the project, although unable to finance it, and issued an appeal for subscriptions. By 1843 a substantial part of the money needed had been raised and a site for the church presented by the Vilett family. (fn. 102) ST. MARK'S was consecrated in 1845 and early in 1846 the district chapelry of Swindon New Town was formed. (fn. 103) The patronage of the living, which has always been a vicarage, was given to the Bishop of Bristol. (fn. 104) For the first few years the G.W.R. Company paid the vicar's stipend, but the need for this ceased when a succession of grants from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners endowed the benefice. (fn. 105)
Attempts to introduce ritualistic forms of worship seem to have made the church unpopular in its early days (see below). But by the beginning of the 1880s this unpopularity had largely disappeared, and with a rise in the population of the parish it was said to be impossible to provide enough accommodation in the church for all those wishing to attend the Sunday evening services. (fn. 106) Additional seating had to be provided in the parochial hall, where full evensong with a sermon was held. (fn. 107) The pressure upon St. Mark's was relieved in 1881 when part of the parish was transferred to the newly created parish of St. Paul, New Swindon. (fn. 108) In 1883 a daughter church, St. John's, was opened to serve the by then populous Queenstown district. (fn. 109) But at about this time St. Mark's temporarily assumed responsibility for the spiritual needs of residents in the Rodbourne district, which in point of fact lay outside the parish boundary (see below). (fn. 110) In 1890 a second daughter church, St. Saviour's, was opened in the south-west of the parish. (fn. 111)
To deal with the continually increasing parochial work the first assistant priests were appointed in 1880. (fn. 112) A few years later there were five assistants and from then until about the middle of the 20th century five or six was the usual number. Since the Second World War there have generally been only two. (fn. 113) To help with parochial work two sisters from the Community of St. Mary the Virgin, Wantage (Berks.) were sent to Swindon in 1891. (fn. 114) In 1896 a house was built for them in Milton Road, and after that date a few sisters from Wantage worked in St. Mark's parish. They were most active about the beginning of the 20th century when they ran a day school in Maxwell Street and organized various clubs in the parish. In 1965 there was a greatly reduced demand for their services.
The last of St. Mark's daughter churches, St. Luke's, was opened in 1903 in the east of the parish. (fn. 115) With this the final need for mission churches within the parish boundary had been met. The parish was by then almost completely built over and had a population of c. 20,000. (fn. 116) It was still chiefly residential, but as the 20th century progressed residents began leaving for the new housing estates on the outskirts of the town and much of the centre of the parish around St. Mark's was taken over by commercial and industrial concerns. (fn. 117) These developments and the consequent decline in resident population were even more marked in the neighbouring parish of St. Paul and in 1965 St. Mark's and St. Paul's were united to form the single parish of Swindon New Town. (fn. 118)
St. Mark's was consecrated when the Oxford Movement was at its height, (fn. 119) but attempts to introduce Tractarian teaching and practices were at first much resented by the congregation. Of the first vicar, Daniel Gooch wrote 'he seems to do one thing after another to bring himself and the church into discord with the men'. (fn. 120) The next incumbent was equally unsuccessful and himself reported in 1851 that the congregation had fallen off very much since his appointment, owing to a cry of Tractarianism raised against him. (fn. 121) Attendance on 30 March that year was in fact about 104 at morning service and 122 in the evening. (fn. 122) Attempts to introduce High Church ritual at this date led to the strongest opposition and even disturbances, and it has been said that when the vicar ventured to preach in a surplice, half the congregation walked out. (fn. 123)
High Church ritual was introduced into St. Mark's during the incumbency of J. M. G. Ponsonby (vicar 1897–1903). (fn. 124) In the 1880s daily services began to be held, (fn. 125) and in 1889 the Communion service was sung for the first time. (fn. 126) In 1897 mass vestments were used. (fn. 127) Parochial organization was carried out along Anglo-Catholic lines: special communicants' classes and guilds were introduced: retreats and quiet days were held, and a branch of the English Church Union was formed. (fn. 128) Canon Ponsonby's religious beliefs and observances were maintained and strengthened by his successor, A. G. G. Ross (vicar 1903–37). (fn. 129) In 1916 incense was first used and since 1924 the Sacrament has been perpetually reserved. (fn. 130) High Church traditions have persisted into the 1960s.
St. Mark's church was designed by Messrs. Scott and Moffatt in the Decorated style and belongs to the earliest period of George Gilbert (later Sir Gilbert) Scott's work. (fn. 131) It is built of stone with a tower with broach spire, 140 ft. high, at the northwest corner. It has a clerestoried nave of six bays, aisles, and north and south porches. The north porch is formed by the base of the tower. The chancel was extended and embellished by Temple Moore in 1897 and a north vestry and south Lady Chapel were added at the same time. (fn. 132) Attempts have been made from time to time to lighten the lofty, but rather gloomy interior. The large rood, designed by T. H. Lyon and carved by Herbert Read of Exeter, was erected in 1928. (fn. 133) A new east window was inserted after the Second World War. In 1904 six bells were hung in the tower in memory of J. M. G. Ponsonby (vicar 1879–1903). Two more were added in 1927. (fn. 134)
The church of ST. PAUL was built in 1881 to serve the district chapelry of St. Paul, New Swindon, formed that year out of parts of the parishes of Christ Church and Swindon New Town. (fn. 135) The living was a vicarage in the gift of the Bishop of Bristol. (fn. 136) Although a separate parish, St. Paul's was closely connected with St. Mark's, and High Church rituals were similarly observed. (fn. 137) These were apparently unpopular at first, but they were not so violently resented as those at St. Mark's. (fn. 138) Morris, writing in c. 1885, remarked that on special occasions the altar was 'ablaze with candles' and drew the contrast between the High Church services in the two new town churches and those in Christ Church where a strongly Evangelical tradition prevailed. (fn. 139)
The effects of the re-development of the town centre and the departure of the resident population for the new estates were felt most acutely in St. Paul's parish. In 1962 when £90,000 was offered for the sites of the church, vicarage, and church hall, it was estimated that some 4,500 people were to be moved out in the course of the re-developments planned. (fn. 140) In 1964 the demolition of the church was approved, and soon after its clergy left to work in the new housing estate at Covingham, which was created the conventional district of St. Paul, Covingham. (fn. 141) The church was demolished early in 1965 and the parish was absorbed into that of St. Mark's. (fn. 142) The site was acquired by Messrs. F. W. Woolworth & Co., who surrendered one corner of it, on which it was intended to build a small chapel of ease for meetings and occasional week-day services. (fn. 143)
St. Paul's was designed by Edmund Ferrey, and the chancel, added in 1883, by John Bevan. It was built of brick in the Early English style, without a tower. (fn. 144)
The church of ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST, Aylesbury Street, was built in 1883 as a daughter church of St. Mark's to meet the needs of the then developing Queenstown district of the parish. (fn. 145) Before the church was built a room in a house in Oriel Street was used as a temporary church. (fn. 146) The foundation stone of the permanent building was laid by the deputy chairman of the G.W.R., thus preserving the link between the company and St. Mark's parish. (fn. 147) In 1884 full congregations were reported and there were 150 pupils in the Sunday school. (fn. 148) Here as at St. Mark's High Church ritual was observed. (fn. 149) After the First World War numbers attending St. John's declined, presumably because St. Luke's (fn. 150) was by then serving an area formerly served by St. John's. (fn. 151) In 1921 St. John's was closed for some years. (fn. 152) It was reopened in 1926, but the neighbourhood from this date was ceasing to be a residential one, and in 1956 the church was finally closed and was pulled down soon after. (fn. 153) St. John's was designed by F. B. Wade. It was an aisle-less building with a raised chancel, built of variegated brick. It seated 300. (fn. 154)
ST. SAVIOUR'S church was built in 1889 as a daughter church of St. Mark's to serve the southwestern corner of the parish. (fn. 155) It was built in wood in just over six months by the voluntary labour and in the spare time of men already working full-time in the G.W.R. factory. (fn. 156) The accommodation, which was for 180, soon became inadequate, as this part of the parish continued to be developed. In 1904 a new aisle and vestry were added, again by voluntary labour. (fn. 157) During the early 20th century a number of interior improvements were made. (fn. 158) But the structure was only a temporary one. Eventually in c. 1960 it was decided to build a stone church around the original one, encasing it completely. (fn. 159) The work, designed by R. E. E. Beswick, was completed and the church re-opened in 1961. (fn. 160)
ST. LUKE'S church originated in a temporary building in Broad Street begun in 1901 and opened in 1903. (fn. 161) In 1908 the need for a larger church was considered urgent, but for lack of money building did not begin until 1910, and the architect's original plans had to be modified for the sake of economy. (fn. 162) The new church was dedicated towards the end of 1911. (fn. 163) The district it served continued to be a mainly residential one and in 1965 St. Luke's and St. Saviour's, the two daughter churches of St. Mark's, were in many ways more active than their parent church. The church, designed by W. A. H. Masters, (fn. 164) is built of rustic-faced stone in the style of the 15th century. It comprises chancel, nave of five bays, south aisle, and south porch. The north aisle has not been built although allowed for in the plan.
ST. BARNABAS'S church began in a temporary building in Gorse Hill in 1874. (fn. 165) It has been said that the High Church forms of worship, later observed in the parishes of St. Mark and St. Paul, were first introduced here. (fn. 166) In 1875 Holy Communion was celebrated daily and all services were said to be highly ritualistic. (fn. 167) In 1885 work began on a permanent church and in 1890 a separate parish was formed for it. (fn. 168) The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Bishop of Bristol. (fn. 169)
The church was designed by J. P. Seddon (fn. 170) and is built of stone with lancet windows in the style of the 13th century. It has a lofty clerestoried nave, low lean-to aisles, and a spirelet at the east end of the nave roof; the design allows for a tower beyond the south porch, of which two stages have been built.
In c. 1883 a mission room in Rodbourne was licensed for religious services. (fn. 171) Rodbourne at this date lay within the parish of St. Mary, Rodbourne Cheney, although most of its residents worked in Swindon, and the mission room was nearer to St. Mark's, Swindon, than to St. Mary's, Rodbourne Cheney. (fn. 172) For some time during the 1880s the temporary church was served by clergy from St. Mark's. (fn. 173) In 1908, by which date Swindon's boundary had been extended to include Rodbourne, a permanent church, dedicated to ST. AUGUSTINE, was built, and a separate parish for it formed out of parts of the parishes of Rodbourne Cheney and St. Mark's. (fn. 174) The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Bishop of Bristol. In 1910 there were said to have been 266 communicants on Easter Day, and nearly 3,000 throughout 1909. (fn. 175) In 1929 it was reckoned that there were over 5,000 communicants in the parish. (fn. 176) During the 1930s the former mission room, used for meetings and social functions, was enlarged. (fn. 177) The church was designed by W. A. H. Masters. (fn. 178) It is built in red brick with Romanesque windows and has a small polygonal apse and northeast bell-turret. Aisles and chancel have not been completed.
ALL SAINTS, Southbrook, was consecrated in 1908. (fn. 179) Its first building was a temporary one designed so that it could later be used as schoolrooms. (fn. 180) The area to be served was expanding rapidly in the 20th century, although in 1908 the church could still be reached by 'country paths' from the centre of Swindon. (fn. 181) All Saints was at first a mission district closely connected with St. Mark's and services were conducted on the same lines in the two churches. (fn. 182) In 1929 a separate parish was formed. The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Bishop of Bristol. (fn. 183) The foundation stone of a permanent church was laid in 1937. The architect was Hartland Thomas of Bristol. (fn. 184) The church is a severely plain building of white brick with tall narrow windows. Above the porch is a bell spirelet.
ST. MARY'S mission church was built in Commonweal Road in 1926 as the first daughter church of Christ Church, Old Swindon. (fn. 185) It was believed that a church nearer than Christ Church was needed for parishioners living in the west of the parish. (fn. 186) A temporary structure of wood was provided and has not been replaced.
ST. ANDREW'S, Walcot East, was consecrated in 1958 as the second daughter church of Christ Church, Old Swindon. (fn. 187) Representatives of the new housing estate of Walcot had sat on the Christ Church parish council since 1956 and services were sometimes held in a hut in Raleigh Avenue on the estate before the church was built. (fn. 188) St. Andrew's was designed by R. J. Beswick and Son (fn. 189) and has a steep glazed gable front.
The church of ST. PETER, Penhill, was consecrated in 1956. (fn. 190) The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Bishop of Bristol. (fn. 191) The church, which is of brick with a tower with a slender spire, was designed by Harold Brakspear. (fn. 192)
The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, Park North, was consecrated in 1961. The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Bishop of Bristol. (fn. 193) The church, built in a 20th-century style, was designed by Harold Brakspear. It has a slim high tower surmounted by a cross. (fn. 194)
There were 6 Roman Catholic families in Swindon in 1848, who attended mass at Horcott, near Fairford (Glos.), some 13 miles away. Later in the same year the priest from Horcott came to Swindon once a month to say mass at the Greyhound Inn in Westcott Place. (fn. 195) In 1850 the Swindon mission was served from Woodchester (Glos.) and then for six years was dependent upon Fairford. (fn. 196) In 1851 a chapel was opened on a site between Regent and Sanford Streets. (fn. 197) Seven years later Swindon had its first resident priest. (fn. 198) The first Roman Catholic school in the town was opened in Regent Street in 1878. (fn. 199) In 1882 the church between Regent and Sanford Streets was closed and a move made to a former nonconformist chapel in Regent Circus. This was used until 1905 when the church of Holy Rood in Groundwell Road was built. (fn. 200) The architect was E. Doran Webb (fn. 201) and the building he designed is of flint with a low, broad tower at the crossing.
With the growth of suburban Swindon after the Second World War another church was needed and in 1953 St. Mary's, Tovey Road, was built to serve the Rodbourne Cheney, Pinehurst, Penhill, and Stratton St. Margaret areas. (fn. 202) Three years later a mass centre was opened at Penhill, served by a priest from St. Mary's. At first mass was celebrated in the Penhill Community Centre, but this soon proved to be too small, and in 1966 an invitation from the Vicar of Penhill to use the Anglican church hall as a temporary mass centre was accepted. A parish of the Holy Family was formed in 1962 for the new housing estates to the east of the town, but in 1966 the parish had no church and parishioners attended mass in the Roman Catholic school in Marlowe Avenue.
In 1938 a mass centre at Wootton Bassett began to be served from Holy Rood, Swindon. (fn. 203) The mass centre at Stratton St. Margaret, opened and at first served from Holy Rood, was taken over by St. Mary's, Tovey Road, in 1956, and after the closing of the mass centre at Highworth in 1965, an extra mass was said at St. Mary's on Sundays.
Three sisters of the Community of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God came to Swindon in 1922. One taught in the Groundwell Road school and the others visited in the parish. They moved into their convent in Groundwell Road in 1924. Some sisters from the Community of Presentation Sisters, living in Wroughton, taught in the Groundwell Road school after 1960. In 1964 the sisters moved from Wroughton to a convent in Marlowe Avenue. Missionary work in Swindon has been undertaken since 1964 by sisters of the Holy Spirit Missionary Congregation living in Wroughton.
A resident Polish priest came to serve the Polish community in Swindon in 1949 and until 1965 said mass for the community in Holy Rood. In 1965 the Polish Centre in Whitbourne Avenue was built and this provided the Poles in Swindon with a church as well as accommodation for social and educational activities. After 1965 the Italian community in Swindon had a priest living in the Italian Centre in Park Lane, and since 1951 a visiting priest has said mass at Holy Rood once a month for the Ukranian community living in the town and its neighbourhood.
In 1966 there were said to be 12,000 Roman Catholics in Swindon. Besides the parish priest there were 3 assistant priests at Holy Rood. St. Mary's parish and the Holy Family parish each had a priest and an assistant.
Protestant Nonconformity. (fn. 204)
The north-eastern part of Wiltshire, in which Swindon lies, was not a region where religious dissent was particularly active before the later 18th century. In Swindon in 1676 there were 8 sectaries. (fn. 205) These are likely to have been Baptists and Quakers, sects known to have been influential in the district. (fn. 206) In 1741 John Cennick, sometimes called the Evangelist of North Wiltshire, visited Swindon in the course of his evangelistic campaign of the region. He was accompanied, amongst others, by the Welsh evangelist, Howell Harris, and attempted to hold a preaching and prayer meeting at the Grove (a site somewhere off the later Drove Road). But Cennick and his followers were given a particularly antagonistic and violent reception, inspired, apparently, by the lord of the manor, Pleydell Goddard. (fn. 207) Cennick was beleaguered by a Swindon mob again a few months later on his way to preach at Stratton St. Margaret. (fn. 208)
This early, apparently exceptionally fierce opposition seems effectually to have discouraged the introduction of nonconformity into Swindon during the 18th century. A house there was licensed as a meet- ing-place for protestant dissenters in 1745, but for how long it was used, and by whom, is unknown. (fn. 209) Throughout the century the only permanent meeting-place for Swindon nonconformists was the Baptist church in the neighbouring village of Stratton Green. (fn. 210)
After Cennick and his followers, George Pocock, a friend of John Wesley, visited Swindon in the course of his preaching tours of north-east Wiltshire. (fn. 211) The first serious following Pocock mustered in the Swindon neighbourhood was at Hodson, in Chiseldon (fn. 212) but he also seems to have inspired a number of people to begin meeting in a house in Lower Town, Swindon (see below).
At the beginning of the 19th century, therefore, Swindon, a small market town of just over 1,000 people, had no nonconformist chapel. The first to be built was in Newport Street in 1804 by a group of Independents. (fn. 213) Foremost among them were several members of the family of Strange, who had a drapery business in the high street, and who were also responsible for the establishment of the first bank in Swindon. (fn. 214) In spite of some opposition Newport Street soon began to draw large congregations from Swindon, and became the headquarters for missionary work in some of the surrounding villages. (fn. 215) A group of Wesleyan Methodists, who, inspired by the visits of George Pocock, had been meeting in the house of a Mr. Noad in Lower Town, (fn. 216) began to build a second chapel on a site off the Planks in 1813. (fn. 217) It was many years before the building could be completed although a preacher was appointed in 1814, and the Swindon Circuit formed out of the Hungerford Circuit in 1817. (fn. 218)
Towards the end of the 1820s Primitive Methodism was introduced into Swindon by preachers from Brinkworth, where a circuit had been formed in 1826. (fn. 219) The early meetings in Swindon were held in a number of humble cottages on Eastcott Hill, particularly those occupied by Robert Sharps, Henry Gilmore, and John and Mary Pike. (fn. 220) By 1828 it had become customary to hold two services somewhere in Swindon on Sundays, and the Eastcott society had 15 members. (fn. 221) That year Charles Morse, of Stratton St. Margaret, joined the plan as exhorter, the first of a family which was to play a leading part for many years in Primitive Methodism in Swindon. Morse had his business premises at the foot of Eastcott Hill and from there conducted praying and singing meetings. (fn. 222) In 1840 Hugh Bourne visited Swindon and addressed a crowded meeting in the cottage of Thomas Edwards on Eastcott Hill. (fn. 223) The Edwards family produced several leaders in the early days of Primitive Methodism in Swindon, and Thomas and James Edwards provided the site for the Primitive Methodist chapel opened in 1849. (fn. 224)
With the opening of the G.W.R. works in 1843, and the building of the first housing estate for the workers, members of the Stratton Baptist church began to visit the new settlement on Sundays to hold missionary services there (fn. 225) and in 1849 a chapel was built on the east side of the estate. (fn. 226) For a time the Swindon church remained a mission church of Stratton Green, the two congregations sharing a minister. (fn. 227)
Nonconformity quickly took a hold in the new town, colonized, as it was, by workers, many of them nonconformists, from all over the country. Chapel building, however, could not keep pace with the rate at which the new town's population grew. The Particular Baptists built a chapel in the old town in 1845 (fn. 228) but accommodation in this and the old town's other two chapels was soon inadequate. In the new town the Wesleyan Methodists built a chapel in Bridge Street in 1849 and the Unitarians one in Regent Street in 1861. (fn. 229) But the shortage of accommodation remained acute and halls and rooms all over the town, designed for other purposes, were used for religious services.
Between 1861 and 1871 several chapels were built, or rebuilt on a larger scale. The Wesleyan chapel off the Planks and the Congregational chapel in Newport Street were completely rebuilt in 1862 and 1866 respectively. (fn. 230) In spite of the demands of the new town both were rebuilt in Old Swindon, then thriving as a shopping and commercial centre. The congregation of the Wesleyan chapel, originally in Bridge Street, was moved to a larger building for the second time in 1869 when it acquired the large block known as the 'Barracks' with accommodation for well over 1,000 people. (fn. 231) The Primitive Methodist chapel in Regent Street was completely rebuilt in 1863 and in 1870 a new Primitive Methodist church was built in Prospect Place. (fn. 232) In 1866 a Welsh Baptist church was provided for the many Welsh families who came to Swindon during the 1860s. (fn. 233)
From 1870 until the end of the century the story is one of chapel building and enlargement as the town grew. In 1876 the Regent Street Primitive Methodist chapel was enlarged for the third time since its opening in 1849. (fn. 234) The Wesleyans in Old Swindon moved in 1880 to their large, and architecturally impressive church in the Bath road—still in the old town. (fn. 235) The Congregationalists built their first church in the new town in Sanford Street in 1877. (fn. 236) In response to the growth of Swindon north of the railway line both the Wesleyan and the Primitive Methodists established places of worship in 1871 at Gorse Hill. These congregations quickly grew and prospered, and by 1890, when Gorse Hill became part of Swindon, both had quite large chapels there. (fn. 237) The Baptists began mission work in Gorse Hill only in 1883, but they, too, had to build a bigger chapel there early in the 20th century. (fn. 238) At Even Swindon the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists had chapels by c. 1882, (fn. 239) and the Baptists began missionary work in the neighbourhood not long after that. (fn. 240)
The 1880s saw a continuation of building activity, partly to keep pace with the town's growth, but also to establish more securely congregations formed in a modest way earlier. Two new churches became more firmly established in the town, both introduced there originally by workers settling in Swindon from other parts of the country. In 1898 the large and imposing Presbyterian Church of England was built, and a group of Moravians moved into the hall in Dixon Street vacated by the Presbyterians. (fn. 241)
The Primitive Methodists were particularly active during the last 20 years of the 19th century. A movement, described as a 'great revival', swept through the town in 1880–1. Many camp meetings took place, all-night meetings of prayer and praise were held, and processions marched through the streets, usually ending at the Regent Street chapel, the membership of which was increased by over 200 that year. (fn. 242) Between 1880 and the end of the century five new Primitive Methodist chapels were built. (fn. 243) In 1890 the Swindon Primitive Methodist circuit, which had been formed in 1877, was split into two and Prospect Hill became the parent-church of number one circuit, and Regent Street of number two circuit. (fn. 244)
In the last 20 years of the 19th century the Wesleyan Methodists opened four new chapels (fn. 245) and the Baptists built their large Tabernacle church in the classical style with seating for 1,000. (fn. 246) In the same period the Christian Brethren, the Salvation Army, and the Railwaymen's Christian Association established themselves in the town. A small group of Brethren came to Swindon in 1880. At first their headquarters was a tent pitched in Regent Place. Meetings held in the street near the G.W.R. works in the dinner hour sometimes caused obstructions. In 1889 there was a split among the members and about 40 broke away to join the 'Open Brethren'. (fn. 247) It was this group which flourished in Swindon and built the chapel in Regent Place in 1899. (fn. 248) Disturbances in the streets caused by the Salvation Army were reported in the local press in 1883 and 1884. (fn. 249)
A few new chapels were built during the early years of the 20th century and some existing chapels were enlarged. (fn. 250) These catered mainly for congregations in the suburbs, which were spreading steadily northwards. But the Primitive Methodists built a chapel in Manchester Road, near the station, and the Wesleyans built the Central Mission Hall in the very centre of the town. (fn. 251) A single Swindon Wesleyan Methodist Circuit, with the Bath Road church at its head, was formed in 1911 for all the Swindon Wesleyan chapels. Before that they had belonged either to the Swindon and Marlborough Circuit or to the Wantage Circuit. After the Methodist Union of 1933 there were three Swindon Circuits, namely Bath Road, Prospect, and Regent Street. By 1959 there was again a single Swindon Methodist Circuit. (fn. 252)
From about 1900 many houses and rooms were registered as meeting-places for denominations quite new to the town, some of which flourished for only a few years, while others eventually established themselves in their own churches or chapels. Since the First World War five chapels have been built for denominations established in the town during the 19th century: in 1928 a small Methodist church was built on the Pinehurst estate; in 1939 the Congregationalists closed their church in Victoria Street and moved to a new one built for them in Upham Road, Walcot; in 1959 a Free Church was opened at Penhill; in 1961 a Methodist church was built in Queen's Drive, Walcot, and in 1961 the Methodists in Cheney Manor Road left their church for a new one in Moredon Road. (fn. 253) All these were situated in the new residential suburbs of the town. The earlier chapels, built to serve the residents of New Swindon, were by the mid 20th century becoming more and more isolated from their congregations. In 1957 one of the largest chapels in the town, the Methodist chapel in Regent Street, was demolished, and the money used to build the Methodist chapel in Queen's Drive, and improve one or two of the smaller 19th-century chapels. (fn. 254) A few years later the large Methodist church in the 'Barracks' in Faringdon Street was closed. (fn. 255) Two smaller Methodist chapels have also been closed, and at Gorse Hill the former Primitive and Wesleyan Methodist churches have been amalgamated, making it possible to dispense with one building. (fn. 256)
Newport Street. This, the first chapel to be built in Swindon, was opened in 1804. (fn. 257) George Mantell of the Upper Meeting House, Westbury, was its first minister. The congregation grew rapidly and quite soon more accommodation had to be provided by the addition of side-wings to the gallery. Mantell died in 1832 and was succeeded by S. B. Meons. Meons had been a Dutch merchant, who had lost his livelihood in Holland after the Napoleonic Wars. Shortly after his appointment to Swindon, some trouble developed between him and his congregation, and he was obliged to resign. (fn. 258) A new minister was appointed at once but the congregation was disunited and 15 members left it. These, thought by some to be the 'most lively and energetic members of the church', continued to worship together in a private house, and later formed the nucleus of the Particular Baptist congregation, for whom a chapel was built in South Street in 1845. (fn. 259)
By 1840 accommodation in the Newport Street chapel had become inadequate and the building needed attention. But although this was obviously a cause for discontent among the congregation, no move was made until 1866, when a new chapel was built at the corner of Bath Road and Victoria Street. Disagreement about the site may account for the long delay. There was clearly disagreement about something, for when at last the move was made, only five members transferred to the new chapel, and their minister did not go with them.
The old chapel stood on the north side of Newport Street. When it was built a neighbouring house was converted into a manse. The chapel seems to have been a small, octagonal building, with arched windows at ground and first-floor levels. Above the entrance door there was a round window and above this an inscribed medallion bore a date. (fn. 260) In the 1830s the schoolroom of a British School was built on to the chapel's east side and the chapel burial ground was used as a playground. When opened in 1804, the chapel was described as 'neat and commodious', but shortly before its closure it was called a 'dismal cell'. The ceiling was so low that the minister in the pulpit, and the occupants of the semi-circular gallery, could touch it. A harmonium stood in the centre of the gallery which was approached by a winding staircase.
Victoria Street. Although it had become apparent by 1840 that the Newport Street chapel was too small, a new chapel was not built until 1866. That year a chapel built on a site at the corner of Victoria Street and Bath Road, in Old Swindon, was opened with accommodation for 550. (fn. 261) Only five members moved to the new chapel from Newport Street. (fn. 262) After the move, however, membership increased fairly rapidly and was 154 by 1867. (fn. 263) But the siting of the new chapel in Old Swindon had been ill-judged, for it was in New Swindon that there was the greatest need for a chapel, and in 1877 56 members left the Victoria Street chapel to form a new congregation in Sanford Street. In 1916 the Victoria Street congregation was split by disagreement over the appointment of a minister, and a number of members left to form the Evangelical Free Church. (fn. 264) Soon after this, serious defects in the fabric of the chapel appeared, and in 1925 its existence was threatened by a streetwidening scheme. (fn. 265) Plans to move were followed by delays and protracted deliberations and it was not until 1938 that a site in Upham Road, Walcot, was chosen and work begun on building a chapel there. (fn. 266) The Victoria Street chapel was eventually demolished shortly after the Second World War. (fn. 267)
The chapel was built in undressed stone with heavy stone dressings. (fn. 268) At its south end was a large 'rose' window and at the south-east corner there was a square tower, rising above the top of the chapel roof.
Sanford Street. To meet the need for a chapel in New Swindon, the members of the Congregational chapel, Victoria Street, Old Swindon, in 1877 erected an iron chapel in Sanford Street. (fn. 269) This had 800 sittings and the new congregation was formed around 56 members from Victoria Street, who transferred to the new chapel. (fn. 270) In 1894 a permanent chapel was built on the same site with accommodation for 550. The architect was T. B. Silcock of Bath, (fn. 271) and the building was described locally as in 'a late Gothic style, slightly modified by Jacobean peculiarities'. (fn. 272) A Sunday schoolroom was added in 1898. (fn. 273) In 1964 there were 105 church members. (fn. 274)
Upham Road, Immanuel Church. This chapel was built in 1938–9 to replace the Victoria Street Congregational chapel. (fn. 275) Membership had declined during the last years at Victoria Street and when the new chapel opened was only 21. (fn. 276) The site in Upham Road had been chosen in order to serve the rapidly expanding Walcot area of Swindon. Membership increased to about 100 members in 1943, (fn. 277) but, despite this, it was felt that the chapel had not made the impression upon the new neighbourhood that had been hoped. (fn. 278) Between 1949 and 1954 the chapel grounds were laid out as a family sports club, and church services and activities organized to make the chapel a Christian community centre. (fn. 279)
The chapel was designed by a Mr. Houchin (fn. 280) and is built in red brick in a style typical of the 1930s. Several Sunday schoolrooms and an assembly hall adjoin it at the back.
Penhill Free Church. This was established largely through the efforts of the congregations of Immanuel and Sanford Street Congregational chapels. (fn. 281) In 1954 services were held in Penhill farmhouse and in 1959 the church in Penhill Drive with seating for 150 was opened. (fn. 282) The architects were Eric Cole and Partners of Swindon. (fn. 283)
Wesleyan Methodist Churches
The Planks. In 1813 a group of Wesleyan Methodists, who had been meeting in a house in Lower Town, began to build a chapel on a site leading off the Planks. (fn. 284) Shortage of money brought many difficulties and prevented the completion of the building until 1824. (fn. 285) That year Thomas Bush, of Lambourn (Berks.), a well-to-do and ardent supporter of Methodism in the neighbourhood, (fn. 286) paid off the debt on the chapel and built two cottages adjoining it, one as a manse. (fn. 287) In 1842 an extra gallery was added to the chapel, making accommodation for 170, 30 more than before, and a schoolroom was added at the side. (fn. 288) In 1862 the first chapel was pulled down and a new octagonal- shaped one was erected on the same site with seating for 300. (fn. 289) This chapel served the Wesleyan Methodists in Swindon until 1880 when another new chapel, with accommodation for 600, was built in Bath Road. (fn. 290)
After 1880 the chapel of 1862, sometimes called the 'Octagon', was converted and used for a time as stables, but by 1885 it had been acquired by the Salvation Army. (fn. 291) In 1965 the site had been comcompletely cleared but a small piece of arcading, once part of an inside wall of the chapel, could still be seen against the wall of an adjoining building.
Bridge Street. This was the second Wesleyan chapel to be built in Swindon, and the first in the new town. It was built in 1849 on the site later occupied by 'Mr. Clapper's shop' in Bridge Street and could accommodate 160. (fn. 292) In 1858 this chapel was pulled down and a larger one, with 550 seats, built nearby in Faringdon Road. In 1869 this chapel also was pulled down and a large building in Faringdon Road, known as the 'Barracks', was converted for use as a chapel. The 'Barracks', originally built by the G.W.R. as a lodging house, was converted as a chapel by T. S. Lansdown, of Swindon, and could accommodate 1,000. (fn. 293) The chapel was closed in c. 1959 and in 1962 the building became a railway museum. (fn. 294)
Gorse Hill. A mission hall was built by the Wesleyan Methodists in Gorse Hill in 1871. (fn. 295) In 1883 a chapel was built in front of this which could seat about 180. By 1900 the chapel was too small for the neighbourhood it served and was enlarged that year to accommodate 600. It later became called the Trinity Methodist Church. (fn. 296) In 1964 the congregation was joined by that from the Russell Memorial church (formerly Primitive Methodist) in the Cricklade road, which was then closed and demolished. (fn. 297)
Percy Street. An iron chapel with 200 sittings was erected in Percy Street in 1877. (fn. 298) In 1898 a new building was added to give accommodation for 450. (fn. 299) The chapel was closed c. 1956. (fn. 300)
Bath Road. The congregation from the chapel known as the 'Octagon' in the Planks moved in 1880 to a new chapel built for it in Bath Road at the corner of Wesley Street. (fn. 301) This was designed by Messrs. Bromilow and Cheers of Liverpool and had accommodation for 800. Beneath the chapel a basement was equipped as a Sunday school and there was space for public meetings. At the time of opening the chapel was described as a 'particularly handsome structure'. The chapel was still in use in 1964.
William Street. A mission hall was opened in this street in 1887. (fn. 302) In 1904 its 400 sittings were said to be 'hardly enough'. About 1951 the hall was acquired by the Christian Brethren. (fn. 303)
Wesleyan Central Mission Hall, Clarence Street. A mission hall was built in 1884 in Princes Street with seating for 240. (fn. 304) In 1907 this was replaced by the Central Mission Hall built in Clarence Street. (fn. 305) This was extensively enlarged in the 1960s to provide accommodation for lectures and meetings. (fn. 306)
Primitive Methodist Churches
Regent Street. In 1848 Thomas and James Edwards, who had long been connected with Primitive Methodism, (fn. 307) sold a field, through which Regent Street later ran, as a site for a chapel. (fn. 308) The following year a small brick chapel accommodating about 150, with a burial ground to its east, was built. (fn. 309) Membership was 27. (fn. 310) In 1850 the congregation's first resident minister came to live in a thatched cottage in what later became Regent Circus. (fn. 311) By 1863 the chapel had become too small, and that year a larger one, with an adjoining schoolroom, was built on the same site. (fn. 312) By 1875 membership was 112 and again the chapel was found to be too small. (fn. 313) The following year a third chapel was built on the site, with accommodation for 600. (fn. 314) It was an ornate brick building with quoins of Bath stone and at its opening was described as 'one of the prettiest and best arranged public buildings in Swindon'. (fn. 315) In 1877 Regent Street was the largest of the three Primitive Methodist churches that were formed that year into the Swindon Circuit, and was the focal point for the missionary activities of the Primitive Methodists in Swindon in the 1880s. (fn. 316) In 1882 membership was well over 200. (fn. 317) In 1887 road improvements in Regent Street made it necessary to make certain structural alterations. (fn. 318)
When the Swindon Circuit was divided into two in 1890 Regent Street became the parent church of the second circuit. (fn. 319) Five years later a large Sunday school was built behind the chapel for 356 pupils and 32 teachers. (fn. 320) In the earlier 20th century a number of men prominent in civic affairs were active members of the congregation. Among them were Levi Lapper Morse and his son, William Ewart Morse, son and grandson of Charles Morse, both of whom were mayors of Swindon, county councillors, and M.P.s. (fn. 321) In 1904 membership was 200. (fn. 322) But as this part of the town developed as a shopping and commercial centre, the position of the chapel in Swindon's busiest shopping street became more and more unsuitable. In 1957 the chapel was demolished and its funds used to improve other Methodist churches in Swindon and to build a new chapel in Queen's Drive on the Walcot estate. (fn. 323)
Prospect Place. After the building of the Regent Street chapel in 1849 the Primitive Methodists in Old Swindon continued to meet in cottages and in the open air. A cottage in Albert Street was particularly popular as a meeting-place. (fn. 324) In 1870 a site in Prospect Place was acquired and a chapel built. (fn. 325) Between that date and 1904 the church was twice enlarged to make accommodation for 420. (fn. 326) In 1910 it had 108 members. (fn. 327) When the Swindon Circuit was divided into two in 1890, Prospect became the parent church of the first circuit. (fn. 328) In 1964 the chapel was still in use, although no longer the head of a circuit.
Cricklade Road (Russell Memorial Church). The first Primitive Methodist chapel in Gorse Hill was built in 1871. (fn. 329) But as the district was developed, it soon became too small. In 1890 a new site at the corner of Edinburgh Street and Cricklade Road was acquired and a chapel built to seat 390. It had a schoolroom attached with accommodation for 300. In 1910 membership was 109. In 1964 the chapel was closed and the congregation joined that of the Trinity Methodist Church, formerly Wesleyan, on the opposite side of Cricklade Road. (fn. 330) In 1965 the chapel was sold for use as a warehouse. (fn. 331)
Rodbourne Road. This church was formed with 7 members in 1882 and in 1883 a small chapel was built in Rodbourne Road. (fn. 332) A larger chapel was built in 1900 and the old building was converted into a schoolroom. In 1910 there were 59 members. In 1964 the church was still in use.
Clifton Street. A small building was erected in Clifton Street in 1882, leaving space on the site for future expansion. (fn. 333) The building was enlarged in 1900 to make accommodation for 360. (fn. 334) In 1910 membership was 86. (fn. 335) After the demolition of the Regent Street chapel in 1957, Clifton Street received a grant from the funds of that chapel and with it built a Sunday schoolroom to accommodate 100. (fn. 336)
Butterworth Street. This was the first church formed after the Swindon Circuit was divided into two in 1890. (fn. 337) At first services were held in a shop at the corner of Marlborough Street and Westcott Place, but in 1893 the chapel in Butterworth Street was opened. In 1910 it had 39 members. It was still in use in 1964.
Rodbourne Cheney. Services were held in the house of a Mrs. Matthews in Rodbourne Cheney in 1891. (fn. 338) In 1894 Levi Lapper Morse, a member of the Regent Street chapel, gave some land in the same place on which a chapel was built. In 1906 this was converted into a schoolroom and a new chapel with seating for 230 was built at the northern end of Cheney Manor Road. In 1910 membership was 46. In 1961 a new church, dedicated to St. Andrew, was built for the Methodists a short distance away in Moredon Road, and their chapel in Cheney Manor Road was taken over by the Baptists. (fn. 339) The inscribed stone on the front of the chapel in Cheney Manor Road was then amended to read 'Rodbourne Baptist Church 1906'. (fn. 340)
Deacon Street. An iron church was e ected in 1899, although the site seems to have been secured about five years earlier. (fn. 341) In 1910 there were 28 members. (fn. 342) A successful Sunday school was conducted for some years after this, but the congregation gradually dwindled and in 1920 the chapel was closed. (fn. 343)
Manchester Road. The chapel was built in 1902 as the result of the activities of a group of Methodists who, during the 1890s, had met together at numerous camp and open-air meetings. (fn. 344) At the time of its opening it had 27 members and in 1910 41. In 1960 money from the sale of the Regent Street church was used to enlarge the chapel. (fn. 345)
Ferndale Road. Services were held in temporary accommodation in this neighbourhood in 1903. (fn. 346) In 1904 a site for a chapel was bought and in 1907 a chapel was opened with 21 members. As this was the Connexional Centenary year, the chapel was sometimes called the Centenary Hall. In 1910 membership was 30. The chapel was still in use in 1964.
Pinehurst. Open-air services were held in a house in Linden Road in this neighbourhood in the 1920s. (fn. 347) In 1928 a small chapel was built, but for many years the church did not thrive. With the development of this part of the town after the Second World War, however, a larger congregation was gathered together, and in c. 1950 a deaconess for the district was appointed for the first time.
Queen's Drive. This church was built in 1959–60 to serve the Walcot estates. (fn. 348) Money from the sale of the site of the former Primitive Methodist chapel in Regent Street was transferred for the use of the new church. (fn. 349) The building was designed by W. H. Cripps. (fn. 350)
General Baptist Churches
Fleet Street. This was the first General Baptist chapel in Swindon and was opened in 1849. (fn. 351) Its earliest congregation consisted mainly of Baptists who had formerly attended the Stratton Green chapel, and for the first few years the Revd. Richard Breeze superintended both chapels. (fn. 352) Fleet Street remained subordinate to Stratton Green until 1855 when an independent church was formed with 24 members and Breeze became its first pastor. (fn. 353) In 1868 the chapel was enlarged to seat 520 and a schoolroom was added. (fn. 354) Soon after this mission work was begun in the Gorse Hill district and in 1882 a mission church, dependent upon Fleet Street, was built there. In the same year the Baptist chapel in Cambria Place also became dependent upon the Fleet Street church.
By 1879 accommodation had become inadequate and in 1886 the congregation moved to the Tabernacle in Regent Circus, opened that year. (fn. 355) The Fleet Street chapel was demolished, although the schoolroom was left and was still standing, used as a store, in 1951. (fn. 356)
Cambria Place. This chapel was built in 1866 for the Welshmen and their families who came to Swindon about the middle of the 19th century to work in the G.W.R. works. (fn. 357) For many years sermons were preached in Welsh. (fn. 358) The chapel could accommodate 250. (fn. 359) In 1882 the church placed itself under the superintendence of the Fleet Street Baptist church, which later moved to the Tabernacle, Regent Circus, and in 1964 was still a dependent church of the Tabernacle. (fn. 360) A schoolroom was provided in 1905. (fn. 361)
Regent Circus Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was built in 1886 with seating for 1,000, at a cost of over £6,000. (fn. 362) The Baptist chapel in Fleet Street was then closed and the congregation moved to the new chapel. Membership at this date was 305, and over 1,000 people attended the tea-party held on the day the chapel was opened. (fn. 363) Missions were soon established at Mill Street and Wroughton, (fn. 364) and in 1901 mission work was begun at Rodbourne. (fn. 365) In 1906 the debt on the building was paid off and membership was 780. (fn. 366) At the same date the constitution and organization of the church was overhauled and a body of 12 elders and 12 deacons appointed for the first time. (fn. 367) In 1909 the chapel was thoroughly renovated and in 1911 an organ was installed. (fn. 368) In 1964 it had 275 members. (fn. 369)
Gorse Hill. A small chapel was built at Gorse Hill c. 1883 as a result of mission work by the Fleet Street Baptist congregation. It stood at what later became the junction of Ferndale and Cricklade Roads. (fn. 372) In 1904 a larger chapel was built at the corner of Beatrice Street and Cricklade Road, and the original chapel was given up, but not demolished. (fn. 373) In 1913 Gorse Hill was constituted a separate church, having been until then dependent upon the Tabernacle. (fn. 374) It was still in use in 1964.
Rodbourne. Mission work by the congregation at the Tabernacle Baptist church was begun in the Rodbourne area early in the 20th century. (fn. 375) In 1907 an iron church and schoolroom, formerly used by troops on Salisbury Plain, was erected in Rodbourne Road as a mission chapel. Many attempts were made to improve the building and in 1930 a fund was started to provide for a new church. But no move was made until 1964 when the iron church was closed and the congregation moved to the former Primitive Methodist chapel in Cheney Manor Road. (fn. 376)
Particular Baptist Churches
Providence Chapel, South Street. The members of the Newport Street Congregational chapel, who left that church in c. 1840, continued to meet together for worship. Out of these meetings a Particular Baptist congregation was formed for which a chapel was built in South Street in 1845. (fn. 377)
The chapel, which in 1964 was still in use, is a long low building of stone with a slate roof. At either end are two slightly projecting wings. Above the door the date 1845 is inscribed. In front is a small burial ground and a path bordered by 6 pleached trees leads to the entrance door.
Prospect Hill, Rehoboth Chapel. This chapel, which was still in use in 1964, was registered as a meeting-place for Particular Baptists in 1882. (fn. 378)
Unitarians. An iron church was erected in Regent Street in 1861. (fn. 379) This eventually was found to be too big for the dwindling congregation and a new church was built in Regent Circus. (fn. 380) By 1878 the congregation was even smaller and the church was closed and taken over by the Roman Catholics. (fn. 381)
The Salvation Army. In 1881 the army was operating from the Peoples' Hall in Old Swindon, probably another name for the former Methodist chapel in the Planks which it acquired at about that time. (fn. 382) By 1898 this had been given up and the Salvation Army Temple opened in North Street. (fn. 383) In the 1880s various premises in New Swindon were occupied and in 1891 the Citadel in Fleet Street was built. (fn. 384) This was reconstructed and rededicated in 1955. (fn. 385) In 1898 a hall in Chapel Street, Gorse Hill, was registered for use by the Salvation Army. (fn. 386) In 1961 a move was made to another hall in the same street. (fn. 387) In 1964 besides the Citadel, the army had premises in Gorse Hill and in North Street, Old Swindon. (fn. 388)
Railway Mission. The Railwaymen's Christian Association established itself in the town in the 1880s. (fn. 389) In 1887 Sunday afternoon and evening services were said to be well attended. For some years in the 1890s the movement flagged but it revived after the appointment of Emily Cowie as superintendent in 1899. Services were held in the Swimming Baths Hall or in the Mechanics' Institute until 1903 when the Mission Room in Wellington Street was built. Between that year and 1937 the mission was organized and run almost entirely by women. In 1938 the Revd. D. J. Laurie was appointed as the first male superintendent.
In 1965 there was a morning and evening service on Sundays and a Sunday school in the afternoons. On at least three evenings during the week there were social or educational meetings.
Presbyterian Church of England. Workers from the north of England coming to work in Swindon were responsible for the establishment of this church. (fn. 390) At first meetings were held in the Mechanics' Institute, (fn. 391) but in 1885 a lecture hall, accommodating 250, was opened in Dixon Street. (fn. 392) By 1898 it was clear that, contrary to expectation, the town was not expanding in this direction and a more central site was sought. The lecture hall was sold to the Moravian Church and in 1899 Trinity Church was built in Victoria Road. (fn. 393)
In 1939 church membership was 110 but there was no minister and the church had fallen into disrepair. (fn. 394) The 1950s were a time of considerable activity for this church. The building was restored and membership rose to 160. The church of 1899, known as Trinity Presbyterian Church, was designed by William Wallace, of London, and is built of red brick with Bath stone dressings in a 13th-century style. It has accommodation for 400 with schoolrooms and vestry in the basement. (fn. 395)
Moravian Church. Although John Cennick was active in the neighbourhood in the mid 18th century, the Moravian Church was not established in Swindon until the 1890s. (fn. 396) Then a group of Moravians, who had come to work in the G.W.R. works, formed themselves into a church, meeting at first in a hall in Regent Street. (fn. 397) In 1899 the chapel in Dixon Street, built originally for the Presbyterian Church of England, became available (see above) and was acquired by the Moravians. This was still their church in 1966 when membership was 51. (fn. 398) After 1961 the minister in charge in Swindon had oversight of the Moravian congregation at East Tytherton. (fn. 399)
Society of Friends. A meeting was established in Swindon by 1899. (fn. 400) Two years later a meeting-house on Eastcott Hill was built. At the end of the 19th century there were 10 members and 18 attenders. By 1956 there were 55 members and in 1964 there were 26.
Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. This congregation grew out of the group which left the Victoria Street Congregational church in 1916. (fn. 401) By 1923 premises in Devizes Road had been acquired and that year were licensed as an Evangelical Church and Bible Institute. (fn. 402) In 1962 another congregation was formed which left the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches to form the Bethesda Church with premises in Malvern Road. (fn. 403)
Christian Brethren. A group of Christian Brethren, who had been active in Swindon for some time, built a mission hall in Regent Place in 1899. (fn. 404) In 1918 another group took over a hall in Florence Street which had been built as an independent mission in 1905. (fn. 405) The same group built a hall in Liddington Street in 1951 (fn. 406) and the same year a fourth group acquired the former Wesleyan Methodist chapel built in 1897 in William Street. (fn. 407) In 1965, besides the halls mentioned above, there were three other halls in Swindon belonging to the Christian Brethren, all of whom were 'open'. (fn. 408)
Christian Science Society. A hall for use by this society was registered in Rolleston Street in 1924. (fn. 411) In 1958 this was relinquished for premises in Victoria Road still used in 1964. (fn. 412)
Church of Christ. A church was built in Broad Street and registered for worship in 1901. (fn. 413) A house in the same street was registered as a Sunday school in 1956 but the registration was cancelled in 1964. (fn. 414) The church was still in use in 1964.
Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland. This congregation registered its Full Gospel Church in King William Street in 1938 and still occupied it in 1965. (fn. 415)
Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance. The Coronation Temple in Osborne Street was registered for worship in 1942 and the congregation was still represented in the town in 1965. (fn. 416)
Seventh Day Adventists. Premises were licensed in Cheney Manor Road in 1954. (fn. 417)
Ancient Catholic Church (Syrian). Premises in Regent Street were registered for use by this church in 1955 and in 1965 had been relinquished for others in Victoria Road. (fn. 418)