A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 9. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.
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Growth of the Town, p. 106. Manors and Other Estates, p. 119. Agriculture, p. 124. Trade and Industry, p. 126. Mills, p. 131. Markets and Fairs, p. 132. Local Government and Public Services, p. 133. Social Life, p. 141. Anglican Churches, p. 144. Roman Catholicism, p. 151. Protestant Nonconformity, p. 151. Education, p. 159. Charities, p. 166.
Swindon, the largest town in Wiltshire, lies near the north-eastern boundary of the county. (fn. 1) The geology of its site has been discussed at length by W. J. Arkell, (fn. 2) and need only be summarized here. The site of Old Swindon, the ancient centre of the parish, is at the eastern side of a hill rising to almost 500 ft. above sea level. (fn. 3) Apart from a small outlier of Wealden Beds, the summit of the hill, somewhat over a mile long from east to west, consists of successive exposures of Purbeck and Portland Beds. Below these beds, round the slopes of the hill, are narrow exposures of Swindon Clay and Pectinatus Sand. These two formations are more extensively exposed on a ridge about 400 ft. high, extending south-eastward from Old Swindon to the borough boundary near Broome Farm. On the eastern side of this ridge a smaller area of Portland Beds is exposed, while the ridge is overlaid by con- siderable areas of Lower Greensand. North and east of the slopes of Swindon Hill the land drops more gradually from about 375 ft. to below 300 ft. near Rodbourne Cheney. Much of New Swindon is built on Kimmeridge Clay, but in the north of the borough are Corallian outcrops on which the Pinehurst and Penhill estates are built, and beyond them the Oxford Clay appears. The River Ray forms the western boundary of the borough, and a tributary of the River Cole runs from Coate Reservoir on the south-eastern boundary through Coate and Walcot before turning away eastwards.
The ancient parish of Swindon is of an irregular shape, about three miles from north to south and the same distance from east to west; it contained 3,136 acres. (fn. 4) Swindon Hill lies near its centre. The hill was clearly a place of resort for men since Neolithic times, for many scattered finds, including some burials, have been made there. The earliest evidence of continuous occupation is from Roman times. A Roman building near the west end of Westlecott Road was excavated in 1897. (fn. 5)
Swindon is first mentioned by name in Domesday Book. (fn. 6) Very little is known of it during the Middle Ages, but it is probable that the growth of an urban settlement on the hill is due to the powerful de Valence family, lords of High Swindon in the 13th century. In 1274 it was said that William de Valence had been holding a market at Swindon for 15 years, (fn. 7) and in 1289 it was distinguished as Chipping Swindon. (fn. 8) Later references to burgages, (fn. 9) and to the town as a 'borough', (fn. 10) suggest that deliberate steps were taken to foster urban growth, probably in the 13th century. The name of Newport Street, first mentioned in 1346, (fn. 11) adds weight to this supposition. That the attempt was not unsuccessful may be inferred from 14th-century assessments. In 1334 High Swindon was assessed at 133s. 4d., considerably more than the adjoining rural manors, and comparable to the assessments of, for instance, Devizes, Westbury, and Warminster. (fn. 12) In 1377 its figure of 248 poll-tax payers (fn. 13) indicates more than a rural manor, and compares with several of the smaller market towns in the county.
Very little more is known of Swindon until the 17th century, and the only inference from the lack of references to it must be that it remained a very small market town of little importance. In 1627 the constables of Kingsbridge hundred considered that nine licensed alehouses were too many for a place which did not contain 300 communicants and was on no through road. (fn. 14) Somewhat later in the century, however, Swindon's fortunes took an upward turn when a quarry of white smooth stone suitable for paving the insides of houses was found, (fn. 15) and there is evidence of considerable quarrying activity in Swindon in the late 17th century. (fn. 16) Aubrey records the increased prosperity of the market, dating from the Civil War. (fn. 17) It was in the 17th century, too, that much of the lower land of the parish was inclosed and converted from arable to pasture. (fn. 18)
A picture of the parish at the end of the 17th century is provided by a list of inhabitants made in 1697. (fn. 19) Its population was then 791. Most of the retail trades and handicrafts of a small country town were represented and 40 labourers are recorded. There were also 14 men described as yeomen and 4 others owning land worth £50 a year. At least five inns and an alehouse existed. The lord of the manor, the lay rector, two other members of the Vilett family, a 'gentleman', the vicar, and two other clergymen formed the core of the polite society of the town.
Just over a century later it was the politeness of society in Swindon which struck John Britton. 'The pleasantness of its situation', he wrote, 'combined with other circumstances, may have induced many persons of independent fortune to fix their residence at Swindon; and their mansions contribute as much to ornament the town as their social intercourse may be said to animate and enliven it.' (fn. 20) He considered that Swindon had advanced both in prosperity and in 'liberality of mind' over the past century, alluding to the savage persecution of nonconformists which had taken place in the 1740s. (fn. 21) The population had certainly increased, for in 1801 it was 1,198. (fn. 22) The opening of the Wilts. and Berks. Canal in 1810 and the North Wilts. Canal in 1819 increased the general trade of the town. (fn. 23) The market and fairs seem to have been well attended (fn. 24) and the population increased at each census until it was 1,742 in 1831. (fn. 25) Yet this was a town on the smallest scale. As telling a reference as any to its lack of importance occurs in a newspaper of 1798, when the inhabitants of Wroughton referred to their village as 'near Marlborough'. (fn. 26) William Morris, Swindon's first historian, has left a vivid description of the air of activity which arose in the quiet little town when a blacksmith bonded a wheel, and of the sport of backsword-playing for which the town was noted. (fn. 27)
In 1840 the Great Western Railway Company's line reached Swindon and almost immediately the company decided to build its railway works there. (fn. 28) With this decision a completely new course of development began for Swindon. The railway works were built to the north of the line and in 1842 the first estate of some 300 cottages for employees was laid out on the southern side. From these beginnings grew the town of New Swindon which only about ten years later had, with the hamlet of Eastcott which it had engulfed, a population of 2,468, slightly larger than that of the old town. (fn. 29) Nearly a mile of open country separated the works and the first housing estate from the town on the hill, but as the works expanded the intervening land was hurriedly built over with streets of workers' houses. Throughout the 19th century, however, Old and New Swindon remained physically separate and were under separate authorities from 1864 until 1900. (fn. 30) But by 1900 with the rapid expansion of New Swindon southwards and the slower growth of Old Swindon northwards the two towns had virtually merged on Swindon Hill and their physical junction was crowned that year by their incorporation into one municipal borough. (fn. 31)
From 1900 until the end of the Second World War the history of Swindon is one of slowly increasing population, gradual diversification of industry, and, because of changing standards of housing, of some outward expansion. After the end of the Second World War a programme of greatly accelerated expansion was planned in order to attract new industry to the town and so avoid too great a dependence upon the railway works for employment. This programme was well under way when in 1952 Swindon became one of the towns approved under the Town Development Act to receive overspill population and industry from London. (fn. 32) Thereupon building and re-development proceeded at such a pace that by c. 1960 all land suitable for building within the borough boundary had been covered. Permission was then given for building beyond the boundary to the east and here in the early 1960s housing and industrial estates built by Swindon Corporation were being laid out.
The following study of the growth of the town is divided roughly into four periods: before 1840, from 1840 to 1864, from 1864 to 1900, and after 1900.
Growth of the Town.
Little is known of the topography of Swindon before the 18th century. Newport Street, first mentioned in 1346, Wood Street in 1599, High Street in 1645, the principal streets of the town, (fn. 33) seem to have been fairly continuously built up by 1773. (fn. 34) The topography of the town and parish can best be studied by a survey of the town as it was just before the railway came. (fn. 35) Its centre was High Street, where lived the rather large number of people in easy circumstances for which the town was still remarkable in 1838. (fn. 36) Here too were the principal inns of the town, of which the 'Goddard Arms' remains little altered, a late-18th-century building of brick with a long frontage of nine bays, a Doric porch, and a stonetiled mansard roof. It had replaced a thatched building called the 'Crown', the history of which can be traced to the 16th century. (fn. 37) The 'Bell', the other posting house in Swindon in the early 19th century, occupies a building with a Victorian frontage from which hangs a huge metal bell. There are traces of a galleried upper story in the yard at the rear and the inn is reputed to date from 1515. (fn. 38) The former 'King of Prussia', now no. 4 High Street, (fn. 39) is a low stone building which may be of 17th-century origin. The houses on the west side of High Street, including the 'Bell' and no. 4, form the most substantial range of old buildings in the town. Several, however, have been faced with stucco or altered by the insertion of shop fronts. No. 2, at the corner of Wood Street, carries a date tablet of 1708 and until the late 19th century had two gables facing High Street. Nos. 6 and 8 are late-18thcentury houses retaining their original pedimented doorways. The rainwater-heads of no. 16 are dated 1631; this is a timber-framed building with a twingabled front in which sash windows have been inserted. Nos. 18 and 20 both date from c. 1700. A block of six bays near the corner of Newport Street called Manchester House was of the same period and had a shell hood over its door. It was demolished in 1964.
Opening out of the east side of High Street is the small Market Square. On its south side, where the town hall now stands, were stables for the horses of the London stage waggon, with stores above for cheese and other goods awaiting transit. (fn. 40) In the centre once stood a small circular market cross on oaken pillars, which existed in 1662, (fn. 41) but was removed in 1793. Nearby stood the stocks and pillory. (fn. 42) On the north side were two stone-tiled cottages, (fn. 43) replaced in the later 19th century by John Toomer's corn store. (fn. 44) Next to this stands Square House, an 18th-century brick building of two stories with a symmetrical front and an original doorway; the gable-end of its adjoining outhouse is surmounted by a weather-cock and has an inserted Victorian window with Gothic shafts. Set back in its garden on the east side of the Square stood the Rectory House, a large brick building of the early 19th century. (fn. 45)
The other principal street of the town, Wood Street, was colloquially known as Blacksmiths' Street from the three forges which stood there, or Windmill Street from the windmill which once stood on the site of the 'Kings Arms'. About 1840 it contained a number of poor thatched cottages occupied by labouring people, (fn. 46) but Richard Jefferies spoke of it as a pleasant street in which vines were trained against several houses on the sunny side. (fn. 47) In 1964 two dignified houses of c. 1800 survived at the west end of the street — no. 31 and, opposite to it, no. 32. Elsewhere the frontages had mostly been rebuilt in the later 19th and 20th centuries. Like Wood Street, Newport Street was the home of many of the lesser tradesmen of the town, shoemakers, bakers and the like, but was reckoned more humble. It was generally called Bull Street from a public house called the 'Bull' opposite the present Railway Hotel, and consisted chiefly of thatched and whitewashed cottages, many of which survived into the present century. (fn. 48) In 1964 there was no visible work earlier than the 16th century. At the western end stood the parish lockup, called the 'black hole', removed c. 1853, (fn. 49) while the Independent chapel, the earliest nonconformist meeting in Swindon, was built in Newport Street in 1804. (fn. 50)
These three streets form three sides of a square of which the fourth, now called Devizes Road, was known as Short Hedge. (fn. 51) There were apparently no houses there in 1773, (fn. 52) and none on the west side in 1811; (fn. 53) by 1828 a few had been built on the east side and one or two on the west, (fn. 54) and there were 12 houses there in 1841. Some still existed in 1964, such as no. 13 (Canford House), with a wrought iron porch, and nos. 15–16, 19–21, smaller houses. The date 1818 on a house in Britannia Place may indicate the first growth of this part of the town, although most houses there are later. This part of the town was also known as Horse Fair. (fn. 55) Southward from Short Hedge the road to Wroughton ran through open country, past the old parish workhouse, a brick building which stood at the corner of the road to the quarries, now Springfield Road. (fn. 56) Westward a lane to the quarries ran unfenced through Okus Great Field past a few cottages, while near the centre of the field stood the pest house which had been there since at least 1773. (fn. 57) The road through Wroughton to Beckhampton was turnpiked in 1761–2. (fn. 58)
From High Street southwards the present Marlborough Road was known as Lower Town. There were a few houses on it as far as its junction with the lane to the mill; one thatched house still survived in 1964. The 'Bell and Shoulder of Mutton', which was here in 1830, (fn. 59) was in 1964 housed in an elaborate brick building of the late 19th century. On to the south-east the road ran through country, which had long been inclosed, on its present course past Coate Water. The main way to Marlborough in 1773 was a road, now partly lost, running along Marlborough Lane and thence southwards down the western boundary of Chiseldon. (fn. 60) The southern part of Swindon parish, the former manor of Broome, remained largely rural in 1964. Besides the farmhouse the only other houses in this neighbourhood in 1841 were three or four labourers' cottages and the house of the keeper of Coate reservoir. (fn. 61)
Immediately east of High Street stood the house and park of the Goddards; early-19th-century gate piers and stone walls still flank its approach from High Street but its two single-storied lodges have disappeared. The house, known as the Lawn by 1830, was demolished in 1952, (fn. 62) but the grounds, stretching down the hill to the south and east, have been retained as an open space. Adjoining the site of the house on the south are the remains of the old parish church. (fn. 63) In front of the churchyard was formerly a pond, while a water-mill stood in the hollow below until c. 1850. (fn. 64) Eastward from the park to the parish boundary stretched the inclosed land belonging to Church and Park Farms, both of which lay at the edge of the park. Eastward from High Street and Marlborough Road run three lanes; Mill Lane has a stone lodge at its western end, and at the park end three stone cottages with stone-tiled roofs and hipped dormers, and one larger house of similar design. The Planks leads from the Square to the site of the Lawn, named no doubt from the flags which paved it. (fn. 65) On its south side are the stables which formerly belonged to the Lawn, a long stone range dating from the 18th century, and on its north side the former vicarage now converted to industrial use. (fn. 66) Dammas Lane, a cul-de-sac, was so named in 1684 (fn. 67) and contained 19 houses in 1841; few are left now. The Sanctuary is a small stone house of the early 19th century; adjoining is the neo-Tudor house called the Hermitage, described in 1848 as a pretty residence (fn. 68) and since extended.
The chief road out of the town northwards was Cricklade Street, or Brock Hill, continuing the line of High Street. It was turnpiked in 1755–6, (fn. 69) but even in the early 19th century it remained very steep, rising at the top to the level of the high pavement behind which Christ Church now stands. Extra horses were needed to bring up heavy loads. At the bottom of the hill a stream ran across the road and formed a water supply for that end of the town. (fn. 70) In 1773 the road was lined with trees which remained a feature of this way out of Swindon until the present century. (fn. 71) Half way down, Brock Hill was joined by Little London, or Back Lane, a narrow lane running from the west end of Wood Street. In 1964 it was largely a neglected backway; almost the only house remaining was a thatched cottage near the top end. This and Brock Hill were in 1841 the poor quarter of the town; in Brock Hill stood a common lodging house. Yet at the top on the east side stands no. 42 Cricklade Street, built in 1729, the finest surviving 18th-century house in Swindon. It was occupied by Robert Harding (d. 1770) and then by 1773 by Thomas Vilett. (fn. 72) The front is of five bays and two stories, of brick with elaborate stone dressings, which include a central doorway surmounted by a segmental pediment and flanked by pilasters, a Venetian window above, grotesque masks on the keystones of the other windows, and broad pilasters at the angles. The whole is crowned by a wide dentil cornice and a central pediment flanked by balustraded parapets. Internally there is a contemporary staircase. Bow windows on the side walls were added in c. 1800.
Northwards the Cricklade road ran through inclosed ground on its present course, now called Drove Road. At the north end it crossed the Wilts. and Berks. Canal at Swindon Wharf, where was the house of the manager, 'a villa, surpassing the second and approaching the first class' as Cobbett described it in 1826. (fn. 73) Beyond the canal the road towards Stratton St. Margaret turned off; it was turnpiked in 1757–8. (fn. 74) East of the Cricklade road were only the two farms at Walcot and one at Swindon Marsh.
The fields of Eastcott manor occupied much of the lower ground to the north of the town. From the town the hamlet of Eastcott was reached by a lane which followed the course of Eastcott Road and Eastcott Hill. Along this were scattered some twenty cottages; six thatched cottages in two groups of three stood on a bank on the side of the entrance to Crombey Street. (fn. 75) Northwards the road ran between high stone walls to a small open space on the site of Regent Circus. On its east side were Upper Eastcott Farm and the manorial pound, and some ten or a dozen other houses were scattered near at hand; orchards occupied the area later covered by Regent Place. Here the ways branched; northwards a lane followed the course of the southern part of Princes Street then wound round Cow Lane, now a back way to the west. At the northern end of Cow Lane was a swing bridge over the canal, beyond which an unfenced track led along the edges of fields to Lower Eastcott Farm, on a site occupied in 1964 by the omnibus depot.
North-westwards from Upper Eastcott another track ran through fields on the course of Regent Street, again crossing the canal by a swing bridge, to the point now the crossing of Bridge and Fleet streets. Here it met an ancient lane which ran southwestward toward Rushey Platt. This track was in existence and called 'le flet' in 1600; (fn. 76) it was hedged for most of its length. Northwards from there a lane to Rodbourne Cheney ran along the present Park Lane and Rodbourne Road. Rushey Platt at the western end of Fleetway was probably the area called Rushmore in 1657. (fn. 77) It was one of the bogs which the inhabitants called 'quaring gogs', (fn. 78) and caused great difficulties when the Wilts. and Berks. Canal was made across it. (fn. 79) Here were one or two poor cottages and a turnpike-gate house; in the part of the parish north-west of Fleetway and the Wootton Bassett road were the farms at Westcott, and at North Laines, the site of which is now occupied by Horace Street, and a cottage near the parish boundary, whose site is included in the railway yards. South of the Wootton Bassett road stood a water-mill close to the 'Running Horse', with a few cottages adjoining, and southwards beyond the canal Okus Farm lay at the western end of Swindon Hill. Eastwards from Rushey Platt the road to Swindon ran up the steep Kingshill, past some half dozen cottages on the north side, to the western end of Wood Street. This way out of Swindon was turnpiked in 1757–8. (fn. 80)
The view of the town c. 1840 must be completed by mentioning its recent suburban growth. Apart from Croft House, a large villa just east of the Devizes road built by 1841, this was confined to the north-west of the town. By 1841 eleven middleclass houses stood in Bath Road, then commonly called the Sands. One house at least stood there in 1830, (fn. 81) probably Apsley House (now Swindon Museum), a plain stone house of three bays with a Greek Doric porch, banded rustication, and acroteria above the parapet. Further west nos. 8–14 Bath Road comprise one detached house and three double-fronted terrace houses of red brick, dating from c. 1835; (fn. 82) all have wide eaves and cast-iron trellis porches of intricate design. Opposite, on the south side of the road, were no houses, only a high stone wall and a belt of fir trees. (fn. 83) Just down the hill Prospect Place was also begun by 1830; (fn. 84) this was the area known in the mid 20th century as Prospect, where double-fronted stone houses remained. By 1841 there were 21 houses.
The railway made an impact on Swindon before it actually arrived. Thus in 1836, when three fields in Eastcott were offered for sale, the vendors pointed out that they were bounded by the proposed lines of the Great Western and Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railways, and added that since the important depot for the junction of the lines was 'not unlikely to be actually upon, and must at all events be very near this property, its future value was incalculable'. (fn. 85) The works were built on land which belonged to the Cheltenham Railway just north of the line, and opened in 1843. (fn. 86) Their history is traced elsewhere, (fn. 87) and can only be mentioned here as it affected the growth of a new town. In 1843 the establishment at the works was 423 men and by 1848 had risen to 1,800. (fn. 88) The company's decision to provide accommodation was acted upon immediately and in 1842 it was said that a scheme of about 300 houses was begun. (fn. 89) To save the company from capital expenditure the actual building of the cottages and of permanent station buildings was undertaken by Messrs. J. & C. Rigby of London who were to be compensated by the tenants' rents and a 99-year lease of the profits of the refreshment room; a ten-minute stop at Swindon was compulsory until 1895, making the lease very profitable. (fn. 90) The station buildings were opened in July 1842 and still existed in 1964. They consist of two three-storied stone blocks, one on each side of the line, built in a plain Georgian style. The estate of houses is thought to have been designed by Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt, architect of Paddington Station. (fn. 91) It was laid out on a symmetrical plan about a central square originally called High Street, later Emlyn Square. In High Street provision was made for some half dozen shops. (fn. 92) From it ran four parallel streets on each side, the southernmost almost on the line of Fleetway, and the northernmost parallel to and facing the railway. They were named after stations on the line; the western ones were Bristol, Bath, Exeter, and Taunton Streets, and the eastern ones London, Oxford, Reading, and Faringdon Streets. Bath Street was changed to Bathampton Street c. 1902. (fn. 93) Along these streets were built the stone terraces which still remained in 1964.
Although the individual houses were cramped by modern standards, some having only one bedroom, the terraces were attractively designed and sturdily built of local stone. (fn. 94) In general the style still followed the Georgian tradition but the facades facing London Street and Bristol Street were embellished with small gables. Each house had a small front garden and a yard at the rear containing a wash-house and a privy; back alleys gave access to the yards. Facing Emlyn Square a few larger gabled houses, some incorporating ground-floor shops or public houses, accommodated the better-paid employees. In the 1850s similar houses were built in Church Place to mask the western end of the terraces. A block of houses which later included the G.W.R. hospital was also added across the south end of Emlyn Square. (fn. 95) Between London Street and the railway stood two large villas in extensive grounds for managers at the works. By 1885 their site had been taken into the works, as had the company's school at the western end of Bristol Street. (fn. 96) St. Mark's Church, opened in 1845, the adjoining vicarage, and a sports ground on the site of the Park, bought in 1844, completed the planned scheme. (fn. 97)
With the expansion of the works mentioned above, it could hardly be supposed that the original scheme as laid down in 1841 would be adequate to house the greatly increased number of employees. Indeed it is clear that in 1851 the G.W.R. estate was seriously overcrowded and many houses were subdivided. (fn. 98) These were ideal conditions for the speculative builder. The first considerable area of working-class housing was built on the line of Fleetway, and was known by its present names of Westcott Place and Westcott Street. Many of the long terraces of houses, which in 1964 still lined the north side of the eastern end of Westcott Place, must date from the mid 1840s, (fn. 99) while on the south side, which contains fewer houses of that period, are two inscribed 'Munn's Cottages 1846'. By 1850 the group of houses could be described as 'the modern village of Westcott'. (fn. 100) On the station side of the railway estate development was slower and more informal. In 1841 it was limited to one beerhouse standing on the western bank of the North Wilts. Canal where it went under the railway. (fn. 101) Seven years later a short row of buildings on both sides of the canal had grown up there, near what was later the north end of Bridge Street. (fn. 102) These were distinguished in 1851 as Sheppard's cottages, taking their name from the owner of the fields in which they stood. They included inns or beerhouses called the 'Old Locomotive', the 'Wholesome Barrel', and the Union Railway Inn. (fn. 103) At the station itself was the Queen's Arms Inn; (fn. 104) near the Wilts. and Berks. Canal were some buildings in a close called Little Medgbury, which included the terrace of 12 houses called Cetus Buildings, erected c. 1842, and also probably the Whale beerhouse. (fn. 105) By 1849 also a small group of houses had been built at the swing bridge where the lane from Upper Eastcott crossed the Wilts. and Berks. Canal; it included the Golden Lion Inn and several cottages adjoining. Another group lay facing the part of Fleetway later called Fleet Street. Here was the Locomotive Inn, a building which still survived in 1964, and a Baptist chapel, built in 1848, beside one or two other houses. (fn. 106) Finally, standing alone on the track up to Eastcott was a Primitive Methodist chapel opened in 1849; 'it was like building a chapel on some foreign land, scarcely a house was near, there was a road through the field but not a stone was to be seen upon it', a member later wrote about the present course of Regent Street. (fn. 107)
Three years later the 1851 census reveals little change in New Swindon, perhaps a reflection of a short but severe recession of business at the works c. 1848–50. (fn. 108) The town in 1851 consisted of Westcott Place and Street, the railway estate, and the groups of houses adjoining the station, the 'Golden Lion', the 'Locomotive', the 'Union Railway', and the 'Whale'. The only significant additions since 1848 were five houses then being built in Fleetway. Further south a number of houses were built on the hill up to the old town from Eastcott between 1841 and 1851; they were mostly for working people, and included a row of eleven houses called Tarrant's Villas. (fn. 109)
The 1851 census shows that there were some dozen inns and beerhouses in New Swindon; it was true, as Jefferies said, that 'publicans discovered that steel filings make men quite as thirsty as hay dust'. But although he went on to point out the higher needs of the mechanics in meat, groceries, other comforts, and smart clothes, (fn. 110) yet shopkeepers were at first slower to take advantage of them. By 1851 the population of St. Mark's district, which included the whole new town and the hamlet of Eastcott, was 2,468 compared with 2,411 in the remainder of the parish, yet there were not more than a dozen shops to serve the larger population. (fn. 111) This lack led to the formation in 1853 of the New Swindon Improvement Company and the building of the Mechanics' Institute with an adjoining covered market in the middle of the railway estate. (fn. 112) Even with this, however, the old town remained the chief shopping centre for some years; a weekly shopping parade took the inhabitants of New Swindon up a steep and narrow footpath, across stiles and through fields and allotments, from the end of Regent Street to the Castle Inn in Prospect. (fn. 113)
The decade 1851–61 was one of expansion at the works. (fn. 114) The population of the new town grew by 1,478, (fn. 115) an increase of 67 per cent. The period saw further provision of housing by the G.W.R.; £5,000 was allotted for that purpose in 1853–4, (fn. 116) and it was probably at this time that the original layout was amended by the addition of houses facing Church Place and East Street. A company experiment which failed was the provision of accommodation for unmarried men in a large building 'upon the plan of French lodging houses, to have a common kitchen and common entrance, with a day and night porter'. (fn. 117) The 'Barracks', as it was called, still stood in 1964 towards the west end of Faringdon Road, a large stone building in a somewhat forbidding Gothic style. It was apparently under construction in 1849, (fn. 118) but not occupied by 1851. (fn. 119) By 1867 it was derelict, (fn. 120) and after many years of use as a Methodist chapel (fn. 121) it was in 1962 opened as a railway museum.
The most important private development in the new town in this period was the building of houses along the lane from Eastcott to the end of Fleetway, and so north to the Union Railway Inn. This is now the line of Regent and Bridge Streets, but until c. 1867 the whole street on both sides of the canal was called Bridge Street. (fn. 122) The fields through which the lane ran were called Culverys, or Upper and Lower Harris's Meads. (fn. 123) They were sold in lots in 1854, (fn. 124) and by 1861 the part south of the canal contained some 50 houses. Most were clearly built in small terraces with names such as Hope Cottages, Crimea Cottages, Ebenezer Cottages, Alliance Terrace, Mount Pleasant, and Barnes's Cottages. York Place, that part of the north side of Regent Street which faces what became Regent Circus, was also built. On the corner, about on the site in 1964 of the Post Office, stood the house reckoned to be the manor-house of Eastcott. (fn. 125) In this part of Bridge Street also were the 'Rifleman's Arms', the 'Cross Keys', behind which was the Primitive Methodist chapel of 1849. (fn. 126) North of the canal were about 50 houses in Waterloo Terrace, Bellwood Place, Alma Terrace, and Albion Terrace; the last is commemorated in the name of the Albion Club. At the canal crossing the 'Golden Lion' gave its name to the swing bridge which crossed the canal there, while further north were the 'Jolly Sailor' and the 'Foresters' Arms'. Some buildings which must date from the development of this area still stood in 1964, much obscured by shop fronts. Running off the northern part of Bridge Street was Queen Street, laid out by 1855. (fn. 127) The part of Queen Street which adjoins Fleet Street was then known as Chapel Street, from the Methodist chapel nearby. By 1861 eight houses stood in Chapel Street, while in Queen Street apparently lay the 13 houses of Breeze's Buildings. (fn. 128) Connected with this growth was some building in what was beginning to be called Fleet Street. Here the low terrace opposite the 'Locomotive' is probably Fleetway Terrace, built by 1861, (fn. 129) and remembered as a row of private houses with neat gardens in front. (fn. 130) Some other building of the period survived, derelict in 1964, between John Street and the line of the North Wilts. Canal. This growth of the Bridge Street area, although notable, was still sporadic, and confined to what were only workmen's cottages and beerhouses; the street contained only four small shops, and ran from a farmyard at the Eastcott end past a brick-field and waste ground near the canal. (fn. 131)
At the western end of New Swindon a few houses had been added in Westcott Place; nos. 1–7 Falcon Terrace must be the western end of the long stone terrace of which the pedimented Falcon Inn forms the principal feature. (fn. 132) Adjoining, the 'Wild Deer' also existed by 1855. (fn. 133) The only other significant growth in the district had been in Eastcott Lane, probably in the stretch between the site of the entrance to North Street and the 'George'. The latter was built by 1861, while almost opposite, on the site of the gardens of the houses in Warwick Road, stood Hay Lane Cottages. (fn. 134) This terrace of single-storied timber-framed houses took its name from Hay Lane Wharf in Wroughton, where it was first put up for G.W.R. workmen employed there when the line was being built. When the need for it ended it was apparently sold, and re-erected on this site. (fn. 135)
Between 1861 and 1871 the G.W.R. works continued to expand owing to the company's policy of concentration at Swindon. (fn. 136) By 1871 the population of New Swindon was 7,628, (fn. 137) an increase of 83 per cent over 1861. Many Welsh families had moved to the town to work in the rolling mills, and for their accommodation the stone-fronted terraces at Cambria Place were built c. 1864, and the small Welsh Baptist chapel there in 1866. (fn. 138) Other growth of the early 1860s took place in two areas. On a field called Road Ground immediately east of the G.W.R. estate three streets were laid out. At first they were reckoned as parts of London, Oxford, and Reading Streets, but in 1870 J. H. Sheppard, who had owned the field, asked that they should be called Sheppard, Harding, and John Streets after his names. In fact John Street was known from the beginning as Henry Street, probably because John Street south of Fleet Street was already so named. On Sheppard's estate might still be seen in 1964 some well-built brick houses with stone window surrounds and string courses, having prominent flat hoods on elaborately shaped brackets over the doors. A few similar houses still remained in the other estate built at this time. This consisted of three streets on the south-west side of Regent Street, called Cromwell Street, Brunel Street, and Havelock Street (the northeastern part only). (fn. 139) Havelock Street originally consisted of a row of brick cottages standing in a field in which cattle pastured close to the front and back doors. (fn. 140) The three streets were adopted by the Local Board in 1867. (fn. 141) To these developments of the early 1860s should probably be added some houses on the east side of Cow Lane. A field here was bought by John Page in 1863, and on it he must have built Page Street, which is now the western part of Beckhampton Street, and perhaps some of the houses in what became Princes Street as well. (fn. 142)
Boards of Health for Old and New Swindon were set up in 1864 (fn. 143) and their records provide a more accurate picture of the growth of Swindon than is possible earlier, since the boards had to grant permission for new building. (fn. 144) Apart from the addition of small numbers of houses to streets already existing, the earliest significant development in New Swindon which they reveal dates from 1868, when 19 houses were added to complete Falcon Terrace in Westcott. A larger scheme was begun in the following year by the newly-founded Swindon Permanent Building Society, which bought a field called Great Culvery on the north-east side of the North Wilts. Canal. Here were laid out streets called Gloucester, Cheltenham, and Wellington Streets, in which over 200 houses had been built by the time they were adopted by the board in 1871. (fn. 145) A sale of lands in Eastcott in 1869 led to the development of two new areas; (fn. 146) both were on the way to Old Swindon, probably because of the convenience for its shops and for the pleasant aspect which the slope of the hill afforded. On a field south of Upper Eastcott Farm Henry Marrin and John King laid out Rolleston Street and Byron Street. On an adjoining field to the south again the Berkshire Estates Company laid out Dover Street, Western Street, North Street, Prospect Hill, and the western part of Cross Street. On these, houses were built intermittently for a number of years, and the estate was not fully complete in 1885. (fn. 147) Perhaps the chief public work of these years was the replacement of the old wooden swing bridge over the Wilts. and Berks. Canal at the 'Golden Lion', by an iron drawbridge more suitable to the greatly increased traffic. This had been advocated as early as 1854, (fn. 148) but was not accomplished until 1870. The establishment of the New Swindon Gas Company in 1863 with works near the canal off Queen Street may also be noticed. (fn. 149)
The 1870s saw Swindon little affected by the national depression of trade, and in fact the works expanded steadily. Each year the local directory recorded the addition or extension of shops, including new carriage shops, which replaced managerial villas and gardens between Bristol Street and the railway line at this time. (fn. 150) The villas were probably replaced by others which by 1880 stood north of the station, (fn. 151) on ground later itself taken into the works. Other industries began to appear at Swindon as will be shown below. (fn. 152) The rapid expansion of the town had given rise to a considerable building industry, and bricks were made in large works at several places on the fringes of the new town. (fn. 153) In 1867 Jefferies called New Swindon the Chicago of the western counties, (fn. 154) and it was indeed the late sixties and seventies that saw New Swindon change from a large working-class suburb into a town in its own right. Almost monthly the local board sanctioned the alteration of buildings in Bridge Street and Regent Street to provide for shops, and by 1880 New Swindon had outstripped the old town in the number of its tradespeople. (fn. 155) In 1881 it was almost four times as large as its neighbour, and with a population of 17,678 was the largest town in Wiltshire. (fn. 156)
It was in this decade that a factor appeared which exerted a decisive effect on the development of New Swindon for a generation to come. This was the fact that the extensive estates of the Vilett family, which had become the property of Colonel W. V. Rolleston, (fn. 157) were involved in a Chancery suit, and could only with difficulty be offered for building by the trustees. (fn. 158) They almost encircled New Swindon, for they included much of the land between Old Swindon and the railway bounded on the west by Eastcott Hill and the lines of Princes and Corporation Streets, and another large area north of Westcott Place and east of the railway works. The most serious impediment to the expansion of the new town was a third area which extended from Faringdon Road across to Eastcott Hill and Rolleston Street. In these circumstances builders were driven to lay out streets where they could find land, irrespective of its convenience. What was available on the east side of the town was taken up early in the decade. Near the station Haydon Street and Mill Street (now the west end of Manchester Road) were laid out by Merrin and King in a field called Great Breach, and adjoining it on the south the Oxford Building Society squeezed Carfax, Oriel, Merton, and Turl Streets into a small and awkwardly shaped field called Briery Close. Slightly to the east Gooch Street and the northern part of Gladstone Street were laid out in a field called Martins, and the Trowbridge Building Society built a road adjoining Cetus Buildings in a narrow field near the canal called Medgbury. All these streets were considerably built up by 1875. It was probably the following year which saw the building of Princes Street between the end of Regent Place and the canal, thus reducing Cow Lane to a backway. Many of the houses, said to be in Cow Lane at this time, must be the brick terraces, which in 1964 still faced parts of Princes Street. Regent Place, demolished by 1964, may also have belonged to this period.
To the west of the town one small part of the Rolleston estate was built over by the United Kingdom Land and Building Association in the early 1870s; it included Catherine, Vilett, and Carr Streets, the east side of Farnsby Street, and the buildings on the south side of that stretch of Faringdon Road. (fn. 159) In the centre of the town small pieces of land were used. Holbrook Street, off Bridge Street, was mostly built in 1872, and College Street, Sanford Street, and Edgware Road are slightly later. In 1871 a terrace of 15 houses was put up on a narrow strip of ground between King Street and the canal. In Eastcott, Swindon Street was added to the estate at Prospect in 1878, and Carlton Street, off Wellington Street, is of about the same time. Carlton and Carfax Streets still preserved in 1964 the shape of the orchard of Lower Eastcott Farm which lay between them.
For larger schemes builders had to look further afield. Beyond the Vilett estate lay the Kingshill estate of J. H. Sheppard which first came into the market in 1870. On a large field called Gilbert's Hill two roads called Dixon and Stafford Streets were laid out, and the land adjoining them offered in plots in 1873. Further sales followed in 1877 and 1881, (fn. 160) but the estate was for some reason not popular, for the streets were only thinly built in 1885. (fn. 161) Perhaps the reserve price on the plots was high, for houses here were more expensive than in most parts of New Swindon, and included some semi-detached 'villas'. The more westerly part of Sheppard's estate was also offered in 1870 and again in 1875, the largest part of it in one lot of 28 a. The auctioneer, pointing out the extensive prospect, remarked that 'the fortunate purchaser who may desire to exchange the busy scenes and anxieties of commercial life for the more agreeable pursuits of agriculture may find here an opportunity of exercising his taste and judgement in the erection of a suitable residence commensurate with his views'. (fn. 162) This idyllic future was not to be realized, for between 1877 and 1880 some 300 houses were built on parts of the estate, forming the eastern parts of Albion and William Streets, Redcross Street (changed to Radnor Street in 1881), Clifton and Exmouth Streets. One field became the cemetery, opened in 1881. (fn. 163) Another field adjoining Kingshill, sold separately, attracted some terrace builders to the main road there, but the most ambitious scheme on the Sheppard estate proved a failure. This was an elaborate layout of large villas in extensive grounds on the Down Field and Quarry Close, a site later occupied by Ashford and Hythe Roads; although the lots were offered in 1870 and 1875, (fn. 164) the whole was still vacant in 1885, (fn. 165) perhaps because of the stipulation that the houses to be built had to be of the villa type.
It was in the seventies also that New Swindon began to grow north of the railway. Development here was prompted no doubt partly by shortage of building land near the works, but also by the wish to avoid paying the heavier rates in the local board district. The beginning of a working-class suburb at Even Swindon in the parish of Rodbourne Cheney belongs to the period 1870–5 following sales of lands there in 1870 and 1871. (fn. 166) In 1874 some houses there were connected to the New Swindon sewers, and had to pay a special rate in consequence. They no doubt lay in William (now Manton), Charles, Thomas, and Henry (now Hawkins) Streets, east of Rodbourne Lane, and Percy and Morris Streets opposite. The extra rating presumably made it of little consequence whether the houses were inside or outside the district boundary and the next streets were built within it. They were Jennings, Linslade, and Guppy Streets, accepted by the board in 1875. To the east the history of Gorse Hill, then in Stratton St. Margaret, is similar. Where once had only been one or two houses and a public house called the 'Tabernacle', (fn. 167) grew up Avening, Chapel, Hinton, and Bright Streets, and long terraces on the west side of the Cricklade road. Both districts were taken into the local board area for public health purposes in 1880. (fn. 168)
The lack of bridges over the two canals caused great inconvenience; the Golden Lion drawbridge frequently made men late for work when it was up, (fn. 169) and in 1877 a fixed foot-bridge of the type used on railways was placed beside it by public subscription. A year later the local board gave £200 towards building a drawbridge in Fleet Street to avoid the detours to the old fixed bridges in Sheppard Street (Union or Bullen's Bridge), and John Street (Stone Bridge). The board was, however, unwilling to help in a scheme to provide a road across part of the Rolleston estate from the end of Regent Street to Old Swindon. In spite of this the road was laid out in 1875 on the course of Victoria Road from Cannon Street to Byron Street; it became the common pedestrian way between the towns, and the old footpath to Prospect was closed. (fn. 170) The New Swindon board again refused to have anything to do with the scheme in 1884.
Between 1878 and 1887 the G.W.R. works suffered a severe depression and construction of new shops ended. Between 1881 and 1891 the population of New Swindon increased by 9,617 to 27,295. The increase was, however, largely due to transfers to the parish of parts of neighbouring parishes. In 1884 Coate, a detached part of Liddington, was added, and in 1890 Even Swindon and Gorse Hill. The populations of the last two amounted to over 6,000, (fn. 171) so that the real increase over the period was comparatively small. In such circumstances building was bound to slacken off, although fair numbers of houses were added to streets already begun, chiefly in the Kingshill and Even Swindon areas. Yet the western parts of Albion and William Streets, marked out by 1880, (fn. 172) had no houses in them five years later. Ashford Street and Hythe Road were also laid out but without houses in 1885. (fn. 173) During this pause in the expansion of New Swindon the building trade in the town was kept busy by the provision of five schools for the newly-formed school board between 1877 and 1885, St. Paul's Church in 1881, St. John's in 1883, and, among other nonconformist chapels, with which the town had always been prolific, the monumental Baptist building at the top of Regent Street in 1886. (fn. 174)
Meanwhile the most immediate bar to the further progress of the town was removed when the Rolleston estate came into the market for building in 1885. (fn. 175) The beginning of the west side of Farnsby Street in the following year (fn. 176) marked the start of a building boom such as Swindon had not yet seen. Between then and 1901 the whole of the centre part of the Rolleston estate, stretching from Faringdon Road and Cambria Bridge Road across the fields to the top end of Regent Street in the east and the back of Dixon Street in the south, was covered with streets of closely-built brick terraces. Such terraces had always been the staple product of New Swindon builders. Even Commercial Road, the axis of the whole scheme, contains only two-storied dwelling-houses which in 1964 had been variously adapted as shops and offices. At its western end a market house was built in 1892, and it is said that it was intended to replace Regent Street as the chief shopping centre of the town. (fn. 177) Only in its northern extension, Milton Road, can be seen more pretentious buildings of three stories, but in general the layout of the whole estate is that of a working-class suburb. At the eastern end of the estate the top of Regent Street was remodelled to form the small square known as Regent Circus, an idea proposed as early as 1883 and carried out in 1888–9. In the centre of it the local board built its offices, later known as the Town Hall. Surprisingly no opportunity was taken to line Regent Circus with large blocks of shops or offices. In the very centre of the town and facing its principal building several brick villas were built, some of which survived in 1964 and were used as offices. Nearby in Regent Street, another villa of the same period adjoining the 'Rifleman's Arms' was still in 1964 occupied as a private house.
The growth of the town in the 1890s was by no means confined to the area just described. The new road, called Victoria Road, was made up in 1888, and considerably built up by 1899. Hunt Street ran out of it to the bottom of Belle Vue Road; in it are elaborate brick terraces dated 1895 bearing the initials of Thomas Turner, a brickmaker, who also built several villas near his works in Drove Road. His name is perpetuated in Turner Street, off Westcott Place. The estate containing Ashford, Kent, Hythe, Maidstone, and Folkstone Roads was almost complete by 1899, as were the older streets north of Kingshill. North of Westcott Place the area between Dean and Birch Streets was built on part of the Rolleston estate, (fn. 178) while north of the railway Redcliffe Street was built and additions made to other streets west of Rodbourne Road. To the east of the railway works the Eastcott Lodge estate took its name from a house built c. 1860 in a field north of the station. (fn. 179) The land fronting Ferndale Road was for sale in plots as part of the Gorse Hill Farm estate by 1895, (fn. 180) and by 1900 both that road and Florence, Whiteman, Poulton, and Beatrice Streets were considerably built along. South of the railway the farm track from the Whale Bridge past Lower Eastcott Farm had been made into Corporation Street, and east of it several streets were begun, stretching from Elmina Road to Manchester Road, partly built, and so to Volta Road. The period of expansion between 1885 and 1900 was not confined to dwelling houses; the amenities of the town were increased in the same period by a new church of St. Barnabas at Gorse Hill, the town hall and market house mentioned above, general and isolation hospitals, a theatre, new baths, a recreation ground at Rodbourne, a sports ground at the County Ground, electric lighting, and a municipal water works.
The development of Old Swindon in the 60 years after the coming of the railway may be traced more briefly. In 1841 the population of the whole parish was 2,459, but this figure included 500 navvies employed on the railway. Fifty years later the old town district contained 5,545 inhabitants. (fn. 181) Although the growth was clearly to be traced to the coming of the railway, its impetus was not solely derived from the rise of New Swindon. The inhabitants of the new town long continued to rely on the old for shopping, but the influence of Old Swindon spread much wider before it was engulfed in the growing suburb below. The days when Swindon people went to Wootton Bassett to buy groceries (fn. 182) had gone; the cattle market flourished, and when in 1867 Jefferies wrote that Swindon had become the emporium of North Wiltshire and the neighbouring counties, (fn. 183) and another writer said that its shops were equal to those of Bath or Cheltenham, (fn. 184) it was the old town that they meant. The influence of this period of unexampled prosperity can clearly be seen in its streets, where buildings of the middle decades of the 19th century outnumber earlier ones. In 1878 it was said that within a decade almost every place of business in the town had been rebuilt, enlarged, or improved. (fn. 185) In High Street nos. 10–14 formed the street frontage of the North Wilts. Brewery. (fn. 186) Nos. 9–11, 14, 24–26, and the 'Bell' frontage all appear to be of c. 1850–70. Other work of this time may be seen in Newport Street in the Railway Hotel, and the premises of Messrs. Rentaset, and in Wood Street in no. 7, the 'Cross Keys', and the National Provincial Bank. Wood Street also contains the most striking Victorian frontage in Swindon, that of the 'King's Arms', which is a three-storied building of red brick with stone dressings; it has windows with stilted arches and gothic shafts, a projecting central chimney supported at first-floor level on similar shafts, the royal arms in bold relief, and four gables containing carved roundels. Another impressive building, slightly earlier, is the corn warehouse of John Toomer at the corner of the Square, a four-storied brick building with wide eaves supported by shaped brackets.
The same period gave Old Swindon its chief public buildings. Christ Church replaced the small old parish church in 1851. (fn. 187) About the same time an assembly room used for public business was added to the 'Goddard Arms'. (fn. 188) Three years later a market house was built on the south side of the Square and the corn exchange adjoining was opened in 1866. (fn. 189) Swindon's first police station, built in 1852–3 in Devizes Road, was replaced by the present one in Eastcott Hill in 1873. (fn. 190) In 1872 the idea of making Old Swindon a railway town itself was mooted by the promoters of a line to Marlborough and Andover. After many delays the line to Marlborough was opened in 1881 with a station in the old town just south of Newport Street. The line was joined to the G.W.R. at Rushey Platt in the following year, and completed to Andover in 1883. (fn. 191) It was closed to passenger traffic in 1961. (fn. 192)
But although Old Swindon, with its market, shops, and banks, retained a certain commercial pre-eminence over the new town for many years, its growth was paradoxically connected with its position as a suburb of New Swindon. Something of the atmosphere of the genteel little town which John Britton described in 1814 has always clung to Old Swindon, (fn. 193) and made it socially acceptable as a dwelling place. In 1850 it was said that what houses had been built were of a superior class, and that the tenants, more or less connected with the railway were a 'well-behaved and intelligent class of persons'. (fn. 194) It has been pointed out above that even before the coming of the G.W.R., Old Swindon had begun to spread slightly to the north-west. This continued to be the principal direction of growth, no doubt because land was more easily available there, the park and farms of the Goddards preventing growth on the other sides. By 1851 Bath Terrace, facing the end of Victoria Street, and Bath Buildings, on the west of the north part of Devizes Road, had been built. (fn. 195) On the opposite side of Devizes Road, most of the twenty humble cottages of Britannia Place, which were described as new-built in 1850, (fn. 196) remained in 1964, and a small terrace of stone houses on the same side may have been built then too. To the north two new streets had been built on a small field west of Little London: Albert Street, which still contains a few of its original small stone terrace houses, and Victoria Street, now the southernmost part of Victoria Road, which was the home of prosperous tradesmen and professional men. (fn. 197) Most of the long stone terrace on its east side still remained in 1964. A plaque on one of the houses records that Richard Jefferies lived here for one year. At the bottom of these streets Union Row was built, and a number of houses had been built in Prospect. Here may be seen a terrace of three houses surmounted by a large segmental pediment, (fn. 198) no doubt built by 1851. Another addition of the same period, which still remains, is the pair of suburban houses near the park entrance in Drove Road, still inscribed with their original names, Rose Cottage and Woodbine Cottage. (fn. 199)
The chief growth of the 1850s took place in the same direction. In 1852 land called the Orchard at the bottom of Victoria Street was sold, (fn. 200) and the extension of Victoria Street northwards was probably begun soon after. Adjoining it on the east another field was sold in 1854, and let in over 120 building plots. (fn. 201) On it Belle Vue Road was laid out and partly built by 1861; (fn. 202) by then it included Belle Vue Villas, a few Italianate houses still remaining in the lower part of the road. Mostly, however, the road contains terrace houses of varying design, some with flat hoods over the doors. Some larger houses probably of the 1850s remain in Devizes Road, where there are two pairs of stone villas on the east side, and in Bath Road, near the corner of the Avenue. (fn. 203) In the 1860s more houses were built in Bath Road, and north of it Lansdown Road and King William Street were laid out. (fn. 204) In the same decade Belle Vue Road and the northern part of Victoria Street were largely built upon. Union Street, leading off Victoria Street, was begun c. 1865, while South Street is slightly later. A curious feature of the 1860s was the building of a few working class terraces on waste ground near the quarries; some may still be seen in Quarry Road, but Trout's Folly, an insanitary group which caused the local board much trouble in the 1870s has disappeared. (fn. 205) It stood near the site of the bowling green in the Town Gardens. (fn. 206)
In the later 1870s and early 1880s the growth of Old Swindon northward was prevented by the Rolleston and Sheppard estates, whose history has been described above, while the Goddard family still declined to have its land built upon. Only along Bath Road was there much building, mainly of villas and terraces of large houses. (fn. 207) It did, however, share in the building boom of the end of the century; Avenue Road was begun in 1890, (fn. 208) while Ripley and Lethbridge Roads are of about the same time. By 1900 Goddard Avenue, St. Margaret's Road, and Winifred Road were laid out and partly built, and building had just begun on Okus and Westlecott Roads. (fn. 209)
By the end of the 19th century the two towns had virtually merged and their physical junction was acknowledged in 1900 by the incorporation of the whole town into one municipal borough, whose population the following year was 45,006. (fn. 210) From that time until the end of the Second World War the town's population slowly increased. There is new building of the years before 1914 in many parts of the town. West of Old Swindon the chief growth was along Westlecott Road and Belmont Crescent, and in the northern part of the Mall and Okus Road. Much of Kingshill Road belongs to this period. Vacant places in older areas were filled up. Between Corporation Street and what was now called County Road the whole of the remaining space was built over, and encroachments were made on the area south of the canal with Newcastle, Plymouth, and Portsmouth Streets and York Road. Not far away Euclid Street and several nearby streets were begun. North of the railway the settlements at Even Swindon and Gorse Hill were extended, especially in the Ferndale Road area. The final abandonment of the Wilts. and Berks. Canal in 1914 quite soon resulted in a noticeable change in the appearance of the centre of the town, for the canal was drained and filled in although its course remained clearly visible in 1964. (fn. 211)
In the period between the two World Wars the chief expansion of the town was to the north. The large corporation housing scheme at Pinehurst was planned by Sir Raymond Unwin just after 1918, while to the west the 1920s saw the beginning of Rodbourne Cheney as a residential suburb. In 1928 the borough boundary was extended to take in the parts of Stratton St. Margaret and Rodbourne Cheney in which the new housing lay and at the same time small parts of Chiseldon, Wroughton, Lydiard Tregoze, and Lydiard Millicent were added to Swindon. With the transfer of the land in Chiseldon the whole of Coate Water was brought within the borough boundary. (fn. 212) In the 1920s the remaining area west of Drove Road was built, and there was much ribbon development here and along Shrivenham, Marlborough, and Croft Roads. The 1930s saw estates of private houses grow in five main areas. At Rodbourne Cheney, Churchward Avenue, Northern Road, and associated roads were built. Off Cricklade Road areas around Headlands Grove and Malvern Road were developed. East of Drove Road the fields of Walcot were first encroached upon by the building of Burford Avenue, Walcot Road, and several other roads. Off Marlborough Road the estate south of the Lawn was built and finally some roads were laid out south of Kingshill Road. This extension of the town accommodated a population growth from 54,920 in 1921 to about 61,000 in 1939. (fn. 213)
After the Second World War besides a general shortage of housing due to war-time restrictions, houses were needed for the workers in industries which had moved to Swindon during the war, and also for workers in the new industries it was hoped would come to the town. (fn. 214) In 1952 the need to build became even greater when Swindon was approved as one of the towns to be expanded for the reception of population and industry from the Greater London area. (fn. 215) It was estimated that, as a result, housing for some additional 26,000 people would be required, all, at first, to be built within the borough boundary. (fn. 216)
To meet the immediate post-war needs some temporary houses were added to the corporation's only housing estate at Pinehurst, but this had been virtually completed in 1925. (fn. 217) Beech Avenue, leading from Pinehurst to Rodbourne Green, and some associated roads, were also built up with council houses in the first years after the war. In 1948, however, the corporation bought farms at Rodbourne Cheney and Moredon, (fn. 218) in the north-west corner of the borough, and on this land a new estate of some 1,685 houses and 12 shops was built. Post-war shortages of labour and materials are reflected in some of the houses where non-traditional materials and methods of construction were employed. Extensive use was made of the Easiform House, designed and erected by Messrs. John Laing & Son, Ltd. and of the Airey House, both built substantially of concrete. Schools for the new estate were opened between 1952 and 1955, but by 1951 almost all the land available for housing in this area had been used.
In 1951 the corporation acquired 250 a. for another housing estate by the purchase of Penhill Farm, which lay in Stratton St. Margaret just outside the borough boundary. (fn. 219) Next year the boundary was extended northwards somewhat to bring all the land acquired within the borough. (fn. 220) At Penhill use was also made of several types of partially pre-fabricated houses, but more variety was introduced than on the Moredon Estate and as an experiment part of the Penhill Estate was laid out on Radburn lines. A small community hall, a branch library, and a parade of shops in Penhill Drive were designed to provide a focal point for the estate. St. Peter's Church nearby was consecrated in 1956 and the Free Church, built by the Congregationalists in 1959, also lies in Penhill Drive. By 1965 there were just over 2,000 dwellings, including three multi-story blocks of flats, on the Penhill estate, which occupied the whole of the northern tip of the borough. Schools for the estate were opened between 1955 and 1963.
As soon as Swindon became a receiving district for overspill population from London in 1952, over 1,000 a. were acquired by the corporation for the next big housing development. (fn. 221) This land was made up almost entirely of the farmlands of the Goddard estate, namely of Upper and Lower Walcot Farms, and of Park, Church, Manor, Coate, and Prince's Farms. (fn. 222) On it between c. 1954 and c. 1960 nearly 1,500 dwellings were built. While negotiations for the land were proceeding some houses for overspill population were built on the newly developed Penhill estate. But as soon as negotiations were complete building began on a new estate which was to be called Walcot East. It was built by the corporation with a residential density of 45 persons to the acre. (fn. 223) The need to build quickly and cheaply, which was felt when this estate was being developed, can be detected in the appearance of some of its houses and its lay-out. Walcot East has been criticized for its small houses in long, somewhat monotonous terraces and for its 'overwide avenues and aimless closes'. (fn. 224) Later, however, greater variety was introduced and improvements in design were achieved where local architects were employed. A block of flats for more prosperous tenants was included on this estate, but this experiment was not repeated on other Swindon housing estates. Building began at about the same time on the Walcot West estate which is separated from Walcot East by the Queen's Drive dual carriage-way (see below). Much of Walcot West was developed by private enterprise with a residential density of 35 to the acre. (fn. 225)
The Walcot estates were the first in Swindon to have fully developed neighbourhood centres. Sussex Square, designed by the borough architect, is a paved and arcaded shopping precinct, containing 14 shops with maisonettes above. (fn. 226) A community hall and a branch library adjoin the precinct, and nearby are a petrol station and public house, built by private enterprise. Sussex Square, opened in 1958, won a Civic Trust award. (fn. 227) In its centre stands a Sarsen stone, 8 ft. in height, which was found on the site. The church of St. Andrew, built in 1958, lies a little to the north-east of the square, but can be plainly seen from it. The Walcot schools were opened between 1957 and 1959.
1. Site of Mill
2. Site of Methodist Ch.
3. Site of Independent Ch.
4. Site of Free Sch.
5. Former Corn Exch. and Town Hall
6. Former Vicarage Ho.
7. Former Rectory Ho.
8. Former Congreg. Ch.
9. Methodist Ch.
10. Methodist Ch.
11. Baptist Ch., South St.
12. The College, formerly Swindon and N. Wilts. Tech. Inst.
13. Trinity Presbyt. Ch.
14. Holy Rood R. C. Ch.
15. Empire Theatre
16. Town Hall
17. Tabernacle Baptist Ch.
18. Methodist Ch.
19. Congreg. Ch., Sanford St.
20. Golden Lion Bridge
21. Covered Market
22. Baptist Ch., Cambria Pl.
23. Site of G.W.R. Sch.
24. Mechanics' Inst.
25. G.W.R. Hosp.
26. The 'Barracks'
27. Whale Bridge
28. Site of Wharf
Besides the land in Walcot West, an area, known as the Lawn, lying between the Marlborough road and Queen's Drive, was handed over by the corporation for private development. Here in the 1950s and early 1960s such roads as Sandringham Road and Windsor Road were built up with houses for private ownership.
Shortly after work on the Walcot East estate was begun, building began on the remaining land to the south-east, which was to take Swindon's housing development right up to the borough's eastern boundary. Here two estates, Park North and Park South, were laid out. They are divided from one another by Whitbourne Avenue and on them 3,670 dwellings, including three multi-story blocks of flats, were built by the corporation. Park neighbourhood centre, designed by Frederick Gibberd, provides a shopping precinct for both estates, and also a community hall and a branch library. The precinct was designed to give an effect of a tightly built-up urban core. (fn. 228) The Reuben George Hall, opened within the precinct, in 1956, provides a hall for social activities. The church of St. John the Baptist, built in 1957, faces the precinct, and schools for the Park estates were opened in 1959 and 1960.
While the Penhill estate was being developed on the north side of the town early in the 1950s, an industrial estate was being created on 75 a. of land acquired by the corporation between 1949 and 1951 in the Rodbourne Cheney district to the west. On this site between 1955 and 1964 some 20 factories and warehouses were built, either by the corporation or by the firms concerned. (fn. 229)
Since a large part of Swindon's population was to live on the estates lying to the east of Drove Road and the old town, a new direct traffic route to the centre of the town and beyond to the industries on its western side became necessary. This was provided in part by the opening in 1953 of Queen's Drive, a dual carriage-way, running between Marlborough road and Shrivenham and County Roads, and forming also an eastern by-pass for both the old and the new towns.
With the plan for the full development of the Park estates virtually all land within the borough's boundaries available for large-scale housing schemes was used up. In 1961 the corporation was authorized to develop farm-land to the east of the boundary lying in the parishes of Stratton St. Margaret, Wanborough, Liddington, and Chiseldon. (fn. 230) About 90 a. of this were allotted for industrial development and the rest was to be used for housing. In 1965 work on two housing estates, Covingham and Nythe, developed by the corporation and private enterprise respectively, was well advanced and the Greenbridge and Nythe industrial estates had advanced commensurately. But since they all lie outside the borough boundary, any further account of them is reserved for treatment with the parishes in which they are situated.
As has been shown above, New Swindon, apart from the G.W.R.'s first housing estate, was developed piecemeal, mostly by local builders in later 19th century. Already by the end of the Second World War the town, which had grown so quickly and so haphazardly, lacked any shopping, commercial, or administrative centre suited to its size and importance. With the enormous industrial and suburban expansion planned for the post-war years, the need for a completely remodelled town centre was obvious. A plan for this was prepared in 1962 and approved subject to certain amendments by the Government in 1964. (fn. 231) In 1965 there had been much clearance of the old central area but only a very small part of the plan had been carried out. Between 1960 and 1964 the site of the former Wilts. and Berks. Canal on either side of Regent Street was transformed into a pedestrian shopping precinct as part of a plan to make all Swindon's central shopping streets pedestrian ways only. This site was planned by the borough engineer and surveyor, assisted by Messrs. Shingler and Risdon, architects to the property developers, and the corporation's consultant architect, Frederick Gibberd. (fn. 232) In 1965 Fleming Way, a dual carriage-way, also following the route of the disused canal, and leading from the Drove Road roundabout to Fleet Street, was opened as the first section of a proposed inner ring-road to serve the central shopping area. Many of the streets of houses to the east and north of Regent Street had been demolished to make way for car parks and service roads, and for the public buildings it was planned to build along Princes Street. On the west side of this street the Courts of Justice, designed by the borough architect, were opened in 1965, and in the same year the first part of a new Post Office sorting office in Wellington Street came into use.