Swindon, Wiltshire, England
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Old Town, Wiltshire, England         OS Map Grid Ref: SU155831
 The County of Wiltshire
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17th Century

The century-and-a-half between the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and Queen Anne were a period of transformation for swindon from a medieval manor to a market town and Swindon's weekly market was expanded attracting commerce from the surrounding area.

In his Highworth and Round About published in 1973, PJ Archer writes that the Parliamentary soldiers occupying Highworth were very rude to visitors to Highworth's markets causing them to resort instead to Swindon which subsequently took much of the Highworth's trade.

Swindon captured more trade from Highworth when the West Country ravaged by the Great Plague in 1664-5 and the outbreak was less extensive here.

It is likely that the Roman camp at Wanborough was built of limestone from Swindon and roof tiles hewn from the stone were used at Sevenhampton as early as 1301. It was the discovery of the fine Purbeck seam in the 17th century which launched Swindon's modern quarrying industry.

A seam of fine Purbeck stone was discovered near the town in the 17th century and gave rise to the quarrying industry. Only five feet beneath the overburden of soil, the white stone could take a polish and remained dry in the rain. It was used for paving and in the erection of houses for the aristocracy. Much of the stone being sent to London along the Thames from Lechlade.

Prior to the discovery of the Purbeck seam, building stone was quarried from Flaxlands, Old Quarry, Wescott and Windmill Quarry, the land being rented for the purpose from the landowners (such a lease of 1694, for example, was for £25 and acre). The record of a sale transaction in 1641 indicates the antiquity of the Swindon quarrying industry even then;

from "Richard Goddard III to Robert D'oyley the younger gent. of Lincoln's Inn of The Old Quarry and various messuages in Swindon ".

The names of many of the 17th-century families of masons such as Archer, Bury, Cox, Ewen, Hopkin, Humphries and Simmons are still represented in the area today.

The Goddard family held the sway of power in Old Swindon although the St Johns of nearby Lydiard Park were more widely known throughout the country.

Although the Purbeck seam was exhausted by the end of the 18th century, the quarries at the summit of Kingshill which were opened in 1790 provided much of the stone required for the expansion of Old Swindon, the development of New Swindon and the building of the bridges and buildings of the Wilts. & Berks. Canal in the 19th century.

A list of employments in Swindon survives from 1697 providing us with a flavour of the commercial activity of the town at the close of the 17th century. Apart from labourers and servants, lists an Alehousekeeper, Bailiffs, Bakers, Barbers, Blacksmiths, Butchers, Carpenters, Clerks, a Collarnaker, a Combmaker (for wool), Coopers, a Currier, a Feltmaker, a Glazier, Glovers, Innholders, a Joiner, Masons, a Quiltmaker, a Saddler, Shoemakers, Slaters, a Tabacco Cutter, Tailors, a Translator, Weavers, a Wheelwright, a Woolman, Teomen and Gentlemen of Means. Noticaeably absent from the list are a clergyman or schoolteacher - perhaps Swindon had none at the time.

In 1898 the Richard Jones foundation was established to provide exhibitions of £5 and £20 a year.

In 1696, Richard Jones left a legacy of £300 in his will to pay for a free grammar school for boys. The money was used to purchase land at Haydon Wick and Rodbourne Cheney, the rent from which was used to pay the Master's salary. By 1859 when the school was held in the Town Hall it had fallen into disrepute, the money being used for the upkeep of the National Schools. The land in Rodbourne Cheney was sold in 1920 and the proceeds of the sale reinvested to provide a return of £70 annually.

The Wilts. & Berks. Canal, to run through the low northern part of Swindon parish was proposed in 1793. Building commenced at Semington in 1795 and reached Swindon in 1804. The building of the canal boosted the local quarrying industry around the turn of the 19th century as Swindon stone was used for the construction of the canal bridges, the canal offices at Swindon Wharf and the paving of other wharves in the heighbourhood.

The better communications afforded by the arrival of the nearby canal must have benefitted the economy of the town generally.

Swindon was primarily an agricultural town until the discovery of the building stone but, suffering from poor communications, it was overshadowed by Marlborough on the London to Exeter road to the south as a market town. The Parliamentary Gazeteer of England and Wales, 1840-1843 (A Fullerton & Co., London, 1843) described the town thus;

The town is situated on the summit of a hill of considerable eminence, which commands a delightful view of parts of Berkshire and Gloucestershire. The principal streets are wide and contain many good houses. No particular manufacture is carried on in the town, but it is the residence of many persons of independent fortune. Extensive quarries are wrought in the neighbourhood, which, together with agricultural pursuits, afford employment ot the greater part of the working population of the town. The inhabitants are abundantly supplied with pure water from the springs. There are 325 houses in the town and the population at the 1831 census was 1742.

In 1819, Lord Clarendon paid for a school for eighteen girls.

High Street was the principal street of the town and contained fine limestone-built houses. The pricipal inns of the town were located here; the long, ivy-covered brick-built Goddard Arms, with its stone roof, dates from the middle of the 18th century and the front consists of nine bays; the assembly rooms of the King of Prussia on the opposite side of the street became a make-shift ballroom; an inscription on the nearby Bell, one-time posting house, suggests it dates from 1515

By establishing the hub of its operations near the quiete agricultural town of Swindon, the GWR unwittingly also established an experiment which is almost unique - bringing the industrial revolution quite abruptly to a rural community.

The easy access to Somerset coal offered by the Wilts. & Berks. Canal brought the Great Western Railway which built its track to the north of the canal and extensive workshops in 1843. To house its workers, the GWR built a village, New Town or New Swindon to the south of its works. As the works expanded rapidly, so did the new settlement until it overshadowed ancient Swindon atop its hill.

see also:   Buildings of Old Town

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The town hall was built for
Old Town in 1825. The corn exchange of the Victorian market town opened in 1886 but become a roller skating rink in 1909. In the 1920's it became The Rink Cinema. In the 1940's the Locarno ballroom was at the height of it's popularity. Later it became a bingo hall.

In the late 1990's the Locarno and Town Hall buildings were purchased by Gael MacKenzie. There were plans to convert the site into a nightclub in 2000 but the project failed because the magistrates refused to grant a licquor license. In May 2003, new plans for the site were displayed in Swindon. These involved creating an Italianesque piazza on the site of the car park (owned by Swindon Borough Council), a restaurant, a café and three blocks of apartments. The whole scheme would cost a million pounds.

The fire brigade were called out to deal with the second fire at the buildings within two days at 1515h on Sunday May 18th, 2002. At the peak of the fire, fifty Wiltshire firemen were invloved in tackling the blaze. On the Monday morning, although the clock tower and exterior walls were thought safe, the roof and part of the first floor had collapsed as had part of the rear wall which had bowed outwards. The blaze, thought to have been started deliberately, has put the redevelopment of the site and buildings in question.

The four stone-built almhouses in Cricklade Street overlooking the churchyard were built by the bequest of Alexander Anderson (1865) of �1,636 and �32 given by the local board for men or women aged over sixty and resident in Swindon over three years.

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Purbeck Stone

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Park North
  Swindon, Wiltshire, England
2.3 km NW
  Wiltshire, England
1.8 km NE
Walcot East
  Swindon, Wiltshire, England
1.9 km NW
Walcot West
  Swindon, Wiltshire, England
1.4 km NW
Park South
  Swindon, Wiltshire, England
2 km NW
  Swindon, Wiltshire, England
1 km NE
  Swindon, Wiltshire, England
1.4 km NE
New Town
  Swindon, Wiltshire, England
1.7 km N
Even Swindon
  Swindon, Wiltshire, England
2.4 km NE

Old Town Museum and Art Gallery
Bath Road, Old Town, Swindon, Wiltshire SN1 4BA
Museum of local history; industry and art gallery.
1.8 km NW
Coate Water Country Park
  Swindon, Wiltshire, England
Built as a reservior to supply the Berks and Wilts Canal, Cote Water was inhabitted in the Stone Age
2.3 km SE
Science Museum Wroughton
Wroughton Airfield, Swindon, Wiltshire SN4 9NS
The Science Museums large exhibits including aircraft are stored and displayed at Wroughton
2.4 km SW
Coate Stone Circle
  Coate, Swindon, Wiltshire, England
2.9 km SE
Lydiard Park & House
  Swindon, Wiltshire, England
5.3 km NW
Liddington Castle
  Swindon, Wiltshire, England
The Iron Age hill fort which overlooks the M4 motorway and modern Swindon is within sight of nearby Barbury Castle
6.6 km SE

Camping Sites
Forest Holidays
Postern Hill Campsite, Savernake Forest, Marlborough, Wiltshire   SN8 4ND
15.8 km SW
Blackland Leisure Ltd
Stockley Lane, Calne, Wiltshire   SN11 0NQ
20.8 km SE
Hill View Park
Oare, Wiltshire   SN8 4JE
21 km S
North Leaze Farm Camp Site
North Leaze Farm, Highworth, Wiltshire   SN6 7QT
21 km S

Guest House
The Greyhound
177 Faringdon Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 5DL
1.5 km NE
Kingsbridge House
Coate, Wiltshire   SN3 6AA
3 km SW
Appletree House
29 Kingsdown Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN2 7PE
5.1 km NW
Hayward House
6 Swindon St, Highworth, Wiltshire   SN6 7AH
10.1 km NW

Wheatsheaf Hotel
32 Newport St, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3DP
0.1 km N
Bradford Guest House
40 Devizes Rd, Old Town, Wiltshire   SN1 4BG
0.2 km N
Fusion Restaurant Bar & Hotel
24 High St, Old Town, Wiltshire   SN1 3EP
0.4 km NW
Goddard Arms Hotel
High St, Old Town, Wiltshire   SN1 3EG
0.4 km NW
The Swindon Marriott Hotel
Pipers Way, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN3 1SH
0.4 km SW
The Regent Hotel
151-152 Victoria Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3BU
0.7 km N
Swandown Hotel
36-37 Victoria Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3AS
0.9 km NE
The Mill House Pattern Store
Penzance Drive, Churchward, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN2 2BA
2 km NE

Police Stations
Swindon Divisional Headquarters
Princes St, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 2HZ
1.4 km NE
Wootton Bassett Police Station
Lime Kiln, Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire   SN4 7JJ
8.6 km SE
Highworth Police Station
Newburgh Place, Highworth, Wiltshire   SN6 7DN
10.3 km NW
Cricklade Police Station
High St, Cricklade, Wiltshire   SN6 6DF
11.7 km NE
Marlborough Police Station
George Lane, Marlborough, Wiltshire   SN8 4DB
14.8 km SW
Calne Police Station
Silver St, Calne, Wiltshire   SN11 0JF
20.3 km SE

Post Offices
Post Office
Victoria Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3BL
0.5 km N
Lawn PO
44 Guildford Avenue, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN3 1JE
1.2 km SW
Clifton Street PO
158 Clifton St, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3QB
1.2 km NE
Westcott Place PO
175 Faringdon Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 5DL
1.5 km NE
G & L (Queens Drive PO)
2 Queens Drive, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN3 1AW
1.6 km NW
Queens Drive PO
G & L, 2 Queens Drive, Wiltshire   SN3 1AW
1.6 km NW
Walcot PO
Sussex Square, Walcot, Wiltshire   SN3 3BJ
1.6 km NW
Park PO
31-33 Cavendish Square, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN3 2LP
1.9 km NW
Rodbourne Road PO
169-170 Rodbourne Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN2 2AY
2.5 km NE

Public Houses
The Steam Railway Co
14 Newport St, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3DX
0.3 km NW
The Castle Hotel
28 Prospect Place, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3LQ
0.6 km NE
The Globe
29 Eastcott Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3LT
0.7 km NE
Duke of Wellington
27 Eastcott Hill, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3JG
0.8 km NE
The Clifton Inn
Clifton St, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3PY
1.1 km NE
21 Regent Circus, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 1PN
1.1 km NE
The Malt and Hops
Drove Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3AF
1.2 km NW
Wayward Inns
73 Commercial Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 5NX
1.3 km NE
Rolleston Arms
73 Commercial Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 5NX
1.3 km NE
Beer Cellar World Wide Ltd
39 Woodland View, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN4 9AA
1.3 km SE

53 Devizes Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 4BG
0.2 km N
Lacasita Mexican Resturant & Takeaway
6 Devizes Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 4BJ
0.3 km NW
Poms Thai Cusine
24 High St, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3EP
0.4 km NW
Il-Capricorno Restorante
Marlborough House, 26 High St, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3EP
0.4 km NW
Jalapenos Tex Mex Restaurant
16 Wood St, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 4AB
0.4 km NW
15 Bath Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 4AS
0.4 km NE
Mario`s Trattoria
7 Wood St, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 4AN
0.4 km NW
New Biplob
12-14 Wood St, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 4AB
0.4 km NW
Biplob Tandoori Restaurant
12-14 Wood St, Old Town, Wiltshire   SN1 4AB
0.4 km NW
Pizza Express plc
5 Bath Rd, Old Town, Wiltshire   SN1 4AS
0.4 km NE
25-27 Wood St, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 4AN
0.4 km NW

Take Away Food
13 Clive Parade, Cricklade Rd, Pinehurst, Wiltshire   SN2 1AJ
3.9 km NW

Video Sales & Hire
The Little Film Shop Ltd
116 Eastcott Hill, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 3JH
0.8 km NE
Apollo Home Entertainment
133-135 Manchester Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN1 2AF
1.8 km NE
Video Shack
34 Ipswich St, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN2 1DB
2.5 km NE
Covingham Video Films Ltd
6 Covingham Square, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN3 5AA
3.4 km NW
Blockbuster Entertainment
Unit 13, West Swindon District Centre, Wiltshire   SN5 7DL
3.6 km NE
Video Solent Ltd
7 Clive Parade, Cricklade Rd, Pinehurst, Wiltshire   SN2 1AJ
3.9 km NW
347a Cheney Manor Rd, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN2 2PE
4 km NE
Blockbuster Entertainment
Unit B5 , North Swindon Retail Park, Swindon, Wiltshire   SN25 4BG
5.8 km NE

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