Saturday, 1 March 2008

Strange Faces, Villett's House

These strange faces appear over each of the large sash-cord windows at the front of this rather fine building. I have walked past several times and not noticed them before today - how puzzling that is.

I have the publication Wiltshire Life to thank for this one. Whilst surreptitiously browsing an unsealed copy in W.H. Smith's earlier today, I came across an article which mentioned Villett's House on Cricklade Street in Old Town (very close to Christ Church). Quite difficult to photograph close up as a narrow pavement next to narrow a very busy road. There is a plaque at the entrance saying that the poet John Betjeman described this building as "the finest house in Swindon". It does indeed have some very interesting masonry, however, at present I know little about its history. If anyone who reads this can fill in the background please send a comment and I will be very happy to make an amendment.

Note: A big thank you to Graham Carter for the information he has provided in the Comments box: I will not duplicate what he has written other than the basic facts that the house was built in 1729 by the Harding family and later became known as Villett's House after the family who bought it in 1770 (the lords of the manor for Eastcott). Please see Graham's entry into the Comment box to read in full what John Betjeman wrote about the house in his "Studies in the History of Swindon" (published 1950). To further quote Graham: 'Its extensive cellars are believed to have connections with Old Town's famed network of tunnels which are usually cited as evidence of smuggling activities'. The contribution made to this blog by Graham Carterto is much appreciated and further highlights that we live in a fascinating and often mysterious town - the older parts of which are steeped in history.