Saturday, 24 January 2009

An ancient church at Inglesham

A cat gargoyle on the outside of the church

The carving of the Mother and Child is almost certainly Saxon in origin - until 1910 it was on the outside of the south wall and used as a sundial but its original position is unknown.

Most of the walls are covered with paintings, often over painted up to seven layers thick

The bells date from 1717, made by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester

St John the Baptist Church, Inglesham, Wiltshire
This is somewhere I heard about a while ago and today came upon it almost by accident whilst walking the Thames path to Kelmscott. For someone who does not subscribe to religion, preferring to carry out my reflections on the mysteries of life whilst striding out across the Wiltshire Downs or mooching around along the upper Thames, old churches seem to play a significant role on this blog. Perhaps because they hold clues to the history of the people who used them, in some cases, over several centuries.
Inglesham is a small village the other side of Highworth and just before Lechlade. The old church is now looked after by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings which was founded by William Morris, who lived nearby in Kelmscott. There is a well polished plaque inside the church which says "This church was repaired in 1888-9 through the energy and with the help of William Morris, who loved it". Although it has been added to and renovated over the centuries, sections of it date back to the early 13th century (King John gave the church to the monks of Beaulieu in 1205).
A fascinating ancient building, situated close to the upper Thames, this old church is left open and is well worth a visit. There are some traces of a medieval village to be seen in the surrounding fields which declined with the passing of the wool trade.
Source of information: Anthony Barnes who produced a pamphlet named 'St John the Baptist Church' for The Churches Conservation Trust - a charity set up in 1969 to care for and repair ancient churches for present and future generations.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Tithe Barn at Stanton Fitzwarren

White doves on the roof of the tithe barn

The Tithe Barn
The old tithe barn can be found In the tranquil village of Stanton Fitzwarren situated on the outskirts of Swindon, just past Stratton and on the road to Highworth. Apparently, there has been a village on this site for over 2000 years.

Norman Church at Stanton Fitzwarren

St Leonard's Church in Stanton Fitzwarren
This beautiful little Norman church was built on the site of an older church. Today, I had a mishap with my camera which was set for close-up shots and as a consequence most of the photos I took were blurred. The inside of the church is exquisite with a Norman font and pulpit. Although tiny, the church has magnificent wood carvings and beautiful windows - one internal window is an engraved and just depicts an ear of corn. The ceiling is exposed wooden rafters which are a work of art in themselves. The church is on a gentle incline which slopes down towards the lake in Stanton Park.
Very old small font just inside the main door -
possible preserved from a Saxon church which originally stood on this site.

Norman font
Thought to date back to around 1170, the font belonged the church that preceded the present one and which was destroyed by fire. The upper part of the font has a frieze of entwined scroll bands and other interlacing patterns typical of that period.
For more about the lovely, hidden village of Stanton Fitzwarren have alook at this website:

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Faringdon Road Park on a frosty morning

Faringdon Road Park on a frosty morning - probably not Swindon's most beautiful park but with an interesting history. The land was purchased by GWR in 1844 from local land owner Lt Col Vilett for use as a cricket ground. It was also used for the annual children's fete which was held every August until the outbreak of WWI. It was originally known as the Cricket Fields, then the Plantation and later Victoria Park. The park was taken over by Swindon Corporation and turned into a public park in 1925.
(ref: Mark Child's Swindon: An Illustrated History)

The view across the park - in the distance the Swindon Hill and Radnor Street Cemetery are just visible in the mist.

One of the curious curved stones found in the immediate area - there is another in Radnor Street cemetery. I can't help thinking they once formed part of a much older monument.

This stone is unlike any I have encountered in my walks around Swindon - not sure if it is sarsen or sandstone rock. Examples of sandstone rock can be seen in the Old Town section of the railway cutting for the old Wootton Bassett to Marlborough line.

One of the entrances to the park with another smooth stone (sarsen or sandstone) just behind the notice. Faringdon Road Park was rather lovely this morning in the frost - just a few people around, dog walking or making their way by foot into the town centre. Due to its proximity to the town centre, this unsung public facility has suffered much from anti-social behaviour in the recent past. Let us not forget that it has an important place in Swindon's railway heritage and is still a much valued green space for the people of the town.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

The Old Cattle and Corn Markets

Still occupied, some of the original stone cottages on the busy Marlborough Road next to the site of the Cattle Market which were built in the early 1800s. A Cattle Market was first established in Old Swindon as early as 1780 by William Dore and was relocated to various positions until finally being built by William Dore III between Marlborough Road and the Old Swindon Station. Marlborough was the most important nearest town to Old Swindon for banking and trading.

The above scuplture of a ram by Jon Buck is The Old Wiltshire Horn which once one of the most important breeds in the county. It was commissioned by Tencherwood New Homes and Thamesdown Borough Council (now Swindon Borough Council) to commemorate the redevelopment of the Old Cattle Market which previously stood on the site of Dewell Mews.

The Old Corn Market

The sad and derelict Old Corn Market - used in the 1960s for roller-skating and pop-groups. The Locarno was the venue for groups such as the Kinks and, I do believe, the Rolling Stones in the mid-60s. Later it became a bingo hall and more recently was almost completely destroyed by fire, however, it is ear-marked for future development which will hopefully retain at least the historic tower.

Part of the now derelict Old Corn Market (also known as the Locarno)

Most newcomers to Swindon think of its history solely in terms of it railway heritage. In fact, Swindon started out as a small market town which also had its own stone quarry (Purbeck stone). One of the main routes up to Old Town, where the cattle and corn markets were situated, is called Drove Road and there are photos in existence of livestock being herded along what was then a rural road. Also in the area are roads named the Weavers, Old Mill Lane (Swindon had its own water mill at the Lawns) and Hooper's Place which provide clues to Swindon's agricultural and rural origins.
Acknowledgement to Mark Child's 'SWINDON An Illustrated History' for the information about the cattle market.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Hidden Stones

Anyone who has read this blog in the past will know that I have a bit of a passion for finding sarsens dotted around in the various parks and open spaces of Swindon. The Lawns has its fair share of sarsens which have almost certainly been imported from Marlborough Downs. However, in the copse just above the lakes lies a cluster of hidden stones (about a dozen). I do not know how they came to be there, perhaps surplus to requirements when the other stones were being positioned. The one above is the largest of the cluster and is in fact quite a massive stone - it seems a shame that they remain hidden or, if noticed at all by the casual observer, just look like ivy covered tree stumps. In summer they are completely obscured from view.
Thanks for the two comments: Pete Glastonbury (local expert on Avebury and Stonehenge) had previously explained that polishing marks are smooth areas where Neolithic man sharpened axe heads. I did go back to look yesterday and as I pulled the ivy away I noticed the stone is actually split it several places and was quite crumbly in comparison to sarsen which is one of the hardest stones. I now think that this cluster of stones is local sandstone.

New Year's Day at the Lawns

These steps lead up to what was once the private grounds and chapel of the Manor House which belonged to the Goddard Family. Until the overspill estates were built around Swindon in the 1950s to rehouse people after WW2, the view from these steps would have looked over fertile farmland. The river Cole flowed at the foot of the hill, this has now been culverted underground to make way for one of the main dual carriageways into the town.

Out for a walk at the Lawns on this afternoon on New Year's Day - the hoar frost remains on the trees - the cold pinches my fingers. The first of January arrives bleakly and somewhat grey.

The aptly named (for today) Ice House at the Lawns

The lower lake - both the upper and lower lake remain frozen

The resident pair of swans with their fully grown cygnets. I was surprised to see the younger swans still with their parents as last year I spotted the five cygnets flying away in October.