Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blunsdon House Hotel

Today separated from Swindon's northern expansion by just the A419 road, Blunsdon was once a village five miles out of town.

The former parish of Blunsdon St. Andrew has a long history, appearing in the Domesday survey of 1086 as Blontesdone.

Along with various Roman remains, a numbers of bones, spurs and 17th century military relics have been excavated indicating it might have been the site of action during the English Civil War.

At the top of Chapel Hill are the remains of two stone piers marking the former rear entrance to Blunsdon House. Although probably built on the site of an earlier house, the present Blunsdon House only dates back to the early 1830s, when the property was owned by the wealthy Calley family of Buredrop Park. A plaque in St. Andrew's Church records the death of John James Calley in 1848 and his wife Elizabeth in 1861.

Elizabeth moved to Bath after her husband's death and in 1856 the property was sold to Thomas Edward Freeman. By the mid 1860s Edward Taylor Middleditch occupied the Georgian style Blunsdon House.

Reputedly the first farmer in the village to use steam ploughing, Edward Middleditch was an important local employer. However, by the mid 1880s his fortunes were on the decline and in 1889 the estate was on the market.

The sale catalogue describes the Blunsdon House estate with farm buildings, three cottages and 160 acres of arable and pasture lands, as being 'well adapted for gentlemen in search of a pleasing occupation in capital Hunting Country.'

Edward offered to escort prospective buyers around the property which was entered through a portico supported by stone columns. The ground floor rooms included an entrance hall with bay window overlooking the front lawn, a library leading to the tennis lawn and a conservatory overlooking pleasure grounds.

The first floor comprised 'five best bedrooms' and two servant's bedrooms with a staircase leading to four attic rooms.

Village folklore has it that Farmer Middleditch declared himself bankrupt. Maybe his financial condition improved as just over two years later he can be found on the 1891 census farming at North Bovey in Devon.

The new owner of Blunsdon House was William Titley, a gentleman farmer originally from Yorkshire who had more recently been living at The Grove in Lydiard Millicent.

It was the Titley family that made the first of some significant changes to the house including the addition of three dormer windows to open up the attic rooms for their family of seven children.

William died in 1895 aged just 44, but the Titley family connection with Blunsdon continued well into the 20th century. William, his wife and three of their children are buried in the graveyard at St. Leonard's Church.

After the Titley occupancy the house was leased to the Sutton family who then owned large areas of Blunsdon. Colonel Jagger was the next resident, followed by Commander Royds.

Peter Clifford bought the house and 30 acres of land in 1949, taking in bed and breakfast guests to help out a friend in the 1950s. Blunsdon House became a fully licensed hotel in 1962. Now part of the Best Western Premier Group, the four star Blunsdon House Hotel boasts 116 en suite bedrooms, a leisure club and nine hole golf course.

Images - Blunsdon House Hotel today and an earlier view with Miss Elsie Beatrice Gibb taken in the 1960s courtesy of the Richard C. Radway Collection available to view on www.flickr.com/photos/swindonlocal/

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