Swindon Central Library is full of gems. Preserved on a few sheets of paper in the Local Studies section are Richard Tarrant's memories of 'Swindon 80 odd years ago' written shortly before his death in 1926 aged 85.
"Before you get to the Hermitage at the back of Mason's, there was a very large house, a brick house. When Kinneir came to Swindon as a solicitor he began his practice there. Very big house pleasant and beautiful gardens ...," writes Tarrant.
Documents held at the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives in Chippenham confirm that Henry Kinneir signed a 14 year lease on a "messuage or dwelling house with Stable Gardens Outbuildings Auction Room called Redville House," owned by John William Browne, an attorney and solicitor.
The rent was fixed at £100 a year for the first eleven years dropping to £70 for the last three years of the tenancy.
An inventory of fixtures and fittings taken in 1858 before Kinneir moved in, extended to the contents of the greenhouse and garden - "Pruning bag quantity nails shreds etc etc 4 pair scissors 3 pruning knives Case containing 1 saw 3-4 knives 1 Syringe."
There were 120 pots of flowers containing Fuchias, Geraniums, Petunias etc and a further 130 in 'Garden Rows.' Four cucumber tubes, 12 dozen-flower pots and 16 saucers for potting flowers are listed along with a small log tub and a quantity of firewood.
The contents of the garden are described as 'The whole of the Vegetables - growing there in, Gooseberry trees, wood etc.'
With '21 Odd Bottles Wine' in the cellar, the items were valued at £28 9s 6d (£28.47) various additional charges brought the total to £40 18s 6d (nearly £41 worth today over £3,000).
Six months later Browne and Kinneir had entered into partnership and Henry's rent was reduced to £20 a year.
By 1861 the Kinneir family had settled into the house overlooking the driveway to the Goddard's mansion. Henry 29, an attorney and solicitor from Ashton Keynes, his wife Harriet 30, and their four children Henry 5, twin daughters Alice and Minnie 2 and six month old Walter.
Over fifty years later and Henry Kinneir then nearly 70 years old, continued to live at Redville with his second wife Susan. The family owned the property along with The Hermitage occupied by Henry's son Walter, and three cottages in Dammas Lane.
Redville, along with the Hermitage, were both built by Charles Anthony Wheeler in the early 1840s. Richard Tarrant recalls: "Smith the chemists shop, kept then by C.A. Wheeler and afterwards by a Mr Pinnegar then by a clever little man who hung himself." Library reference SWI.948. Today the Grade II listed building on Charlotte Mews has been renamed Redlands.
Images of The Hermitage and Henry Kinneir courtesy of Swindon Local Collection visit www.flickr.com/photos/swindonlocal