Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Sands

At the time of the 1841 census, Bath Road, then known as The Sands, consisted of just eleven middle class homes.  It took the coming of the railways to kick start the property boom in Old Swindon but by 1851 little had changed.

It would be the death of local landowner John Harding Sheppard in 1868 and the sale of his extensive estate that eventually saw development take off along Bath Road.

Richard Bowly, draper and brewer bought Sheppard’s Kingshill Villa and several parcels of land but he was out to make a quick profit on his newly acquired property.

On September 16, 1868 local auctioneer William Dore presided over an auction at the Goddard Arms Hotel where Sixty Seven lots of valuable freehold Building land on the Sands came under the hammer for the second time that year.

Clock and watchmaker George Deacon was one of those keen to make a purchase and paid £80 for lot 16, a plot with a 30ft frontage on The Sands.

Swindon builder Henry Caiger bought the land on Deacon's death four years later and built a home fit for the upwardly mobile.

But the eventual buyer was Miss Sarah Sheppard King, no nouveau riche newcomer but a member of a well established local dynasty that gave it's name to this area of Old Swindon.  The King family's roots in Swindon can be traced back to medieval landowner Robert le Kynge and a 14th century farm in the Kingshill area.

Sarah, the daughter of Richard Dore King, was born in 1821 in neighbouring Lydiard Tregoze.  In 1878 Sarah moved in to Yucca Villa with her sister Elizabeth, the estranged wife of Jonas Clark.

The two women lived together in the elegant house on The Sands for 18 years.  An inventory dated 1896 reveals a home equipped for entertaining.  The dining room was furnished with an extending mahogany table, six mahogany horsehair seated chairs, two carving chairs and two lady's chairs and the cellar contained 142 bottles of brandy, claret, port and sherry.

In her will, written in 1892, Sarah appointed her friends Charles Hibbard, a farmer then living in Bishopstone, and Edward Smith, a Swindon High Street butcher, as trustees.

She left a host of bequests to family, friends and old retainers and a mention of  'my sister Elizabeth Bathe Clark (the wife of Jonas Clark but now living separate and apart from him).'

Sarah died in 1896.  She left Yucca Villa and its contents to the trustees of her estate with the proviso that her sister remain in residence "until her death or if she should return to her husband."

Elizabeth died at Yucca Villa on June 25, 1903 aged 91.  Her niece Mary Jane registered the death describing her aunt as 'widow of Jonas Clark farmer.'

Both sisters are buried in the King family plot in St Mary's churchyard, Lydiard Tregoze.

King family graves at St Mary's, Lydiard Tregoze

 Photograph of The Sands is published courtesy of Swindon Local Studies - visit for more views of Swindon.

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