Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Looking down on Walcot in the 1950s.

With completion of the Penhill estate in mid 1955, development began to the east of the town.  This aerial photograph of Swindon fifty years ago shows building under way at Walcot East where streets were named after famous 16th and 17th century Brits.

Swindon Corporation acquired 1,000 acres of land for building to the east of the town, swallowing up long held Goddard property, including Lower and Upper Walcot Farms.

Although it would be another three years before the borough adopted the 1952 Town Development Act perhaps the future of the dairy farm at Lower Walcot was already under threat when it came on the market in 1949.

The estate agent’s blurb was rather restrained by today’s standards describing the stone built farmhouse as merely ‘convenient.’  The farmhouse boasted an entrance porch, dining room, sitting room with attractive new grate and built in cupboard, kitchen with Raeburn stove, back-kitchen with wash-hand basin, brush cupboard, separate WC etc.  On the first floor there were three bedrooms, one double and two single, a boxroom and a bathroom with bath, wash hand basin and hot and cold running water.  

Among the ‘adequate range of farm buildings’ was ‘a dairy, excellent enclosed concrete yards surrounded by accredited stalling accommodation for 48 cows, a range of piggeries and a good four-bay Dutch Barn.’

With two cottages, flower and vegetable gardens and ‘a highly productive Orchard,’ the land was described as consisting ‘of some of the most productive Pasture and Arable in the district with a well-known reputation for prolific production of Dairy Produce.’

Bailey's farmhouse pictured today

The two Walcot farms were bought by Swindon Corporation in 1954 and construction work began a year later.  The new estates were built quickly and cheaply, the majority by contractor’s John Laing and Co. who introduced the new prefabricated concrete houses, Easiform.   By 1960 the homes at Walcot were close to completion and maps reveal that in 1967 the farm yard and buildings at Lower Walcot farm served as a Corporation Yard.

Following refurbishment and renovation, Lower Walcot farmhouse was renamed Bailey’s Farm after the family of butchers long associated with the property.

Brothers Frank and Harry had shops in Swindon town centre in the early 20th century, Frank at 48 Fleet Street and Harry at both Fleet Street and 15 Bridge Street.

Documents reveal that in 1916 Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard, the last member of the family to live at The Lawn, Swindon, signed a yearly tenancy on Walcot Farm with Frank Bailey.  Frank’s son Frank Norman Bailey continued the tenancy in 1922.

The stone built farmhouse survived demolition during the development of the farmland and now forms part of Baileys Farm Gardens, a complex of council owned flats.

The Walcot estates were the first to be built with a neighbourhood centre.  This photograph shows the road plans for the future award winning shopping precinct at Sussex Square.  The broad sweep of Frobisher Drive can be seen in the foreground with Shrivenham Road and the County Ground in the distance.  St Andrew’s Church, designed by Swindon architects R.J. Beswick & Son of Victoria Road, was consecrated in 1958.

The Walcot Dome Community Centre in Burghley Close stands on the former site of the Walcot Boys Club.  This club opened in 1961, providing a variety of sports and activities for boys on the estate.

Today the housing estates at Walcot cover more than 350 acres of former farmland, including ancient fields once named Glazemore Ground and Chantery Green. 

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