The mystery of just where Sheppard's Mansion House stood is solved in the recollections of Richard James Tarrant written shortly before his death in 1926 aged 85. Tarrant, a former boot and shoe maker, had once lived at 9, Wood Street, Old Swindon.
"I knew John Harding Sheppard, brewer and malster," he wrote. "He built Bowlys brewery and lived in the house opposite the Square, where Kinneirs had their offices, now turned into a garage, Skurrays." Today the foundations of this building lie beneath the Co-operative store on the corner of High Street and Newport Street.
Sheppard's extensive Kingshill estate caused quite a stir when it went under the hammer in September 1870.
"The sale occupied several hours, and presented a scene but seldom witnessed on such occasions. The preliminary wrangle over the conditions and particulars occupied from two to three hours," reported the Swindon Advertiser.
With the population of both New and Old Swindon doubling within ten years, any building land that came on the market was usually snapped up. But not in this case!
Lot One in the Kingshill auction, over twenty-eight acres with fields named Kingshill or Furze Ground, Lower Kingshill or Randall's Ground and Hill Ground or Waight's Ground, went unsold.
Other numerous small lots of land were up for grabs but it was the cottages, shops and three public houses, which proved a more attractive proposition for investors.
"The Running Horse public house, with mill adjoining, a small close of pasture land, and two cottages was knocked down to Mr John Jacobs for £680," reported the Swindon Advertiser.
It would be another year before Kingshill Villa was sold to Richard Bowly for £950 in a private contract.
However, one property did find a buyer, "the residence opposite the Square, lately in the occupation of Mr Sheppard, was knocked down to Mr Kinneir for £1,220 and the small house adjoining for £400."
Four years later Henry Kinneir leased the property to Thomas Deacon and Thomas Edmund Liddiard, auctioneers, dealers in horses and livery stable keepers who expanded their Vale of the White Horse Repository to the corner of High Street and Newport Street.
The indenture on the property described as a 'Mansion House with Garden, Yards, Stables and premises situate in the High Street' includes a detailed inventory of the fixtures and fittings.
Perhaps solicitor Henry Kinneir made out the inventory himself, walking from room to room, compiling his notes - 'Drawing Room late Dining Room - 3 Rollers, Register Grate, 3 Venetian Blinds - Shop late Drawing Room 3 Rollers, Register Grate and extra Steel Bars. Hall Entrance - 9 Hat Pegs, 8 Bells hanging in Passage, mahogany Side Board, Library - Venetian Blind, Long Cupboard, Corner Cupboard, Grate.'
Empty of furniture and personal effects, it is the domestic quarters that create a behind the scene image of the daily life in a prosperous Victorian household. 'Large Kitchen Range and Smoke Jack - Large Meat Safe and three Shelves - Baking Oven and Skeleton Grate - Laundry, 2 Large Drying Horses on reels Small Drying Stove.'
Sheppard died on February 15, 1868 aged 91. He is buried alongside his wife Ann in the church yard at Christ Church marked by an elaborate monument.
Images - Sheppard's Mansion House courtesy of the Swindon Society - visit their website on http://www.theswindonsociety.co.uk/