Thursday, January 3, 2013

Devizes Road

Devizes Road was a late starter getting on the property ladder.  Building along Nyweport Street had begun nearly five hundred years earlier while on Wood Street and High Street documents detailing 16th century property deeds survive.

In 1773 Devizes Road was still an unnamed, rural lane known locally as Short Hedge or Edge after the hawthorn hedges that lined its route.  By 1841 there was little change with only twelve houses built along the lane, also known as Horsefair as this was the site of regular horse fairs where the animals were tethered along the hedgerow for inspection.

Properties on the west side of the road date from the second half of the 19th century where the stone built terraced houses at 43-45 Devizes Road retain their original sash windows.

Built in about 1830, Canford House was a private dwelling before it became home to Swindon’s early police force in the mid century.  With accommodation for a police superintendent, an inspector and a couple of constables there was still room to spare for a rogue or two.

In 1861 Henry Haynes was the resident Police Superintendent.  Inspector Joseph Millard and his wife Jane shared the property with PCs Henry Townsend and John Britton and on census night 22 year old Mary A. Chilley bedded down in the cells where it was said there were metal rings in the cellar walls to restrain the prisoners.

In A Swindon Retrospect 1855-1930 printer and local historian Frederick Large recalled how prisoners were paraded through the streets handcuffed in twos and threes on their way from Canford House to appear before the magistrates at the Town Hall in the Market Square.

With the building of a new Police Station on Eastcott Hill in 1873, Canford House returned to a private dwelling and in 1891 was the home of William A. Godwin, brewer and maltster who owned the Belmont Brewery behind his home.   Bought by his father William Godwin in 1871 the brewery remained in the family until William Arthur Godwin’s death in 1937.

Canford House retains its links with the law and today provides office space for legal teams Winton Rayne & Co Inc and Warren-Green and Broughton.

In recent years the former Belmont Steam Brewery has been used as a nightclub venue.  Today the Grade II listed building with its distinctive tower is described as being central to new plans for the historic Old Town site.

Widow Anna Bendrey lived across the road in Myrtle Villa with her daughter Alice 29 and son Ernest 24.    Described as ‘living on her own means,’ Anna’s husband Richard Tooth Bendrey, a tea dealer, had obviously left her well provided. 

Neighbouring Stanley House was home to farmer’s son and butcher John King Smith and his young family while John H. Chandler, who had a large drapery business on the corner of Wood Street, lived at 1 Strathearne Villas alongside draper’s assistant John Gardner, auctioneer Tom Deacon and schoolmistress Mary Riley.

Today the ever increasing flow of traffic is of major concern in this historic thoroughfare, as in other areas of Old Town.  However, many of the properties have retained distinctive original features and along with the historic laneways of Britannia and Phillips Place, Devizes Road comprises one of Swindon Borough’s twenty eight conservation areas.

Canford House - former police station

The former Belmont Brewery

Myrtle Villa

Stanley House

1905 William Hooper photograph of Devizes Road is published courtesy of Swindon Local Studies

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