Tuesday, August 23, 2016

John Arkell's great big adventure.

Another day, another churchyard...

This week I visited the Grade I listed church of St Margaret's in Stratton St Margaret. The church retains elements from the 13th century despite many later additions and a partial rebuild in the 19th century.

The churchyard has also been extended several times, but I chose to take photographs in the oldest section around the church. There is a Grade II listed table top tomb to Susanna Hedges, but more of her story later. 

Here I found the rather magnificent memorial to John Arkell, founder of the Kingsdown brewery, and his son Thomas buried with various members of their families in a large plot.

The family brewery has been a feature of Stratton St Margaret for more than 170 years and with around 100 pubs, the Arkell name is well known in Swindon. But it could have been a very different story.

Crippled by heavy taxation and an agricultural depression, John gave up on farming and, with his cousin Thomas, left England for pastures new.

The pioneering group, which included other members of the extended family, landed in New York during the winter of 1830/1, but their eventual destination was the uninhabited plains of 'Upper Canada'.

Cousin Thomas stayed but John returned to England a few years later and established the brewery in 1843, and the rest, as they say, is history.

John died on October 21, 1881 aged 79 and is buried with his two wives and several of his children in the large family plot pictured below.

If you would like to know more about John's great big adventure you can read all about it in the very first edition of Swindon Heritage published in Spring 2013. Copies are still available and can be ordered online or bought at the Visitors Information Centre, Central Library and from Swindon Heritage c/o Belgravia Lettings, Commercial Road (opposite the tented market).

St Margaret's Church

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