For this section of the website, we have relied in part on research and memories from three local residents, Mrs Murgatroid, Mrs Varney and Mr Titcombe… for which we thank them.
First mention of the Parish we can find is in the Inquisition (a method in the 15th century of managing inheritance) which was held in the city of New Sarum on 26th July 1626. This dealt with the estate of Edmund Milles who farmed 130 acres in Heyden Weeke.
In 1771 we discover a list of residents (Rodborn Cheney) eligible to serve on the Jury for the Michaelmas Sitting in Haidon and Morden. There were 33 eligible residents of which one was Richard Titcomb! A very common family name locally even today.
The 1851 census gives us the first detailed appraisal of those who lived in Haydon Wick. There were 288 residents and the jobs listed paint a fascinating picture. There are at least 12 farmers, a shoemaker, a blacksmith, a mason, a basket maker two or three dairy servants and domestic servants, and one or two paupers (listed as an occupation?) But 50% or more residents were agricultural workers, and there was a smattering of railway labourers who presumably walked the 3½ miles into the Swindon Works, there and back each day.
In 1870 John Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, described Haydon as a ‘tything in Rodborn Cheney Parish, Wilts
4¼ miles north west of Swindon with a population of 367’
In 1900 Henry J Hacker was listed as the British Postal Services appointee from Haydon Wick.
As the 20th century unfolds then we learn about day to day life in Haydon Wick Parish.
Prior to 1928 Haydon Wick was part of the Parish of Rodbourne Cheney and our Parish became independent in that year.
Haydon Wick was tiny small hamlet with houses in the High Street and farms with surrounding fields and roads were only dirt and shale tracks. There were no main services but it became known as “gas light city” after gas was installed in 1930. A number of homes had gas cooking from that time. Electricity came to the village in 1939. Houses had no flushing toilets with sewers until after 1928 with people using buckets with a board across for a toilet. Sunday mornings the men dug trenches in their gardens for the contents of the buckets to form compost. There was no refuse collection. Milk was delivered around the village in buckets. People gathered fruits such as blackberries and made wine from elderberries and dandelions and used wells to keep things cool.
There used to be a farm where the old Haydon Wick School is now situated. All farms are now subsumed under roads, gardens and people’s houses although farms houses in some cases have been preserved… Haydon Farm, Brook Farm, Tanners Farm, Haydon End Farm, Guernsey Farm and Manor Farm. The fields above where Avonmead is now were ploughed and pig farming was popular locally.
A Brooke Bond tea van came to the village every 6 weeks. There was a grocers at the Rodbourne Arms. There were shops in Swindon centre of course, but that required a 4 mile walk across fields and then along the canal path.
The first schoolroom adopted the name of the visionary daughter, of the then owner of Manor Farm, who in 1806 established the first free school for the children of Haydon Wick and Blunsdon (see plaque in her memory placed on the outside of the large house next to the Fox pub in the village which was the Schoolroom) Later a new school room was built at the Brow which had 3 classrooms. Children started school at 3 years old and had pallets to sleep on each day. The school master lived on the premises. The first job of the day in winter was to place the ink pots around the boiler to melt the ice in the ink, although ink was used with older children’ the younger ones using slates. Teachers were strict, pupils dared not speak and caning regularly took place. The weather had a big impact on how many days children went to school as they needed to walk long distances from outlying farms and in bad weather, if they arrived, their clothes were dried on the fireguard around the school boiler.
Special Events & Occasions
Children took time off school to help with hay making at the local farms and also for such things as blackberrying, after high winds collecting fallen tree branches etc. Haydon Wick Carnival was a big day in the village. 6-a-side football competition was held. There was a fair in Churchfield. The procession went from Haydon Wick to the Rodbourne Arms. Floats were mostly horses and carts.
Men worked 5½ days each week, and by this time, the Great Western Railway was the predominant employer. Men walked to the works each day for a 6am start and then walked home again when they finished work at 6pm. Married women did not work in the 1920s.
Ladies at Home
Wash day was Monday and ladies spent all day washing. The first job was to light the fire under the copper in the scullery. There was no running water. Washing was then put through mangles and then hung out to dry.
There were no bathrooms and the ladies filled tin tubs in the kitchen for the family baths. The cleanest bathed first as all the family used the same water. The washing copper was cleaned, filled with fresh water and then a lump of bacon and vegetables cooked together in the copper.
Doctors & Hospitals
The Great Western Hospital was located opposite Swindon swimming baths in Faringdon Road. There was also the Victoria Hospital in Old Town and Stratton Hospital (which was previously the local workhouse). People were forced to walk to the hospitals as there were no buses from Haydon Wick and there were no Doctors’ Surgeries locally. Prior to 1948 if you went to a Doctor or hospital you had to pay but if you worked in the railway and belonged to the Medical Fund you got Doctor and Dental treatment for about 2p per week.
The Fox and Hounds was the only pub in Haydon Wick prior to the 1960’s when the Shield and Dagger was built in Greenmeadow.
It was left to the Francome family in a will in 1825 wherein it was described as a dwelling house with 8 acres of land. It opened as a beerhouse between 1830 and 1851 at which date Edward Francome, a farmer, was the owner. It enjoyed a somewhat lively reputation as in 1866 the local constabulary remarked in court that Rodbourne Cheney was “the only drunken Parish in the division”. It was auctioned in 1875 described as “Bar, Taproom, Cowstall, and Reed Stable.” Joseph Hunt bought it for £600. Ann Francome was the occupier. Hunt sold it to Bros of Marlborough in 1877, who in turn sold it to Bowlys in 1881. Bowley brewed their beers in the High Street, Old Town, Swindon, in what is now the Barclays Bank building, giving the horses and easy job as it was all mostly downhill!
Bowlys brewery was purchased from its proprietors, Shepherds by Cirencester draper’s son, Richard Bowly and he set up business in High Street, Swindon in late 1850. Robert, his son took over in 1900 but sadly died in a car accident in 1939. His widow continued the business until 1944 when Simonds acquired it, and its pubs, including the ‘Fox’.
In 1960 Courage merged with Simonds and later was forced by legislation to set it up in a pub co. Briefly the Fox was re branded ‘Ushers’, before now completing a full circle with great Swindon Brewer Arkells recently taking over the reins.
If you have other interesting history of the Parish or would like to add to this webpage, do get in touch.
Seven Fields Conservation Group
Seven Fields Conservation Group started in the Autumn on 1988. Marilyn Beale (the Founder of the Group) happily walked another dog walker around the fields and impressed with Marilyn’s knowledge of the area, the dog walker asked Marilyn to join in a CREATE Arts Project.
CREATE Arts Project wanted to “do a piece” for a film they were making of the Pinehurst (Seven Fields being Pinehurst’s nearest area of open space), the film is called ‘Stories of the First Estate!’ which can be found on Swindon Viewpoint. It was through this film that Marilyn had the chance to meet with the Borough Officer who then managed the Seven Fields and other members of the Thamesdown Countryside team. After discussions with the Borough Officer, it was agreed that Marilyn could create a community woodland.
With support from the Officers, and the Penhill Community Association, Marilyn arranged a meeting in the old Café in the playing fields to see if there was any other interest. The decision from this meeting was that the whole of Seven Fields site would be adopted and the members present at the meeting would become its Conservation Group.
Seven Fields Conversation group have won several awards, local, regional and national and has proved that working with the community received the best possible outcomes for preserving the area for nature and the enjoyment by those who have joined the group since the development.