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Guide to Old Town & Lawns
Swindon Hill was a favoured settlement site for man as far back at the Bronze Age.
The Domesday Book of 1086 uses the name Suindune (possibly meaning swine down or open land) when describing the area. Swindon later became a medieval market centre, with Newport Street, Wood Street, Devizes Road and High Street all in place by the 13th century. Newport Street is first mentioned in 1346, Wood Street in 1599, and High Street in 1645.
Quarrying was the area's main industry from Roman times, with local stone being used for building. In the 17th century the discovery of a seam of Purbeck limestone that could be used for interior works lead to a huge expansion of the industry.
By 1801 Swindon's population had risen to 1,198. The opening of the Wilts and Berks Canal (1810) and the North Wilts Canal (1819) generated further trade and by the 1830s Swindon was a small but prosperous agricultural market town. By this time, suburban expansion had begun, mainly in the form of middle-class properties along Bath Road.
In 1841 the Great Western Railway Company began building a major new engineering works 2 km north of the market town. To provide housing for the workers, the company built 300 houses next to the works and this new settlement expanded rapidly to form ‘New Swindon’.
The mid 19th century was a period of growth and prosperity. A railway line to Marlborough was opened in 1881 with a station south of Newport Street. Old Swindon and New Swindon were incorporated into a single municipal borough in 1900. Today Old Town remains a vibrant part of Swindon, with many businesses, shops, bars and restaurants. Popular landmarks include Christ Church and the Town Gardens.
Lawns is so-called after the landscaped parkland surrounding The Lawn House, which for six generations was the home of the Goddard family. The Lawn House occupied the site of a medieval manor house and from the middle ages until the 19th century, the area comprised the house, a water mill and church (Holy Rood). The area was lived in as far back as Saxon times.
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