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Murder most foul at the ship
“There is very little architecture in Swindon and a great deal of building,” wrote poet laureate John Betjeman in 1950.
This aerial view of the Faringdon Road Park area taken around the same time shows some of the many rows of Victorian terraced housing to which Betjeman was, somewhat unkindly, referring.
With an influx of Welsh workers moving to Swindon when GWR’s rolling mills opened in the 1860s, additional housing had to be built, and quickly. Initially accommodation was found for the Welsh families in the Barracks, a former lodging house for single men, but this proved both unsuccessful and inadequate and an alternative had to be found.
The first stone cottages along Cambria Place (1) were built in about 1864. The 1871 census records forgemen, iron rollers and rail roughers from Llanelly, Tredegar and Ebbw Vale among those living in the canal side properties.
A Baptist Chapel (2) seating 250 was built in 1866 where for many years the sermons were preached in Welsh.
Joseph Hunt was the 1871 landlord at the Greyhound Inn while James Kempster was mine host at the Grapes.
Today 12 Bar on Westcott Place, named after the 12 bar blues scale on guitar, hosts live music events. Previously called The Ship (3), in 1903 it was the scene of a murder when 19-year-old barmaid Esther Swinford was shot dead by her former fiancé Edward Palmer, a 24-year-old labourer. Townspeople erected a memorial to the murdered girl in Radnor Street Cemetery.
Maxwell Street (4), built about 1890, was named after surveyor and civil engineer James Maxwell. The Manchester based partnership of Maxwell and Tuke was engaged by the trustees of the Rolleston Estate for various Swindon projects. This prestigious partnership was responsible for a number of iconic buildings nationwide, including the Blackpool Tower.
Lorne Street (5), developed in 1891, is supposedly named after the Marquis of Lorne who married Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, the Princess Louise in 1871.
Just visible towards the top left hand corner of this photograph is a collection of buildings long since gone, among them the Central Club and Institute in Milton Road which was demolished in 1970.
1. Cambria Place – the first stone cottages were built here in 1864
2. The Baptist Chapel, built in 1866
3. The Ship, now music venue 12 Bar
4. Maxwell Street, named after surveyor and civil engineer James Maxell
5. Loren Street, which may have royal connections
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