Swindon AdvertiserChequered history of family mansion (From Swindon Advertiser)

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Chequered history of family mansion

Swindon Advertiser: The Lawn mansion house shortly before it was demolished The Lawn mansion house shortly before it was demolished

When Thomas Goddard, of Upham, acquired the manor of Swindon in 1563 he made his first home at Westlecott Manor House. However, it was The Lawn mansion house that was to become best associated with the family.

Situated next to the 13th century Holy Rood Church and set in parkland overlooking open fields, the Lawn was built on the site of the former medieval manor house and known as Swindon House until the early 19th century.

The north range of the house contained architectural features similar to those at the Vilett house in Cricklade Street, dating it to about 1729. Throughout the 19th century additions were made, including south and east wings, and later in the century an arcaded loggia was added overlooking a sunken garden to the west of the house.

Across the generations the house and manor of Swindon made an erratic descent through the Goddard family.

In 1732 bachelor Richard left it to his unmarried brother Pleydell. When Pleydell died 10 years later the next heir was Ambrose Goddard, who descended from another branch of the family.

By the 1860s the future of the 40- roomed family home was looking secure. Ambrose Lethbridge Goddard, MP for Cricklade and Major in the Royal Wilts Yeomanry, was in residence with his wife Charlotte and their five children.

It would be the couple’s second son Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard who inherited the estate but, with no heir, the house stood empty after his widow moved out in 1931.

It was requisitioned by the Army during the Second World War, during which time the house suffered some considerable damage.

Swindon Corporation eventually bought the mansion house and 52 acres in 1946. The original asking price was £18,000 but town clerk David Murray John secured it for £2,000 less.

Sadly, the condition of the house continued to deteriorate and an inspection of the property made by the borough architect in September 1950 predicted that “collapse of large portions of the walls and parapets being likely to occur at anytime without warning.”

Six months later he was called out again, following the theft of lead from the roof.

“I have to report that the building has become a derelict and dangerous structure, for already a large part of the first floor has collapsed and masonry and brick work is breaking away and falling from the upper part of the structure,” he wrote. Murray John and Swindon Corporation had to bow to the inevitable and the formerly elegant house was demolished in 1952.

The conservatory block and outbuildings were exempt from the 1952 demolition but all that remains of the mansion house today are some garden features, stone steps and the gazebo.

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