Swindon Advertiser: Ferndale

Swindon Advertiser: Ferndale

FERNDALE is a residential area situated approximately one mile from Swindon town centre, but how many people realise that this is where Swindon’s oldest pub building is?

The Southbrook Inn, thought to be older than the George, is a well-hidden pub tucked away in Southbrook Street, Ferndale. The pub, now a grade II listed building, was once The Southbrook Farmhouse and the only building in the area - until the expansion of Swindon in 1908 meant that Southbrook Farm and the surrounding land were included in the borough. The farmhouse was converted to a pub in 1956 and has been serving locals ever since.

The area became known as Ferndale after the building of Ferndale Road, which today runs all the way from Gorse Hill to Cheney Manor; but in Victorian times the road was considerably shorter. All of this changed in 1902 after the building contractor Edwin Bradley began to construct houses along the road.

Edwin Bradley, who was born in Oxford, followed his father into the construction trade and moved to Swindon in 1896, after recognising the many building opportunities that the town had to offer. He built over one hundred houses in Ferndale Road and the surrounding area.

All Saints Church, in Southbrook Street, was consecrated in 1908. The first building was a temporary one designed so that it could be used as schoolrooms. The area expanded rapidly and in 1929 the church, which had been closely connected with St Mark’s Church, became a separate parish. The congregation continued to grow quickly and soon a new church was needed. The foundation stone for the new permanent church was laid on 27 November 1937 and the church was later consecrated by the Bishop of Bristol, Dr Clifford Salisbury Woodward, in 1938.

During the Second World War Ferndale Road was hit by enemy bombs, killing twenty-five people in the area. Several funerals were held at the church for those killed in the bombings.

During the early 1950s All Saints held a Sunday morning church service at 8am. This early morning service was soon changed to a later time of 9.30am after parishioners complained about the early start!

Today All Saints Church is part of the United Benefice of All Saints and Saint Barnabas with the Parish of Saint Augustine. Services at the church include family worship and healing as well as a range of activities including charity lunches and fayres.

The Ferndale Road Schools were built in 1907. At this time encouragement and grants were being offered by the Department of Education for the introduction of various new subjects to the school curriculum and the schools were built to include a domestic centre. Today the school caters for pupils between the ages of four and eleven and offers many after school clubs including art club, netball club, chess club and a website club.

In 1999 the school began to share its site with Oxford Brookes University who offer the chance to study for an adult nursing degree.

Swindon Town football star George Hunt, who signed for the club in 1947, began his career playing as an amateur for local team Ferndale Athletic. George, who was born in Haydon Wick and worked for the Great Western Railway Works, joined the army at the outbreak of the Second World War. He served in the Middle East and alongside the Desert Rats, but still found time for his beloved game of football - playing in a series of matches between armed services whilst serving in Italy. It was whilst playing in one of these matches he was approached by Stan Cullis of Wolverhampton Wanderers, who offered him a trial at the club when the war was finished. Hunt however was loyal to his town and declined the offer, returning to Swindon on demob, where Swindon Town offered him a series of trials playing in the outside right position.

George Hunt, who made his first senior appearance against Exeter in September 1948, played for the town for over eleven years, making an impressive 328 appearances - including twenty-four cup matches. He retired in 1958 and as a qualified coach assisted the club’s back room staff, also returning to work at the GWR Locomotive Works. Sadly he contracted Mesotheliona – also known as “The Swindon Disease” which led to his death in 1987.

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