A NEW blue plaque has been installed at the birthplace of one of Swindon’s most respected writers to honour his achievements and lasting legacy.

Victorian nature writer Richard Jefferies was dubbed “the Shakespeare of Swindon” by Coun Bazil Solomon who joined a small crowd to watch the grand unveiling at the nature lover’s birthplace.

The plaque from Swindon Heritage commemorating the 38-year-old’s life has pride of place above the front door of the museum which now fills the farm and garden that was once his childhood home.

Museum director and volunteer Dr Mike Pringle said: “This is fantastic, it’s an acknowledgement that someone great was here. Richard Jefferies was a big name in his day but it seemed like his time had come and gone for a while.

“However, it feels like society is coming round to him again with climate change on the agenda and ideas about re-wilding and being out in nature becoming more popular – these things were all hugely important to him and his work. I think he would have really enjoyed the fact that we are celebrating the things he loved as much as we are celebrating him."

After the unveiling, guests enjoyed afternoon cream teas in the newly-adorned farm cottage.

Doreen Simmons, from Liden, said: “It’s great that he has been acknowledged, it’s surprising that so many people don’t know about him.”

Frances Bellamy, from Eldene, said: “I’ve read some of his books and it’s nice to see where he grew up, it’s such a pretty little garden.”

Mr Jefferies was born at Coate Farm in 1848 and became one of the country’s most influential nature writers. He used his passion for the countryside to produce detailed accounts about rural life, essays, novels, children’s books like the Coate Water-set tale Bevis, articles for the national press and the Swindon Advertiser, and even post-apocalyptic fiction.

He died of tuberculosis in 1887 and since then his work has inspired Richard Mabey and Robert Macfarlane, with Will Self and Monty Don among his many fans.

The museum volunteers aim to keep finding new and improved ways to celebrate the writings of Mr Jefferies with support from Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.