The Alfred Williams Heritage Society will be involved with a project throughout 2013 concerned with the history of the Swindon and Highworth Union Workhouse, plus St Margaret's Hospital, which later occupied the same site.
Planned to culminate in a book and illustrated talks about our findings, it will collate known information, provide a platform for recently discovered information and uncover new information - much of which we hope will be provided by members of the public.
More details about our successful bid for a £5,000 grant can be found here (and the national All Our Stories programme here), but this page sets out the kind of information we are appealing for people to share, according to four main categories.
1. 'Inmates' of Stratton workhouse mentioned by Alfred
The project's starting point is Alfred's description of the workhouse that appears in A Wiltshire Village, his book about South Marston, published in 1912. The chapter mentions six real people by name - and one of our aims is to find out as much as possible about their stories. So we would love to hear from descendants or other family members who can provide registration details, photographs or any other information about them that can help us build up a picture of them.
Those mentioned are:
Mark Titcombe - "weak and infirm at eighty-five"
William Lines - a tramp or "roadster", probably originally from Bath, but who lived and worked in London, Worcester and Nottingham and had two estranged sons
John Lane - probably a farmer from Cat's Brain, Stratton, who died in the workhouse, aged 80
Albert Trueman - a Highworth man who stood only four feet tall, who lived in Wanborough, Bishopstone and Vauxhall (London) before returning to the area almost blind
Robert Brooks - an 85-year-old former resident of South Marston who was born in Stanford-in-the-Vale, travelled to New Zealand and at one time lived in Pewsey
Tom Chamberlain - known as 'Chamblin', a veteran of the Crimean War
2. All other 'inmates' of Stratton workhouse
As well as those mentioned specifically by Alfred, we also want to find out about anyone who spent any time in the workhouse. Again, we are looking for you to share all kinds of information, including registration details and photographs, if you have them. Any information would be appreciated.
3. Any other information or artefacts relating to Stratton workhouse
This might include oral information passed down in families, memories of the building, family histories with any connection to the workhouse, including ancestors who worked there or had some involvement with the running of the workhouse, such as members of Boards of Governors. No piece of information is too small.
4. Memories of St Margaret's Hospital
We are interested in your memories of the hospital - whether you were a patient, visitor, employee, contractor or had connections with the hospital for any other reason. Our aim is to create a detailed picture of all aspects of life (and death) at the hospital, so whatever your memories, please contact us.
If you have information about either the workhouse or the hospital and it doesn't fit into any of the above categories, please contact us anyway. Anything that helps us bring those two institutions back to life will be of value and your help will be appreciated.
HOW TO CONTACT US
To help our small team handle all the information and schedule the project, it would be best if you could email us with an outline of the information you have, along with your contact details. We will get back to you as soon as possible. However, anyone who is unable to email us, is most welcome to phone our secretary, Caroline Ockwell, on 01793 820951. If she is unable to take your call, please leave a message and don't forget to leave your contact details so we can return your call. Or try another time.
We will be gathering information throughout 2013, but please help us by contacting us as soon as possible.
You can also help us by passing on information about our project and our contact details to anybody else whom you think might be able to help. This is definitely a "more the merrier" project that we hope will involve as many people as possible.
We will use this website to update information about the project as it proceeds, and you can also follow Alfred on Twitter (@alfred_williams) and Facebook