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This page looks at specific locations in South Marston, which are listed alphabetically, below (and you can also jump to them by clicking on circles on the map below). The key locations associated with Alfred are also available on a Google Map.


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One of the farms on which the young Alfred worked while also being a 'half-timer' at South Marston School.

The farm, which is half way between The Hook, at the centre of South Marston, and the Highworth Road, and was owned by Launcelot Whitfield, still exists today.

See Aerial photo of Burton Grove Farm on Bing.com

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The South Marston birthplace and home of Alfred until 1883.

It was built for his parents, Elias and Elizabeth Williams, on part of The Hook, which they received as a wedding gift. It was completed in or about 1871. Cambria is the Roman name for Wales, apparently chosen as an echo of Elias Williams's roots.

The census of 1881 shows that the property was divided into two separate dwellings - one housing the Williams family, including four-year-old Alfred, and another housing railway labourer George Ockwell, his wife and their two young children.

The Williams family was forced to leave when bailiffs seized the property because of a second mortgage, taken out by Alfred's by then absent father, Elias. They then moved to Rose Cottage.

Today the cottage is privately owned and not accessible to the general public.

See Aerial photo of Cambria Cottage on Bing.com

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Alfred and Mary's home after their marriage on October 21, 1903. Most of Alfred's books were written here.

They lived at Dryden Cottage until 1921, when they built and moved to Ranikhet.

The semi-detached cottage, which still stands today but is privately owned, was at right angles to The Hook, and across the road from South Marston Post Office.

See Aerial photo of Dryden Cottage on Bing.com

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The land at South Marston on which Cambria Cottage, Rose Cottage and Ranikhet - all one-time homes of Alfred Williams - were built.

The land was originally bought by Elizabeth Hayden, Alfred's great grandmother, from Highworth landowner Crowdy Crowdy. She bequeathed part of it to a daughter of her first marriage, Sarah Bourton, and she gave it and 500 for building expenses to her half-sister Ann (Alfred's grandmother) and her husband Joshua Hughes (Alfred's grandfather). This provided the site for Rose Cottage.

When Sarah died, she left the rest of The Hook to Ann and Joshua, who gave the major part of it to their daughter, Elizabeth (Alfred's mother) on her wedding to Elias Williams. They built Cambria Cottage on it, about 75 metres from Rose Cottage.

As well as Cambria Cottage, Elias also built a workshop and timber loft - all of which was completed by 1871.

It was on The Hook in 1879 that toddler Alfred fell into a disused well and narrowly avoided death by suffocation in sewage.

Unknown to Elizabeth, Elias raised a second mortgage on The Hook to finance his unsuccessful Swindon business, and Cambria Cottage was seized by the bailiffs.

See Aerial photo of The Hook on Bing.com

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The first farm on which Alfred worked full-time, owned by a Mr Tull.

See Aerial photo of Longleaze Farm on Bing.com

See modern pictures of Longleaze Farm

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Now-demolished cottage belonging to Mark Titcombe, who is immortalised in A Wiltshire Village. The cottage stood about a third of a mile south-west of the centre of the village.

Ranikhet was partly built using stone from the cottage, which had then fallen into disuse.

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The third and last farm on which Alfred worked full-time, owned by a Farmer Ody.

It later appeared on maps as 'Marston Farm'.

See Aerial photo of Ody's Farm on Bing.com

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The second farm on which Alfred worked full-time, owned by a Mr Chapman.

He worked here in 1890, when ownership of Longleaze Farm changed hands and he was no longer employed there. But his employment at Priory Farm was short-lived because ownership passed to a new tenant who did not retain the existing staff. Alfred therefore switched to working at Ody's Farm.

See Aerial photo of Priory Farm on Bing.com

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The cottage built by Alfred and Mary, using stone from Mark Titcombe's former cottage and an abandoned lock. It still stands, and is situated on the piece of land called The Hook, on which Cambria Cottage and Rose Cottage both stand.

It was named after Ranikhet, the hill station in India where Alfred was posted during the First World War.

Ranikhet was their home from 1921, when they left Dryden Cottage.

Alfred Williams died in the cottage on April 10, 1930.

Today Ranikhet is privately owned by a couple who are not related to the Williams family. The property is sadly not accessible to the general public.

See Aerial photo of Ranikhet on Bing.com

See more Ranikhet pictures in the Gallery

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The river that Alfred loved and which provided inspiration for his writing.

Henry Byett identifies a particular tree that overhangs the river as having an important role, specifically in the composition of his longest and favourite poem, The Testament, which appears in his third book of poems, Nature and Other Poems:

The Testament was conceived by Williams 'while seated meditating in the forked branches of a willow tree which hangs over a hatchway in the River Cole'. The exact spot is in a field near and north-west of Acorn Bridge, on the main Swindon-Shrivenham Road. Williams found it necessary, in order to find inspiration, to make frequent journeys to the river bank and to sit for hours, cramped and uncomfortable, in that willow tree. Such an expedition was only possible at weekends. When the spirit had moved him sufficiently, he would dash back to Dryden Cottage, almost frozen to the marrow, in order to continue with the writing."

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The South Marston home of Alfred from 1883, although it had been in the family much longer.

It was built for the family of his maternal grandparents, Joshua and Ann Hughes.

It was here that the daughter of Joshua and Ann - Alfred's mother, Elizabeth Hughes - began her courtship with Elias Williams, who was lodging at Rose Cottage from c1867. They also lived there for a time after their marriage, while they awaited the completion of Cambria Cottage.

The 1871 census shows Joshua and Ann Hughes still living there, along with Elias, Elizabeth and their then only son, Ernest, aged three months.

Because of debts arising from a second mortgage on The Hook, Cambria Cottage was seized by bailiffs, forcing Alfred's mother, Elizabeth Williams, and the family, including four-year-old Alfred, to move to Rose Cottage. Alfred lived there until his marriage in 1903, when he moved to Dryden Cottage with his new wife, Mary.

Alfred's grandparents Joshua and Ann Hughes, and his mother Elizabeth, all died in Rose Cottage. After his mother's death, Alfred's yongest sister Ada continued to live there, and was still there in 1960, when she was in her eighties.

See Aerial photo of Rose Cottage on Bing.com

Today Rose Cottage is privately owned and not accessible to the public. The owners are a couple who are not related to Alfred, but proud of its heritage. Although the house has been much extended at the rear, great effort has been put into keeping the facade, including the slate roof, as authentic as possible, and its Victorian character has been lovingly restored thanks to the decor and attention to detail.

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The school that Alfred attended from c1882 until 1888, (as a 'half-timer' from 1885, when he also worked on local farms).

The school, which is very close to The Hook, was built in the 1860s by local benefactor Alfred Bell, who also owned the manor house.

Alfred's school mistress was a Miss Deacon. Education had to be paid for during Alfred's time there. Although simple, Alfred apparently considered it adequate, later criticising more complex schooling.

See Aerial photo of South Marston School on Bing.com

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See A South Marston Album for more photos of the village, all taken during Alfred's lifetime