School Visits

Goddard Park School Trip



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The new year five pupils of the school had arrived back for the new term with a challenge to find out where the name of their school came from. Who were the Goddards, where did they come from and where did they live? What they needed was an expert on such matters; no one was available, so they asked a chap called “Binks” to see if he could help.

We met up on a sunny September morning at the gates to Holy Rood Church in the Lawns. There were 87 children and about a dozen teachers and they all needed a good sit down on the grass after the long walk from school.

I asked the children a few questions and explained that they were actually sitting where the Goddard’s home had once stood. The first of many, many questions followed; particularly they wanted to know which room we might be sitting in. I told them I was not sure but thought it was probably the kitchen. ”What’s that building?” they asked, pointing to the Ice House. “It was their ‘fridge’, because unlike your home they didn’t have one.” Cutting large blocks of ice in the winter to keep food cold in summer sounded hard to believe so I also added that they had no cars, phones, iPads or internet, but I‘m not sure they believed me!

I told them their school was named after the Goddard family and it stood on part of their large estate. They learned how the family came to Swindon around 1550, when Swindon was just a little village on top of a hill. The Goddards were Lords of the Manor and had lots of land; houses for workers, a mill, a church and stables close by.

How old was the church? It was built around 1150 but by 1851 it was too small, so Christ Church was built. I asked “Would you like to go into the churchyard?” and received a huge roar of “Yes!” Once inside, we saw a large tomb and I asked them to look and see whose names they could find. The Goddard’s names were spotted and the children appeared quite excited by this. I explained that this section of the church is only 10% of its original size. Why was a bigger church needed? The Great Western Railway came to Swindon around 1840 so this one was not big enough anymore. Once inside the old church, they learned that around 10,000 people are buried in the cemetery and there was also a special little cemetery for their pets. The last Lord of the Manor even had a pet parrot. “What was its name?” was the next question. “I don’t know” I replied “but I was going to ask you all to help me find out. What I do know is that in Christ Church there is a stained-

Time was getting on and the long walk back beckoned for this excited group. “Are you looking forward to going back to school?” I was rather pleased to hear they had enjoyed their time with me. I must say how impeccably behaved they all were and a pleasure to be with, and the teachers were pretty good too.

Two days later I was invited back to the school to find out what the children had learnt from their visit to Old Swindon. All 87 children and the teachers were crammed into one class room. I was told how they had researched on mobile phones, mum’s iPad and even found a picture of the parrot on the internet… but the list of questions asked was amazing. Why did they build the house there, how many children were there, why did they die and, my mum says the house was 1182 meters high? Tell your mum I think the decimal point was in the wrong place. The last question was why did I know so much about Swindon? They all shouted a huge “Thank you” to me and I was really chuffed that I was able to help them all. I am sure they now all know why their school is called Goddard Park. I really do hope so.

Andy Binks - September 2018

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