Growing up in Coleshill - By Des Williams
|Please Note: The Coleshill House site
and grounds are owned by the National Trust. The woods and grounds of the house
are all strictly private and access is limited to set days a year. See our events page for their official open days. Attempting to
access the site outside of these times is not only trespassing but could damage
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I was born in 1945 and lived in the Home Farm at Coleshill. My
father, Sidney Williams, was responsible for the livestock, whilst his unmarried sister and brothers took
charge of other aspects of the farm. Leslie was responsible for the agricultural side of the farm,
whilst Harold and Bert looked after the garden and helped with the livestock and agriculture.
Albert had a garage at Highworth and Kitty was the housekeeper. We all lived in the large
farmhouse, my parents, sister and myself in one part with all my uncles and aunt in the other half.
We had a pedigree herd of Wessex Saddleback pigs, later to join with the Essex Saddleback to
become the British Saddleback. All pigs bred by my father had the prefix `Merrywood`. We
had the champion pig at the Royal Show three years in a row, and sold pigs to customers all over the
I spent my childhood in the village, and loved exploring the woods. I remember
Coleshill House, and sometimes crawled into a tunnel from the Park which led to the cellars under the
house. I also played in the various shelters in the woods which had been used for training purposes
during the war. I remember troops and equipment being dropped by parachute at nearby Arnhem Camp at
I clearly remember the day in 1952 when the house was burnt down. I attended the
High School in Swindon, and I travelled daily by bus from Highworth. My father collected me from
Highworth, and as we reached the top of Eastrop hill and looked towards Coleshill, there was a glow in the
sky. My father said, `Oh my God, Coleshill House is on fire`. As soon as we arrived home,
my father ran to the house, where he formed a chain with the farm workers to carry books from the library before
molten lead began to drip through the ceiling and the local policeman ordered them to leave on safety
grounds. There were about 20 fire engines from numerous fire stations, but there was no proper water
supply, and they tried to pump water in relays from the river. It proved totally inadequate, and the
house was completely destroyed. It was rumoured that a worker had left a blow lamp alight during his
tea break, and that this had set fire to the lead on the roof. About three years after the fire, the
land where the house had stood was made into a cricket pitch, but the club only lasted about five years.
The house originally belonged to the Pleydell-Bouverie family, and I remember meeting Miss
Mollie and Miss Beano who were both excellent potters. They moved to the Mill where they continued to
make pots. They either sold or left the land to the Cooks Trust, and it was then given to the National
Our thanks to Des for this story.