Building a sense of community in Pinehurst
PINEHURST and Penhill each boast a fascinating history and an enduring sense of community.
The older of the two, Pinehurst, is unique among Swindon neighbourhoods.
For one thing, it was the first true social housing ever built in the town, with plans drawn up after the First World War.
For another, there’s a school of thought that says Pinehurst and a few similar estates across the country owe their existence at least partly to the Russian Revolution.
Far-fetched? Not at all. About five million British men served in the armed forces during the First World War. They were famously promised a land fit for heroes and the respect which was their due, but for many of those not fortunate enough to come from privileged backgrounds those promises seemed rather hollow.
Many were no longer prepared to tolerate grim, dark and unsanitary homes or being taken for granted by those in power. Some of those in power agreed with them, either through decency or because the recent Bolshevik Revolution in Russia had made them very nervous.
The upshot was a widespread building programme, and design work on Pinehurst, which is sited on what was once an agricultural spread called Hurst Farm, began before the hostilities in Europe had even ended. According to the Victoria County History for Wiltshire, the definitive local history chronicle, the initial development was all but complete by 1925.
Additions continued until the late 1930s and resumed after the Second World War. The unorthodox materials used in this phase of building, including concrete and metal, gave many of the houses a distinct appearance.
By that time, with Swindon’s population expanding thanks to company relocations and greater demand for labour, space was running out, and Penhill was part of an explosion of new social house-building.
The estate was built on land formerly occupied by Penhill Farm, which was bought up by the old Swindon Corporation in 1951. At the time the land lay beyond the boundary of Swindon in the parish of Stratton St Margaret. By the mid-1960s there were 2,000 properties on Penhill, accounting for a substantial percentage of the extra accommodation needed by the new arrivals who flooded into Swindon during the post- war era.
Both Pinehurst and Penhill were and are served by their own shops and community facilities, with many improvements made over the years.
Like so many other neighbourhoods across the town, their fortunes have varied according to prevailing economic circumstances, but an iron-strong sense of community has been a characteristic of each throughout their existences.
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