|When Wootton Bassett Secondary Modern School opened in 1958, a house system was soon introduced and the pupils were placed in one of four houses which were named after four of Wiltshire’s rivers: Avon, Isis, Kennet and Wylye.|
On the arrival of Mr Shepherd in 1968, the school population had grown considerably from the original 279 and he decided to increase the number of houses from four to six and also to introduce new names. The names chosen were those of families who had been influential in the town and the surrounding areas. They were Bassett (green), Bolingbroke (blue), Clarendon(yellow), Crispin (white), Goddard (orange) and St. John (red).
The school numbers continued to increase and in 1972 three more houses were added – Despenser (maroon), Englefield (black and white) and Langdon (light blue and white).
CRISPIN. Miles or Milo Crispin was the powerful Norman baron who had inherited many estates from his father-In-law, Robert d'Oigli. One of these estates was the manor of Wodeton. We can read in the Domesday Book of the nature of this holding ploughland, pasture, woodland, number of labourers etc. The water mill was probably that known later as Hunts Mill, which only recently has been obliterated.
DESPENSER. The Despensers connected with Wootton Bassett belong to the 13th and 14th centuries and were all called Hugh. The first one acquired the Bassett estates by marrying Aliva, the Heiress of Sir Philip Bassett. He was killed at Evesham in 1265, fighting for Simon de Montfort. His son was an able and ambitious man who rose to become Earl of Winchester. His rapid rise excited the jealousy of the other barons, who were still more affronted when Hugh III became the favourite of the king, and shamelessly exerted his authority over everybody, including the Queen. Local examples were his seizure of 600 acres from Midgehall Manor, and the imprisonment of Henry of Hook, whose land he coveted. In 1321 the Despenser temporarily fell from power, and his enemies stripped his properties at Marlborough and Vastern of almost everything of value. They returned briefly to favour but shortly after were overthrown and ruthlessly executed. Richard II was deposed and murdered in Berkeley Castle. A Despenser of more magnanimous spirit was next in line. In the Crecy campaign when Edward Ill's army was almost trapped the king trusted the Despenser sufficiently to give him the vital task of finding an escape route across the river. There seemed to be some special quality in the Despenser make-up for in later years they continued to make their mark in the national life, usually in more peaceful ways.
ENGLEFIELD. Francis Englefield of Englefield House near Reading had been a resolute defender of Mary Tudor's interests when she was harassed by ultra-Protestant emissaries of the Protector, Somerset. When she became Queen she granted him a pension and the manors of Vastern and Wootton Bassett, which seems to have pleased him mightily for we read that when attending Court he would parade the streets of London with never less than 100 retainers. On Elizabeth's accession he refused to acknowledge her and was forced to flee the country. His Wiltshire estates were given to his cousin Francis II, who continued his predecessor's policy of enclosing common land, so much so that the townsfolk complained bitterly. The Englefield connection ended when Sir Robert Howard married the widow of Sir Francis IV and on her death sold the manors to Lawrence Hyde in 1676.
ST. JOHN (usually pronounced "Sinjon"). The family took its name from St. Jean-Ie-Thomas in Normandy, and became established in Lydiard when Oliver St. John married Margaret Beauchamp, a descendant of the Tregoz family, about 1430. Margaret's second husband was John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, by whom she had a daughter who became the mother of Henry VII. Not all St. John's were "king's men". Carlyle records how one of them, "a dark tough man, of the toughness of leather" defended John Hampden for 3 days in the Ship Money trial. The family had great influence in the district and reacted violently to Lawrence Hyde's, attempts to sway the Wootton Bassett elections in his favour. There was another branch of the family in Battersea.
BOLINGBROKE. This is really a continuation of the St. John story and derives from the fact that the most famous member of that family, Henry St. John, was created Viscount Bolingbroke in 1712, from which date the title passed down the generations until the male line was extinguished a few years ago. The title but not the house, which was bought by Swindon Corporation in 1943, is now borne by a distant cousin who lives in New Zealand. Henry St. John started his political career as M.P. for Wootton Bassett in 1701 and by his brilliant oratory and political acumen soon became the leading statesman of the day. He was also a master of the grand style in literature which earned him the friendship of such writers as Pope and Swift. Intrigue with the Jacobites abroad, a favourite ministerial pastime, caught him out when Queen Anne died suddenly, and he had to go into exile.
CLARENDON Edward Hyde. M.P. for Wootton Bassett in 1640 was made Earl of Clarendon for his devoted service to the Stuart kings. Charles I and II. During his second exile he wrote the "History of the Great Rebellion", profits from which were used to found the Clarendon Press in Oxford. His daughter married James, Duke of York, and became the mother of two queens. Mary and Anne. Their uncle was Lawrence Hyde whose ownership of the manor of Wootton Bassett ensured that the name "Clarendon" was associated with the town untiI 1866 when George William Frederick Villiers, 4th Earl (2nd. creation) sold out to the Meux family. He was a famous Victorian statesman and there is 8 memorial window to him in the Parish Church.
LANGDON. Not much is known about the early life of Valerie Susan Langdon (or Reece) except that she was a great beauty (see her portrait in the Town Hall) and acted with success at the Comedy Theatre, London. In 1879 she married 51 r Henry Bruce Meux. It was her second marriage. After a tour to the Middle East she became a considerable collector of Egyptian antiquities which were housed at Theobalds Park in Herts. Other activities included breeding the Derby winner for 1901, presenting a battery to the nation during the South African War and in general showing an independence of spirit not often met with in those days. One story tells how, after a fancied slight from the M.F.H. of the Beaufort Hunt, she turned up at the next meet riding on an elephant. She conferred many benefits on Wootton Bassett and, as a parting gift, gave the Town Hall which her husband had renovated at such cost in 1889.
GODDARD. The family originally came from Aldbourne, and in 1562 bought the manor of High Swindon. During the next six generations they exercised an increasing influence on the whole area and were the dominant landlords. With the coming of the railway age this influence declined and in 1943 their principal residence. The Lawn, was sold to Swindon. The house has now been demolished but the grounds remain as a public park. Another branch of the family is of closer interest. It owned the manor of Clyffe Pipard and from 1780 to 1935 provided all the vicars, the most notable of them being the Reverend E. H. Goddard who, from 1890 until his death, acted as honorary secretary, editor and librarian to the Wiltshire Archaeological Society. He set an example of public service which it would be hard to surpass.
When comprehensive education was in introduced the school’s annual intake number was estimated at about 300 but the actual number was about 250 and by 1977 it became very difficult to staff nine houses. Reluctantly, it was decided that Bassett house should no longer continue and that its pupils and staff should be assimilated in to the eight other houses. For many pupils and staff, this was a painful time, but since 1977 the school continued with eight houses until 1992. The house system was reorganised in 1992 and were renamed after four of the local 'Bassetts'. These were Berwick (blue), Compton (yellow), Winterbourne (green) and Wootton (red).
When the school was granted Technology College status, the houses were renamed in 2008 by student vote after noted technologists and entrepreneurs. The new names were: Brunel (green), Newton (yellow), Roddick (blue) and Whittle (red).
In March 2012, the school converted to an Academy and did not continue with the Technology College status. As the Academy's population grew, an additional fifth house was created to cope with the dramatic increase in student numbers. The house names reverted to Berwick (blue), Compton (yellow), Winterbourne (green), Wootton (red) with the addition of Bassett (purple) in 2014 after students and staff voted to do so.
Notes on Wootton Bassett School Houses 1968 - 1992 by P J Gingell