The Project was set up in the autumn of 2007 with the aid of a grant from Warwickshire County Council’s Community Development Fund to research the history of Sydenham, a 1960’s/ 70’s residential and industrial development on the south-east of Leamington Spa.
Although summarised by one person as ‘history in unpromising places’, such however is the pace of change that everywhere has a history. For instance, in the span of 50 years, the large Victorian Sydenham Farmhouse that used to reside here was demolished to make way for a new Sydenham primary school which was itself demolished to make way for the SYDNI Centre to meet the needs of the local community.
The Sydenham History Group meets every 2 or 3 months. It comprises of some 50 people, both past and present residents of the area and its surroundings. Talks and slideshows illustrate the history of Sydenham as well as that of Leamington Spa itself. A surprising number of residents have in fact lived here since the start of house building in the late 1960’s.
Upcoming Sydenham History Group Talks
The next meeting of the Sydenham History Group will be on Tuesday, 11th September, at the earlier time of 2.30pm. The Speaker will be Jeff Watkin, former Heritage and Arts Manager for the WDC, whose talk is entitled “Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum 1947-1999”.
Admission £2.50. All will be made welcome.
Here are some of the discoveries made by the group:-
- Between 1884 and 1914 the Warwickshire Polo Club had its polo field here; This was later used by Alan Cobham, the first world war fighter pilot, to give pleasure flights over Leamington.
- The second world war saw farmland being shot up by a German ‘Dornier’ bomber returning home after a bombing raid on Coventry.
- Buffalo Bill and his vast entourage numbering some 800 people and 500 animals came to give his show for one night only in 1902
- To the south of Sydenham, the farmland has a history dating back to the Roman occupation. Several entries were also recorded in the Doomsday Book of a mill and millpool. The Knights Templars controlled some of the lands on which was known to exist a Holy Well.
- The canal builders arrived in the early 1800’s to construct a link between The Birmingham Canal and The Oxford Canal. This became The Grand Union Canal in 1929.
- The area was traversed by the former LNWR railway line to Rugby, built in 1851 and closed in 1969. A major accident occurred in 1859 involving the deaths of 3 men. This was fully reported in the local press.
The residential development was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd, a Coventry born architect, who modelled his design on the Radburn layout, named after a town in the U.S.A., developed in the 1920’s, with lots green spaces and the separation of cars from people.
If you would like to know more you can buy their book, ‘A Celebration of Sydenham’ written by a small group of residents who have produced the history of Sydenham as seen through the eyes, ears and recollections of many local people.
The book is available from the SYDNI Centre and all good bookstores or, contact Nigel Briggs on 01926 330711 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The aim of our project is to include as many residents as possible in actively considering and investigating their local history through photographs, maps, memories and anecdotes, so please do get in touch if you are interested in sharing your story or joining in.