Richard Jefferies' Museum, Marlborough Road, Coate Swindon, SN3 6AA (Tel: 01793 466561 answer-machine for messages.) PLEASE TELEPHONE THE RICHARD JEFFERIES MUSEUM TRUST FOR INFORMATION ABOUT EVENTS, OPEN DAYS AND VOLUNTEERING AT THE MUSEUM ON 07768 917466.
Find the Museum on google maps.
The Museum is on three floors. It contains family memorabilia, archive material and the works of Richard Jefferies as well as a selection of his books for sale. The Richard Jefferies Society owns the majority of the Collection. Volunteers from the Society opened the Museum to the public for over 30 years, but as from 2014 it is under the management of the Richard Jefferies Museum Trust. Please go to their website for information about opening times.
The old house at Coate started life as a tiny thatched cottage with a dairy built around 1700 along with rambling farm out-buildings. The small dairy farm (36 acres) was purchased by Richard Jefferies great grandfather (also named Richard) - a miller and baker in Old Town, Swindon - in 1800.In 1825 Jefferies’ Farm was passed down to John Jefferies, Richard Jefferies’grand-father who was working in London for a printer and publisher named Taylor. John reluctantly returned to Swindon with hiswife in order to take over the running of the family milling and bakery business where his succulent specialities would earn him the nickname “Mr Lardy Cake”. John’s father, who had no faith in banks, left a hoard of money and some of this might have been used by John Jefferies to build the larger, brick-built extension (the present day museum) on to the side of the old thatched farmhouse. In John Jefferies’ day the extension was also thatched.
John Jefferies’ eldest son, James Luckett, first ran the farm with his eldest sister Fanny from about the age of 15. At 19 (1835), Richard Jefferies' father left the farm and worked in America returning to Coate Farm in 1841. He married Elizabeth (Betsy) Gyde in 1844, described by her niece, Fanny Hall, as a “town-bred woman, with a beautiful face, and a pleasure-loving soul, kind and generous to a fault, but unsuited for a country life.”On 6th November 1848, the author (John) Richard Jefferies was born. He was the second of five children.
In 1851, the first child, Ellen, was killed by a runaway horse when she was only 5½. A third child, Henry (Harry), was born in June 1852. The death of Ellen,the addition of Harry to the family and the probable stress on Jefferies’mother might have contributed to the reason why the young Richard Jefferies went to live with his mother’s sister, Ellen (Gyde) Harrild - of whom he would remain very fond - and her husband Thomas, in Sydenham from about the age of 4 years. He spent his summer holidays at Coate and returned permanently to the farm around the age of nine.
Richard Jefferies' grandfather died in 1868. In his will, James Luckett (the writer's father) inherited Coate Farm where he had worked for 24 years. However, the bequest came with a condition that legacies totalling £1,300 should be paid to his sisters - this debt placed a great burden on James Luckett and he was forced to put his home up for sale in 1877.
Richard Jefferies married Jessie Baden on 8 July 1874. Jessie lived at Day House Farm (a neighbouring farm) and for a brief period the couple lived with Richard's parents and then in Victoria Road, Swindon where their first child was born.
After a succession of different owners, Swindon Corporation bought the Jefferies farm at Coate in 1926 for about £2000. The Museum was opened in the 1960s.
Film shot at the Museum
On 25 May 2010, Swindon Web shot footage inside the Museum and at local favourite haunts of Richard Jefferies. The film can be viewed here.
There is also superb footage of film shot in Swindon in 1960 when
Swindon Council was proud of Richard Jefferies. There is a section
about the writer, showing places that influenced his writing: the
Gamekeeper's Cottage, Liddington Hill, Coate Water and his old home at
Coate about 10 minutes into the film.
“I’m tired of lakes,” said Mark. “They have found out such a lot of lakes, and the canoes are always upset, and there is such a lot of mud. Let’s have a new sea altogether.”
“So we will,” said Bevis. “That’s capital—we will find a new sea where no one has ever been before. Look!”—for they had now advanced to where the gleam of the sunshine on the mere was visible through the hedge—“look! there it is; is it not wonderful?”
“Yes,” said Mark, “write it down in the diary; here’s my pencil. Be quick; put ‘Found a new sea’—be quick—there, come on—let’s run—hurrah!”
Bevis, the Story of a Boy, first published in 1882.
It is eternity now. I am in the midst of it. It is about me in the sunshine; I am in it, as the butterfly floats in the light-laden air. Nothing has to come; it is now. Now is eternity; now is the immortal life.
The Story of my Heart, 1883