Priory Vale

Priory Vale

Priory Vale is the third and final installment in the "Northern Expansion" of Swindon, which began with Abbey Meads and continued at St Andrew's Ridge. Since construction commenced in 2001, the development has grown to some 6,000 new homes.

The early years

Priory Vale belongs to the parish of Blunsdon St Andrew. Within this parish resides Blunsdon: a village dating back to the Iron Age, where our earliest ancestors fortified and built a settlement. Blunsdon is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as 'Bluntesdone', at which time the settlement had a population of only two or three adult males. In 1281, there was also a reference to 'Bluntesdon Seynt Andreu'.

In recent years, archaeologists discovered a Roman travellers' resting place on the site of the present-day Cold Harbour pub. The A419 main road through Blunsdon also follows the course of a Roman road known as Ermine Street that linked the historic towns of Cirencester and Silchester. What's more, the recent Roman find at Abbey Meads is believed to be a religious and ceremonial site. Blunsdon Abbey was a prominent landmark in the area and inspired the title of the Abbey Meads development. The name 'Priory Vale' also follows this monastic theme. Local tradition claims Blunsdon Abbey was originally an outpost of Godstow Nunnery near Oxford. Apparently, the land was granted to the Brydges family during the reign of Henry VIII. In 1860, a wealthy sportsman, Clayton de Windt, purchased the estate and built a new house in the "latest Neo-Gothic style" to designs by E.Mantell of London. The builder was Thomas Barrett of Swindon, who created an imposing residence with forty bedrooms, grand interiors, entrance hall, billiards room and lavish furnishings. Clayton de Windt was killed in a riding accident in 1863, and sadly, in April 1904, fire destroyed the house and its contents. Today, the Priory Vale development in Blunsdon St Andrew occupies farmland and fields dating back to the 1700s. The villages within Priory Vale – "Redhouse" and "Haydon End" – are named after these historical fields, while the village title of "Oakhurst" was taken from the name of the home at Haydon End Farm. Indeed, for many years, the Haydon area of Priory Vale was home to farm owners and ancient meadowlands.

A Timeline of development

November 2001The Mayor of Swindon, David Cox officially opened Priory Vale's Northern Orbital Road. The four-kilometre stretch of dual carriageway provided the first stage of an important bypass to the north of Swindon. The new road gave access to the new supermarket and provided the necessary infrastructure to begin work on the planned community of Priory Vale. November 2001Priory Vale's supermarket opened for business on November 26th.

2002Chris and Tracy Barnes with their daughters Natalie and Jessica, went down in history as the very first residents of Priory Vale. The couple took up residence in a three-storey built by Bloor Homes in their Saunders Brook development.

May 2002May bank holiday saw the installation of what was reputed to be Swindon’s 'showiest' bridge. Specifically designed for all pedestrian, cycle, disabled and equestrian use, this steel stayed structure spans 62 metres across the Northern Orbital Road. The bridge was transported from Tyneside complete and ready to position, minimising any disruption to traffic on Thamesdown Drive. The bridge later featured in an advert for the Honda Civic which is also built in the town. November 2002The Priory Vale Visitor Centre opened to the public on Tuesday 26th November 2002. The sheer size and complexity of the Priory Vale development meant the visitor centre would serve the vital role of providing information during the first few years of development. The timber-framed building was designed by Nigel Clark Architects and built by EW Beard. 2005Construction of the Priory Vale Learning Campus commences. The project involves designing, building operating five schools: Red Oaks, Brimble Hill, Uplands and Isambard Community School within the Learning Campus, and Orchid Vale in Haydon End. September 2006Red Oaks Primary School and Orchid Vale Primary School open. The first day at Red Oaks saw King George XI (aka Roger Day) leading the children through a story that culminated in planting a magic silver acorn. Children's TV personality Dave Benson Phillips joined the King and pupils for the ceremony. Meanwhile at Orchid Vale in Haydon End, children received a warm welcome from headteacher Debbie Kalynka. "We're building a community spirit at Orchid Vale and there is a spirit of working together," she said. November 2006Wednesday 22nd November marked the fifth anniversary of the opening of Thamesdown Drive in North Swindon; an event that allowed construction to begin in the new community of Priory Vale. "Priory Vale's properties are selling faster than anticipated, attracting over 900 homebuyers every year," said Mike Christmas from the North Swindon Development Company (NSDC). March 2007 In March 2007, the Priory Vale Visitor Centre closed it's doors following five years of providing exceptional support to homeseekers. Situated on Thamesdown Drive, the Visitor Centre was created to inform prospective buyers of available properties and direct people to developments throughout Priory Vale. With Priory Vale now an established location, Priory Vale's individual developers take on the responsibility to market their own properties.

September 2007Oakhurst and Redhouse regions have no nearby community centre. The nearest amenities are a 15 minute walk or a mile drive to the near shopping complex. In September 2007, it is proposed that a new community centre will be completed to cater for its residents.

The North Swindon Development Company

The first land deal that made Swindon’s northern expansion project possible dates back to 1982 when housing developer Crest Nicholson acquired Abbey Farm from the Hitchin family. Shortly afterwards an option on the Francis family land became available and the arduous process of obtaining planning permission began in earnest. After years of intense negotiation, and precisely ten years later, planning permission for 10,000 new homes was granted in 1992.

Work commenced in 1993 and the former Francis land, just off Lady Lane was the first area to be developed. From a slow start, 81 houses were built and sold in 1994, building up to a massive 800 houses in 1997, quite an impressive increase within the space of four years. At the peak, the project had twelve of the UK’s leading housebuilders building, it’s hardly surprising that it took only seven years to build over 2,700 houses in the development known as Abbey Meads.

Some smaller developments followed before the final phase of the northern expansion project of Priory Vale. The planning cost of Priory Vale was substantially increased over the years and the cost of developing such a scheme was beyond the capability of one housing developer. As a result, the North Swindon Development Company (NSDC) was formed acting as an enabler in respect of all the works. The NSDC is owned and run jointly by George Wimpey, Westbury plc, Bloor Homes, Bryant Homes, Crest Nicholson and Walmart.

External links

* [ The Priory Vale community website]

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