The re-imagined story …
I stood across the road from Park House, amongst a group of women, all of whom had been in receipt of an act of kindness performed by Mrs Swinhoe.
She wasn’t a demonstratively affectionate person, not a woman to place an arm around your shoulder, or take your hand in hers. She wasn’t one for displays of emotion, but Mrs Swinhoe was one of the kindest women I have ever met.
She was a stalwart of St Mark’s Church, a member of several committees, a fund raiser and a generous benefactor. She would be greatly missed in the railway community.
Everyone in the railway village had been in receipt of her kindness at some time yet she had never sought comfort from a stranger, except on one occasion.
I was employed as a housemaid in the doctor’s residence when the Swinhoe family lived in London Street. It was a busy household as the property served as the doctor’s consulting room and the Swinhoe family was quickly growing, three little daughters and another child on the way when I joined the establishment in 1864.
Mrs Swinhoe’s confinement proved difficult when on May 19 two little girls were born and quickly named Eliphalette and Etheldreda. On June 20 the babes were baptised by their grandfather at St Michael’s Church in Cornhill in London, but the event was quite subdued; all was not well with the smaller baby Etheldreda.
I was with Mrs Swinhoe the day her baby died. I’d never seen sorrow like that before. I was fifteen years old. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. What words of comfort can you offer to a woman who has just held her baby while it died? I put my arms about her as she sobbed and sat with her until her husband returned from the Works where he had been attending an accident. I left them to their grief.
Mrs Swinhoe is to be laid to rest in Swindon’s cemetery on Kingshill. Her little daughter was buried in the churchyard at St Mark’s, but that is closed to burials now.
It must have been a dreadful thing – to be a doctor and unable to save your child.
The facts …
Diana Maria Matilda Wrench was born on June 17 1836 at St Michael’s Rectory, Cornhill in the City of London the daughter of Rev. Thomas William Wrench and his wife Diana Maria. She married George Money Swinhoe, a Practitioner Surgeon at the church where her father officiated on August 13, 1859 and by the time of the 1861 census, they were living at 4 London Street, Swindon.
The couple went on to have a large family, seven daughters and five sons survived to adulthood. Diana died after a short illness and was buried in Radnor Street Cemetery on April 25, 1894. She was the first of six members of the Swinhoe family to be buried in the large family plot numbered E8228/29/30.
Death of Mrs Swinhoe
We regret to announce the death of Mrs Swinhoe, wife of Dr G.M. Swinhoe, of Park House, New Swindon. The deceased lady had been ailing only a day or two, and died somewhat suddenly on Sunday morning. Her death will be a great loss in St Mark’s parish, where she has been such an excellent worker for many years past. The circumstances are rendered still more sad by the fact that deceased’s son Dr. G.R. Swinhoe, returned with his bride from his honeymoon trip only a day or two previously.
On Sunday at St Mark’s church (where Dr Swinhoe is vicar’s warden), the organist, Mr Geo. Burrows, played the “Dead March in Saul” at each service.
In consequence of the sad event, a concert and operetta which was to have been rendered on Monday evening in the Mechanics’ Institute, New Swindon, and in which the Misses Swinhoe were to have taken part, was postponed.
It would be altogether superfluous for us to enter into panegyrics respecting the deceased lady, the long period Dr Swinhoe has been the friend in need to the great majority of the inhabitants of New Swindon, and the “right hand” Mrs Swinhoe has been to him, are too well known and appreciated to make the telling necessary. Suffice it, that the sad intelligence was received with profound and genuine regret throughout the neighbourhood. The deceased leaves in addition to her stricken husband seven daughters and five sons to mourn their irreparable loss.
Took place on Wednesday morning and was of a quiet and private character. The funeral cortege left the late residence of the deceased lady, Park House, about 11.15 am. The first part of the most solemn service was read at St Mark’s Church, by the Hon and Rev Canon Ponsonby, and there was a crowded congregation, a large number being unable to gain admission.
At the grave side this number was still further increased. The first part of the service being over, the procession wended its way towards the cemetery where the Rev Canon Ponsonby read the remaining portion of the burial services. The remains were buried in a bricked grave, lined with moss, primroses and other flowers. The coffin, which was of oak, with very massive brass fittings and a large Latin cross on the lid, born the following inscription: – “Diana Maria Matilda Swinhoe, Died 22nd April, 1894, Aged 56 years.” It was conveyed in a hearse, and completely covered with beautiful wreaths.
Long list of mourners …
Messrs Chandler Bros. were the undertakers, and discharged the funeral arrangements in a most satisfactory manner. The coffin was made by Mr. T. Barrett.
Swinhoe Diana Maria Matilda wife of George Money Swinhoe 56 years Park House New Swindon 25th April 1894 plot E8229.
Radnor Street Cemetery Registers