Thursday May 15th 2014: From Swinedown to Swindon


A presentation on the history of Swindon was given to us by members of the Swindon Society. Actually it was given almost entirely by Bob Townsend but David Bedford and Diane Everett from their seats in the front row offered occasional corrections or suggestions and even some embellishments. It was an entertaining talk well illustrated by pictures from Swindon’s history. We visited many aspects of Swindon’s past in no particular order but it proved very absorbing. So we went from the settlement on the hill with its early church now only a fragment of its past glory via the railway works to a centre for 21st century high-tech business. One of Bob’s recurring themes was the failure to look after some of the town’s more significant buildings, for example the Mechanics Institute. This has been allowed to rot and decay for many years. Nevertheless alongside that long-running disaster has been the successful preservation of its neighbour development, the Railway Village. It was surprising that a town with important factories situated around a railway junction sustained little serious wartime damage. This was in part thanks to the siting on the Downs of deceptive structures aimed at misleading bombers and drawing them away from the town. We were left with a clear impression of the enormous rate of change undergone by Swindon in a short historical period.