A set of ornamental gates made from recycled parts of redundant locomotives, which stood at the entrance to the Great Western Railway (GWR) Sports Ground, have been unlocked and taken back to the place where they were created.
Local housebuilder, David Wilson Homes Southern, who purchased the 12 acre site of the sports ground off Shrivenham Road to build 226 new homes, have delivered the impressive ironwork to Swindon’s famous STEAM Museum, to preserve the rich sporting history and tradition of workers in the Great Western Railways and British Railways that followed it.
The two sets of gates stood proudly on the ground’s perimeter for over 70 years; one pair will remain on site as a tribute to its former use, while the other has been donated to the STEAM Museum.
Ian Surtees, commercial manager for the STEAM Museum said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive the gates from David Wilson Homes; it feels like a true piece of Swindon’s rich railway history has come home, as the gates were originally made on the site of the museum.
“The sports ground was a real social hub for the Great Western Railway employees. So it seems even more fitting that the gates have arrived during the Olympics, as the museum is currently celebrating the history and sporting achievements of GWR employees in a dedicated exhibition.”
The sports ground first opened on 1931 and Lord Dulverton, a director of the GWR at the time, performed the official opening. He was applauded when he told the crowd that the new facilities would help workers ‘show that they excelled in sport as in the past Swindon had always excelled in workmanship’.
The gates were made in V shop by Fred Vellender, pictured right, who worked in Swindon works from 1941 to 1986, using old boiler tubes taken from locomotives been broken up for scrap.
For more than 50 years, the railway workers enjoyed playing on the football, cricket, bowling, tennis, hockey, athletics and putting. However, in August 2005 as the club closed for good after the GWR sports era finally came to an end.
Freelance photographer Richard Wintle said he played cricket at the sports ground in his younger days. "The ground was a first class place to play sports, beautifully maintained, a real showpiece for sport in Swindon. It was certainly a county standard cricket pitch and I believe county games were played there in the early 1940s."
The David Wilson Homes, to be known as The Sidings, offers homebuyers a choice of two and three bedroom homes. These have been designed to compliment the town’s existing architecture, providing some much needed family homes to the area, whilst being sympathetic to the history of the site. Around £1 million of Section 106 payments, part of the planning agreement, will be contributed to improve the local infrastructure.
Simon Kirk, Technical Director for David Wilson Homes Southern, commented: “The GWR is a huge part of Swindon’s history and as a local housebuilder it is important that we support the local community where we build our new homes. We are thrilled to be able to donate the gates to the museum where their historic value can be truly celebrated.”
The gates at Steam will be incorporated outside the museum once a design has been submitted for planning permisson
Simon Kirk and Ian Surtees pictured with the gates outside Steam Museum
Exhibition at Steam. Read about the hertitage of sports and the GWR in Swindon here
Images by Richard Wintle ©Calyx Multimedia, 41, Churchward Avenue, Rodbourne Cheney, Swindon SN2 1NJ • 01793 520131 MOB: 07836 205196 www.calyxpix.com