The Swindon Society was formed in September 1972, with the aim of creating a photographic archive of the town’s history, and forty years on it has a thriving membership, many of whom gathered in celebration at Southbrook Inn.
Reflecting on the fact that Swindon’s history has grown in parallel with that of the railway, and of photography itself, society member Andy Binks said: “I can’t imagine any other town has got such a rich photographic history. Our collection now numbers well over 8,000 images, including lots of the railway, the tramway system and scenes from around the town and surrounding villages. We are always looking for more material.”
Members do all their own research and put together illustrated talks and presentations at their monthly meetings.
Andy said: “It is a labour of love. There’s always a bit of information that you want to get hold of, or a picture that will bring it all to life.”
The images form the basis for over a dozen books, videos and Christmas cards available from book shops and Swindon Information Centre.
The Society currently enjoys a membership of over 140, having doubled in size over the past couple of years. The longest serving member is Martin Vandervelde, who came to Swindon at the age of four as an evacuee from the East End of London. He has been part of the group since it began. “The society started off as a night-school class, and I went along because I was interested in history and geography.
“I’ve never really thought of myself as a Swindonian, but the Society has given me a good knowledge of the town, from being mentioned in the Domesday Book to the railways and up to the present.”
If you have any old photographs of Swindon they can be easily added to the Society’s archive without leaving your premises. Andy explained: “We can come to people’s homes and scan the images without taking them away. No one has to give us their photos – we’re happy with copies of the original.”
Anybody interested in local history and photography can find out more information on the website: www.swindonsociety.org