Get ready to celebrate a landmark in the town’s history.
In 2016 it will be 175 years since work started on building what was to become a huge railway repair works on flat, green fields below the hamlet on the hill of less than five hundred houses – essentially the beginning of modern Swindon.
Celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary in 1985 were cancelled because of lack of support and outright opposition following the decision to close the works after a long campaign to keep it open.
So next year is an opportune time to bring Swindon together to celebrate its illustrious and industrious past and to look to the future, to throw off the negative viewpoints and cynicism that exists amongst some and to project a new attitude towards the town that is now home to some 220,000 people.
Ian Surtees at Steam Museum is coordinating a range of projects and wants to hear from more schools and community organisations who want to be involved as Swindon 175 partners. He said: “175 years is more than just about history and heritage. We’d like to hear of ideas and initiatives that will get the people of our town involved to ask the question: why are you here?
“We have agreement in principle with the National Railway Museum in York that two famous products of Swindon railway works will return to the town. King George V and City of Truro are iconic locomotives. Exhibitions and special events are being planned at Steam and Lydiard House.
“But we need lots of smaller events which are relevant to residents, in schools and neighbourhoods.
“A big launch is being planned for November when we will publish a programme of activities. It would be good to have conversations with local organisations by then, but we will be able to add new items throughout 2016 at a dedicated website that is being developed.
If you have an idea about how 2016 should be marked, email: email@example.com
A graphic story across 175 years
Although the start on building the railway repair sheds commenced in 1841, the town is well known for building a great deal more since then. Swindon based graphic designer Paul Gentleman has come up with a logo that incorporates six historical cues which remind us that the town is famous for the GWR and more. Paul explains:
The Swindon 175 logo has been designed to reflect the rich history the town has and its achievements and contribution to the country over the years. While the perception of others might not reflect the town’s place in history, it’s contribution to the country has been immense and the logo brings together some of the iconic images and stories to the fore.
The logo has six images of Swindon’s past history:
• Sir Daniel Gooch – Brunel’s right hand man in the building of the greatest railway in the world, the GWR. In September 1840 Daniel Gooch, Brunel’s Chief Superintendent of Locomotive Engines, wrote a letter to Brunel and the GWR board recommending Swindon as the site for the Engine Repair works. The board approved the recommendation and work began the following February. From this grew the greatest locomotive manufacturing plant the world had seen where at its height it could make three steam locomotives a week. Though care of its workforce they created the GWR Medical Fund, the Blueprint for today’s NHS, through education of its workforce it created the country’s first ever lending library and the men and women of the GWR were known to be the best educated manual workers in the country. Gooch’s decision and letter shaped the town we have today.
• City of Truro – the first steam locomotive to travel at 100 mph. This City Class locomotive epitomises the skill and innovation of the GWR works when they made the first ever steam locomotive to travel at 100mph.
• GWR works hooters – iconic for the people of Swindon, these were heard all over the town. Still in place today above the works, these called the men to work in the morning and let the women folk know when the working day was done. At the outbreak of WW1 they blasted 10 times to let the people of Swindon know that we were at war.
• The Spitfire and Hurricane – the town played its part in the war effort helping build both these world famous planes. As early as 1936 Swindon was looked at as the location for aircraft manufacture due to its good communication links and access to the highly skilled workforce of the GWR works. Parts of the Hurricane were made at the GWR works and Spitfire production was moved to Swindon and Castle Bromwich following the bombing of the Supermarine factory in Southampton.
• Garrard Turntable – at its height 4,500 worked making these record players which were exported all over the world. The company won the Queen’s Award for Industry three times and its factory covered half million square feet.
• The Mini – Swindon has been shaping the world famous car since the 1970s and is now a huge centre for car manufacture. The town’s Pressed Steel Fisher plant was established in 1954 and was a major employer in the town after the GWR works. As part of British Leyland it produced the body panels for a range of cars including Land Rover and of course the Mini.
The iconic car which was redesigned and relaunched by BMW in the early 2000s now represents how the town has become a major manufacturer of automobiles and the image of the car drives the logo, spreading the visual imagery into 2016 and beyond.
Although some would like to think Swindon is an average town, we’re anything but!