Exactly 12 months ago we were looking forward to an exciting year ahead for Swindon Heritage. During 2015, along with a few of our friends, we would organise a successful week-long tribute to Swindon pilot Harold Starr, on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in September.
Later in the year we were also heavily involved in the organisation of three events that honoured Swindon suffragette Edith New, and were proud to be involved in the launch of Swindon 175.
The year also saw us clock up a dozen editions of the magazine (not including the special edition in September), which means we have produced more than a thousand pages.
While it has always been our aim to make local folk aware of our magnificent history and generate more pride within Swindon, we also like to think we do a good job in promoting that heritage to outsiders. When we are proud of our past we can feel better about our present, and it also gives us renewed optimism in the future; we strongly believe this all helps to improve the town’s image to outsiders, perhaps even boosting our economy.
That’s what happens when you see your heritage as an asset, not a liability.
How sad, then, that while the first three years of our (voluntary) efforts to shine a light on Swindon’s heritage have been so positive, we are expecting the opposite as we look ahead. Rather than celebrating our heritage in 2016, we are anticipating having to defend it.
Swindon Borough Council’s decision to lease off Lydiard House and Park and – more importantly – to make the process difficult for local and/or voluntary groups to compete with outside commercial interests and keep control of this magnificent asset, is nothing short of a catastrophe for our heritage.
As a Grade I Listed building, attached to a truly special Grade I church, all set in a Grade II Listed landscape, Lydiard is often referred to as the jewel in Swindon’s crown (even by councillors, who often don’t seem to understand much about our history), yet councillors are determined to go ahead with their plan, with as little regard for our history as they have for public opinion.
Although we would much rather spend the year putting all our efforts into positive initiatives, such as Swindon 175 and the quest for a new museum and art gallery, don’t be surprised if you find us, instead, standing up against what we have no doubt is a grave threat to our heritage.
We repeat: heritage is an asset, not a liability, and as long as Swindon councillors continue to treat it as the latter in 2016, then everything we are proud of is going to be under threat and become devalued.
Why is the move to lease Lydiard to private companies so dangerous and divisive? Swindon Heritage is producing a graphic a day until 10 January to put our informed opinions forward, starting with why we don’t think it is councillors’ right to decide the future of Lydiard in isolation, regardless of the rights and wrongs of their plan (and you can read the story of how the house and park came into public ownership here).
We urge you to join us in heading off the Council’s plan. Start by joining the thousands who have already signed the petition, and we hope you will also come along to a public meeting to discuss Lydiard’s future on 12 January.
The storm clouds are gathering over Lydiard, and we believe the time has come for Swindon Heritage to stand up for Swindon’s heritage.
To view the daily graphics visit www.swindonheritage.com