Events to mark the year when modern Swindon came into being – and to tell the story of what a great place it has become in the last 175 years – have started to gather momentum.
On 25 February 1841 a letter by Daniel Gooch, Superintendent of Locomotives of the Great Western Railway, was considered by the company’s board of directors. His recommendation was that the green fields below the market town on a nearby hill were the most suitable for an engine and carriage maintenance and construction works. The Board accepted his view and the rest is history.
According to Wikipedia The GWR mainline was originally planned to cut through Savernake Forest near Marlborough, but the Marquess of Aylesbury, who owned the land, objected. His Lordship had also previously objected to part of the Kennet and Avon Canal passing through his estate. With the railway needing to run near to a canal at this point, and as it was cheaper to transport coal for trains along canals at this time, Swindon was the next logical choice for the works, 20 miles (32 km) north of the original route.
A new railway town was born which quickly joined up with the old town and went on to become famous the world over – for its railway related products and the social innovations that came with it. Following it came more industrial development, including the eventual closure of the railways in 1986. By that time 30 years ago new technologies and the growth of a major service economy that has seen Swindon provide homes for over 200,000 people.
Primary schools across the town are celebrating Gooch’s letter and the GWR board’s decision with special assemblies, role plays and history lessons. Every child attending a participating school will go home with a sticker promoting Swindon 175.
“It’s great how many schools have come on board the Swindon 175 project,” said project manager Caroline Black. “This year is so important for our town and it doesn’t stop in 2016. It’s a point where we look back at the fantastic successes and also when we look forward and think about what we can achieve together.”
Pictured top, Red Oaks teacher Martin Cowell as Daniel Gooch with youngsters who will be taking part in a school assembly to find out more about Swinon 175. Below, children at Oliver Tomkins Primary School Toothill dressed in period costume in front of a large mural promoting the town.
Other primary schools taking part in Daniel Gooch Day are Bishopstone, Lainsmead, Lethbridge and St Francis at Taw Hill