Some Public and Other Prominent Buildings in Swindon, Wiltshire, England
Despite having grown from an insignificant market town to major industrial centre in a remarkably short time, and then having the heart of the new town obliterated by 1960s redevelopment, Swindon has a surprisingly large number of interesting buildings. This page illustrates a few of the public and other prominent buildings not included elswhere on this site.
This Victorian building (opened in 1891) dominates the eastern end of the town centre shopping area, and acts as a definite focal point - when local people talk of the "Town Centre" (as distinct from the "Centre") it is the area around the Town Hall that they think of. It stands on Regent Circus, a large traffic island (around which the traffic direction and rules have changed several times) at the south-east end of and facing down Regent Street, traditionally the main shopping street of the new town. This photo (233,863 bytes) is how it looks from Regent Street; the Cenotaph (war memorial) can be seen in the bottom left of the picture.
It was originally the seat of local government for the town, but has for many years now been a local meeting room and dance hall, with local government offices transferred to the newer Civic Offices in Euclid Street. Nevertheless, it is still the location for major official outdoor announcements and celebrations.
This photo (194,357 bytes) shows the Corn Exchange as it was in June 2000, but it looked little different 100 years earlier. The original town hall is the building to the right of the clock tower, and was completed in 1852. It stands on the south side of the old market square and was designed to be a market house, but was used for many meetings, especially those concerning the government of the town (until 1891) which had previously been conducted just down the road in the Goddard Arms Hotel. The Corn Exchange with the 80 foot clock tower above it was added in 1866. The building has since served as a roller skating rink, cinema, dance hall and bingo hall, but has now stood empty and deteriorating for some years. I have been kindly informed by Stuart Firth that it was destroyed by fire on 18th May 2003, a sad loss of a fine building, which I feel the local council should have acted long ago to prevent.
This typical 1930s low-rise office block (photo 175,812 bytes) has been the main seat of Swindon Borough Council since it was built. Fronted by a pleasant garden of lawns and shrubs, it occupies a great part of the north side of Euclid Street. At the west end it is adjacent to Clarence Street school, into which the council bureaucracy has expanded since the school closed.
The David Murray John Building dominates the new town centre. Click on the image for a larger picture (169,531 bytes).
The new market building, seen here (photo 200,670 bytes), makes an incongruous contrast to the 19th century low rise buildings facing it across Commercial Road.
The Mechanics Institute is located at the centre of the Railway Village, on Emelyn Square. A 1917 directory says "In dealing with the public institutions of the town pride of place must be given to the G.W.R. Mechanics' Institution. A splendid reading room and smoking and recreation rooms are provided for the 10,000 members; the lending and reference libraries contain 40,000 volumes, and additions are constantly being made; and there is a spacious hall available for entertainments and public meetings, as well as a smaller hall for lecturers. For completeness, comfort and convenience the Institute buildings are equal to anything of the kind in the Kingdom."
The hall was to my knowledge still in use for plays and pantomimes at least until the late 1940s, and during World War 2 the roof, being the highest building in the area, was used as a watch point for fires. In consequence, during off-duty moments the watchers had a free view of whatever performance was on stage.
The first photo (31,461 bytes) shows the main entrance (on the right), while the second (26,799 bytes) shows the diametrically opposite corner, as viewed from the back of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.
This late Georgian building was erected as Apsley House in about 1830, and became the town's museum in 1930. It houses an interesting collection of local finds, as well as a (mainly British) natural history collection, although a full size crocodile (not local!) is a major attraction to children. It is located at the east end of Bath Road, just round the corner from Victoria Road, and faces south. (Photo 26,462 bytes).
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This page last updated 8th March 2004