Swindon Heritage is expanding its crowdfunded blue plaque scheme with the addition of not one new plaque, but three. So supporters of the town’s heritage can choose which plaque they would like to be installed this summer:
- Culture vultures can honour Swindon-born author and Spanish Civil War activist Ralph Bates.
- Railway and social history buffs can back the plaque we are proposing to put on the Health Hydro.
- Football fans can pay their tribute to Swindon Town’s pioneering first manager, Sam Allen.
Or, to put it simply: Bates, baths and balls! And if you are as proud of the Town’s rich and varied heritage as we are, why not support all three? Because this is a crowdfunding scheme, there is no set amount; donate how much you can and how much you like.
Ralph Bates (1899-2000) has been called ‘Swindon’s forgotten writer’, but we are aiming to put him back on the map by installing a plaque on one of the addresses he called home in the town centre. Well known and highly respected in his time, he is best known for his novels The Olive Field and The Dolphin in the Wood. But Bates’s story goes beyond his works, thanks to his involvement in the Spanish Civil War, where he joined other writers opposing the fascists by volunteering for the International Brigades.
Opened in 1892 (so this year sees the 125th anniversary), the building in Faringdon Road now known as the Health Hydro housed washing, swimming and even Turkish baths, but also medical consulting rooms and a dispensary. In terms of the astonishing social development of New Swindon achieved by railway workers in the Victorian age, it is a crowning glory, and because it was the headquarters of the GWR Medical Fund, which was used as a blueprint for the National Health Service, the building is now of national importance.
Footballs, to be precise – because we are honouring Swindon Town’s first team manager, Sam Allen (1868-1946), at the address where he spent most of his life. The sixth longest-serving manager in English football history (see the list here), Allen eventually became club secretary, eventually serving Town for a total of 51 years.