Blog/January 9, 2017: After spending much of the last two or three weeks working to defend and protect Swindon’s heritage – which we will update our readers and website visitors with shortly – we are glad to return to one of many positive projects aimed at promoting the town and celebrating our history.
This Saturday (January 14) will see the unveiling of the fourth in our series of blue plaques. This time we are delighted to be honouring the Swindon-born actress and film celebrity, Diana Dors.
The plaque will be unveiled at 61 and 62 Kent Road, Old Town, Swindon – the former Haven Nursing Home. Not to be confused with the nearby former Kingshill House maternity home, Diana was born there on October 23, 1931, in what is now two private houses.
An introduction will begin at around 11.30am, with the unveiling taking place at 12 noon – and we have lined up two very special guests to do the honours – Jason Dors-Lake, Diana’s youngest son, and Jason’s daughter (Diana’s granddaughter) Ruby.
Jason said: “I can’t wait to get back to Swindon. The last time I was there was when Ruby and I – she was only a baby in my arms then – unveiled the statue of my mother outside the cinema at Shaw Ridge. I have never known the exact location of my mother’s birth, so I was very excited when the Swindon Heritage team approached me.”
All are welcome to come along, and we extend a special invitation and thanks to all those people who donated to our crowdfunding scheme to pay for the plaque and its installation.
Blog/December 16, 2016: While there are growing concerns over Swindon Borough Council’s management and plans for historic buildings in the town, the tremendous work of volunteers in the heritage sector continues to be a source of hope.
Today the team behind a project to conserve the interior of St Mary’s Church at Lydiard Tregoze, adjacent to Lydiard House, have announced their bid for a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has been successful.
The grant, initially for £131,700, follows a successful campaign to raise £55,000 locally. It comes less than a month after Eastcott Community Organisation were awarded £10,000 to celebrate and promote the history of that part of town.
The money awarded to the Lydiard project will enable the completion of the church’s development plans and allow the project group to progress to applying for a full grant of £746,700 in 2017/18, which will include conserving the building’s extensive medieval wall paintings, 17th Century monuments like the famous Golden Cavalier, ancient carved woodwork and star-spangled ceiling.
Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “At the heart of Swindon’s Lydiard Park, St Mary’s is an important part of the town’s history, and home to a unique and nationally significant collection of medieval wall paintings. Thanks to National Lottery players we’re delighted to support this vital first step towards securing the future of the collection and its historic Grade I Listed home and enabling even more people to enjoy the stories they hold.”
The Rt Rev Dr Lee Rayfield, Bishop of Swindon, said he is delighted by the HLF’s support. “St Mary’s is a national treasure,” he said, “and preserving its unique features will benefit both local people and the nation’s heritage.”
Local groups supporting the project include The Friends of Lydiard Park, The Swindon Festival of Literature, Prime Theatre, the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts, schools and colleges and Swindon Heritage. We supported the bid and featured the project in our Autumn 2016 edition, and we will continue to raise awareness about the project, as well as helping with events planned for 2017/18.
Note: Lydiard Park is hosting Open Air Carols by lantern light on Wednesday, December 21, starting at 6.30pm.
Blog/December 13, 2016: The Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust has unveiled its plans for a new building in the town centre.
An architect’s model was unveiled at the current Museum and Art Gallery in Bath Road today, providing a glimpse of what Swindon can expect by 2021 if the Trust can get enough funding for the project. The building would occupy the site of the recently demolished multi-storey car park in Islington Street, close to the Wyvern Theatre and the Magistrates Court. The remaining car park in front of the courts would be replaced by a vibrant open space.
Following one failed bid, a second application for more than £12 million in grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) should have been filed this month, but has been delayed for another year. The rest of the money would be provided from two other sources: Swindon Borough Council, which has promised to invest £5 million in the project, and a further £5 million, which needs to be raised from private investors.
The brief for architects was “to create a landmark destination that would form the centrepiece of Swindon’s new cultural quarter, become a significant source of pride and wellbeing for local residents and businesses, and attract visitors to Swindon from the wider region and beyond”. The chosen design is the work of Make Architects, and their model shows what the £22 million building could look like, although final details, including the material for the cladding of the building’s impressive ‘wings’, are yet to be decided.
The model was unveiled by the director of the Trust, Hadrian Ellory-van Dekker, whom this magazine interviewed for our Autumn 2016 edition.
Hadrian described the design as “iconic” and said it would be much more than a museum and art gallery, serving as a meeting place, cultural hub and a building that Swindon people could be proud of.
The design is, indeed, stunning and inspiring, and would both transform the Swindon landscape and boost the town’s tattered reputation. Even more importantly, it could restore some civic pride to local residents who feel they have lost ownership of their heritage and have no means of influencing its future.
But before it can be built the Trust and civic leaders face the not insignificant challenge of convincing the HLF that they have properly engaged with and won the backing of ordinary Swindon people.
Blog/November 26, 2016: A brand new memoir about growing up in Swindon after the Second World War has gone on sale.
Terry Lloyd (pictured below) launched the book, called There Goes the Hooter, with a special signing at the Central Library.
Highly readable and packed with stories about the town, it can be purchased from the Central Library for just £9.99.
Read our review of the book in the new Winter 2016 edition of Swindon Heritage.
Blog/November 26, 2016: Our friends from Eastcott Community Organisation are celebrating after receiving a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
They have been awarded £10,000 to fund a project called Celebrating our Community in Eastcott, which will research, document and celebrate the heritage of the local area, and in particular the history of the Savernake Street Social Hall site.
Eastcott Community Organisation is a charity led by local residents. The group aims to increase opportunities for residents by managing Savernake Street Social Hall, and organise events and activities to bring to community closer together.
There will be lots of opportunities for residents of all ages to get involved by sharing memories and joining in the participative events in the year-long project. There will be an important celebratory element, with at least two large community events marking periods in the area’s history.
This grant will enable the group to explore the heritage of the area and record this for generations to come, and will work with the Local Studies department at the Swindon Central Library, plus schools, residents and local history groups, including Swindon Heritage, to capture and share the history of the site.
Caroline Davies-Khan, Chairperson of Eastcott Community Organisation, said: “It’s fantastic that we have been awarded this grant, and we can’t wait to get started. Since we started managing Savernake Street Social Hall, we’ve heard stories about the centre and the surrounding streets. We know there’s so much more to discover about our past, and this grant will enable the history to be pieced together. We are all really excited about discovering and celebrating the heritage of the area.”
Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “From a place for the Royal Voluntary Service to prepare meals on wheels to a Civil Defence Training Centre and everything in between, Savernake Street Social Hall is truly at the heart of the Eastcott community. Thanks to National Lottery players, we’re pleased to support this project, which will celebrate and share the stories of the people and communities who have passed through the hall’s doors, and explore the history of the places in which they live.”
For more information, contact Caroline Davies-Khan at email@example.com
Members of the team, including Caroline Davies-Khan (centre) are pictured below, courtesy of Elmar Rubio.
Blog/November 25, 2016: The Swindon Heritage blue plaque to mark the birthplace of Diana Dors has arrived from the foundry and is ready to go up – but now won’t be unveiled until the New Year.
Recently bought through crowdfunding, the plaque will be the fourth in a series began earlier this year (more details here) and will be at the former Haven Nursing Home, now two private houses: 61 and 62 Kent Road, Old Town, Swindon.
However, storm damage to the roof of one of the properties, which is currently without water, has caused a postponement while its owners clear up after flooding. With the front of the house covered in scaffolding and the date of the completion of repairs unknown, the decision was taken to delay the ceremony.
Project manager Noel Beauchamp said: “It’s a shame that we’ve had to delay the unveiling, especially as the plaque has now been cast and is ready for installation. But we are confident that when the property’s owners have had chance to clear up and get over their problems, we can look forward to a date in January.”
Watch this space and local media for details of the date, which will be released as soon as it is confirmed.