Swindon Town Gardens

April 2017

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Swindon Town Gardens

As I’ve mentioned on this blog more than once – Swindon is blessed with some wonderful green spaces.  The Swindon Town Gardens up in Old Town being just one of them.

Read about some more of them here: http://swindonian.me/category/parks-and-open-spaces/

It’s taken me some times to get round to dedicating a post to the town gardens – hey ho. Such is life.

So what can we say about them? Well, according to Parks and Gardens.Org our Town Gardens were ‘were laid out in the late-19th and early-20th centuries on the undulating Okus Field. 

The Gardens were opened in May 1894 by Mr W Reynolds, Chairman of the Board. The northern area was laid out in 1902 and included a maze, a shelter, rustic bridges, and seats, to a design submitted by a Mr A John Gilbert. In the mid-20th century improvements were made to the Gardens, including the creation of a rose garden and bandstand with arena.’ 

All of which is fine if not a little dry.

The Historic England website tells us that the gardens are ‘registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by English Heritage for its special historic interest.’

The Historic England website also tells us that: ‘Along the northern boundary of the rectangular garden is an entrance porch with iron turnstiles and brick pillars that leads to a domed bandstand in Art Deco style, called the Concert Bowl, situated in a valley below. Both the Concert Bowl and entrance were designed by J B L Thompson in 1934(6 (drawings, WRO), and were formally opened by the Mayor of Swindon on 6 May 1936. The Concert Bowl, referred to in Thompson’s drawings (see above) as ‘Bandstand and Arena’, and in Civic News, July 1963, as ‘a concert bowl and shell’, stands 65m south of the north-eastern entrance. It is approached from the south along a lawn at the bottom of the steep grass-banked valley, with mature trees to the north, west, and east….’  So a bit more descriptive then. 

The Great British Gardens website though exhorts us to: ‘Step back in time to this Victorian garden set in an old quarry which used to produce Portland stone.’

None of which though portrays just how loved these gardens are. Indeed there’s a bunch of wonderful Town Gardens artists who are prolific in the art they produce inspired by these wonderful gardens.

You do though get the sense, from all these entries, of the things to see at every turn. The concert bowl here, the aviary there, a sculpture of Peter Pan, a Victory in Europe memorial and of course, the fabulous bandstand. There’s a great picture on Swindon Local Collection’s Flickr page of the bandstand back in the day. 

Of the concert bowl, Geography.org has a nice photo of the bowl and has this to say:  ‘The Bowl is pre-war and is possibly modelled on the rather larger Hollywood Bowl of the 1920s.’  Over on SBC’s website you’ll find this: ‘The Old Town Bowl opened in 1936 and is one of only a handful built in this county. The Bowl was restored in the 1990s and is now a venue for regular summer concerts.’

See also Francis Firth.com about the rose gardens.

On a wander around Swindon Town Gardens earlier this year some of the plaques on the benches caught my eye. I rather suspect there’s more entertainment and intrigue to be found there if you look hard enough.

I first saw the plaque in the first image on Facebook – just as it appears here – with words by my friend Carole Bent.

Plaque on bench in town gardens

I assume the heart-shaped wreath was tied there by a family member. It was still there when I was in the gardens. Lovely words from Carole and lovely words from whom so ever it was that put the plaque on the bench. Wonderfully profound in its way is this next one – which made me smile I have to say.

Stan - Ice cream times plaque on bench

And finally this one is rather lovely because it commemorates Harold – a gardener in Town Gardens for 38 years.  Good work Harold. Good work!

Seat plaque gardener in town gardens

Something that always makes me think of Trumpton and the band concerts:

 

Below is Peter Pan. Sporting not only his head but some pastilles on his head! I mention this because back in 2011 the statue was beheaded. This BBC News article has the story.

‘The original statue, which had been there since World War I, was stolen in 2004.

It was recovered, restored and put into storage and a fibre glass replica was put in the Town Gardens in November. The 2ft statue sits on a stone cairn.’

See also: http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/wiltshire/hi/people_and_places/newsid_9216000/9216275.stm

And a couple of better shots from Justin Smythe:

 

And the Victory in Europe memorial. Two pics are mine and one is from Justin Smythe. Guess?

There’s some information about the Commemorative VE memorial on this Traces of War.com website.   And also here: http://www.iwm.org.uk_www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/43362

But this is the poem – or extract of  – that is on the stone. It’s from Siegfried Sassoon’s 1919 poem ‘Everyone Sang’:
Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on–on–and out of sight.

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away . . . O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

Finally, just because we can, some lovely shots of Town Gardens wildlife from Justin Smythe:

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