I just love social media! One of my Twitter and blog followers sent me the photo of the Portrait Bench South Marston Cycle Path that you see at the bottom of this post. And that’s fab. Being a non-driver and bogged down in studies I don’t get to all four corners of our town.

What you are looking at is piece of public art that is also a handy bench: a perfect marriage of form and function indeed! But not just any old bench.

This here is a Portrait Bench. So now, not only do I know about this lovely bench, I also know about the concept of portrait benches and a little bit more about Swindon’s history. And it started with a Tweet!

Portrait Bench South Marston Cycle Path

About Portrait Benches and Sustrans

About the Portrait Benches and Sustrans:

 The Portrait Bench is a new and unique national collection of local portraits.

The figures are inspired and chosen for their individual contribution to the life of the community.

Creating portraits is an old custom. Portraits honour individuals for their philanthropy, political prowess or acts of heroism. And, most commonly, for the love of family members.

All major public spaces are graced by statues or portraits of eminent individuals. And family photos are treasured across the world.

Each Portrait Bench is a collection of three distinctive, life-size local figures cut from sheet steel and installed by a simple bench. They invite you to sit or step up into the space and become a part of the portrait group. The features of each character have been simplified while retaining their essential characteristics.

The characters reflect those things that are important to the community. Each is inspired by the local heritage, culture and aspirations of the area. Some we’ll know and some we won’t. Together they will represent around 230 characters chosen by thousands of people from across the UK” 

The Three Figures

The three figures you see here are representatives of some aspects of Swindon’s rich heritage. The chap with a barrel on his shoulder is representing Arkell’s Brewery, established in 1843 and still going strong.

The man in the centre serves as a homage to Swindon’s rich railway heritage, glimpses of which you can see in a couple of my other posts:

1. A Tiny Tour around the town and
2. the one on the Outlet Centre.

 The third figure is a WWII airman. He’s there in tribute to the part that Swindon played in producing the Spitfire – arguably the nation’s most famous aircraft.  

The factory that contributed to the Spitfire production was located in South Marston. Hence the fitting inclusion of an airman on this portrait bench.  

Portrait Bench South Marston Cycle Path
Portrait Bench on the South Marston Cycle Path – Photo from Jess Robinson


The creation of this portrait bench and the cycle path on which it’s located is part of the Sustrans Connect2 project.

“Sustrans’ Connect2 project has transformed everyday travel for communities across the UK by helping them to choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys.

 The project has created new bridges and crossings that overcome busy roads, rivers and railways. It’s made a link to networks of walking and cycling routes, making it easier for millions of people to walk and cycle for everyday journeys‘.

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