7th March 2014

The Seven Wonders of Swindon

brutalist concrete car park in Swindon one of the seven wonders of swindon
The Double Helix of Carfax – now demolishedI wrote this blog before the dark deed had taken place.

We are most of us familiar with the 7 wonders of the ancient world:  

1.The great pyramid of Egypt
2. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
3. The statue of Zeus at Olympia
4. That well-known temple of Artemis at Ephesus
5. One mausoleum at Halicarnassus
6. Rhode’s Colossus …
7. .. and the lighthouse of Alexandria.

Only one of which – the pyramid – still remains.

The 7 Wonders of the Modern World

In more recent times a list has been compiled of the 7 wonders of the modern world. They are
1. Chichén Itza, Mexico
2.Christ the Redeemer Statue, Brazil
3. The Colosseum, Italy
4. India’s Taj Mahal, India
5. The Great Wall of China
6. Petra, Jordan
7. And Machu Picchu, Peru .

But you might not be aware that, straddling these two lists of wonders to be beheld, there exists another set: The Seven Wonders of Swindon.

Oh yes indeed. As compiled by : ‘the Swindon Ministry of Information in association with the City Council and the Swindon Special Committee for Wonders.’

 I refer of course to the Seven Wonders of Swindon as created by the author Jasper Fforde, well known for creating alternative worlds that ‘blend SF, fantasy and literature amongst other genres.’

One such parallel universe is set here in Swindon. Where, as this article from Swindon Web explains, “Swindon a place of wit, intrigue and weirdness, where literature’s more popular than football, history is not as we know it, reconstituted dodos roam the parks, mammoths ruin your flower beds, and Thursday Next, literary detective, has to save the world.”

The Double Helix of Carfax

The reason for mentioning all this is that one of Swindon’s 7 wonders, No 3 – the Double Helix of Carfax, is earmarked for demolition as part of Swindon’s regeneration plans.

On his website, Fforde describes Swindon’s 3rd wonder thus:

Only just pipping the Railway Village to the number three slot, Swindon’s famous and groundbreaking early design in stressed steel concrete laid the groundwork for Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Gaudi and many others.  Designed by Swindon University physicist Alvin Suggs in 1893 as a friction compensated slope to study Galileo’s theories of conservation of momentum, ‘Sugg’s Marble run’ as it became known gained unexpected fame in the new and untried building technique of steel reinforced or ‘stressed’ concrete.’

So Swindonians the question is this:
If the town does lose its world famous Double Helix of Carfax is there anything in the town worthy of taking its place as the 3rd wonder of Swindon?  Debate is called for.

Visitors descend on Swindon for the annual-ish Fforde Fiesta. The loss of this third wonder will leave a dent in their itinerary.

NB: Wonder No 5, The Statue of Vavoom at the Bus Station you’ll recognise as the late actress Diana Dors, whose statue can be seen as part of the West Swindon Sculpture trail.

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