Sunday 21st September 2014
Yesterday I paid my first visit to Christ Church, the lady on the hill, in Swindon’s Old Town for the occasion of the Autumn fair. It was a really smashing event and, I have to admit, a notch or two up from the autumn/summer/Christmas fairs I used to attend back in little old Whitwell when my daughter was small.
The stalls and the activities were spread in and around the church and its community centre. I had a lovely hour or two chatting to some great people from Swindon Heritage, Friends of Lydiard Park, the Swindon Society and the bunnies from the Wilts and Berks Canal trust. I was persuaded by a very confident young lad, who will surely go far, to take him on in a five-penalty shoot out – much to my surprise and no doubt his, I managed to beat him! David Beckham? Who’s he?
As I was strolling round I was struck by how wonderful it was to see not just the community centre and the grounds – graveyard really – but the church itself also opened up with stalls and displays. Just as libraries have now recognised the need to have facilities and events that engage current readers and the readers of the future – children in other words – yesterday’s autumn fair was a great example of the church being opened up to the community. I daresay Christ Church has been doing this for ages – I wouldn’t know – but anyway I thought it was really great.
It’s a lovely church with some stunning stained glass windows in it. Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in Midlands Decorated Style it was opened in 1851 and was built to replace the old medieval church of Holy Rood. Located on The Lawns, this church was, by the 1850s becoming woefully inadequate for Swindon’s growing population. There’s lots more information about Christ church in the visitor’s guide leaflet I picked up in there.
Like several things/places in Swindon and its environs, the church was celebrated by John Betjeman in ‘On hearing the full peal of ten bells from Christ Church, Swindon’, Wilts:
“Your peal of ten ring over then this town,
Ring on my men nor ever ring them down…” and “Oh still white headstones on these fields of sound, Hear you the wedding joy-bells wheeling round?”
February 1st 2015: – a couple of new photographs sent to me by Maureen Iles, a reader of Born again Swindonian. Thanks Maureen.
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