Swindon’s Stylish Art Gallery – As some of you will know, I’m right now embroiled in writing my second publication for Amberley Books, Swindon in 50 Buildings. You can imagine I’m sure, how much material I’m amassing. All of it fascinating and entertaining but not necessarily suitable for the book. So it’s great to have this blog as a vehicle to share some of what I can’t put in the book.

A recent visit to Apsley House, home of Swindon’s Museum and Art Gallery, to research the building for the book unearthed some wonderful details – such as that which comprises this post.

A New Art Gallery Annexe

Photo of a model of Apsley House and the 1964 art gallery annexe. - Swindon's Stylish Art Gallery
Swindon’s Stylish Art Gallery
Apsley House and 1960s Gallery extension - Swindon's stylish art gallery

Obviously I’m not going to reveal too much here about the building. But I loved learning that, when the 1964 art gallery annexe, designed by the borough architect, J. Loring Morgan, opened it was furnished with tables and chairs from none other than Conran Associates. Yep – THE Conran of Habitat, the Conran Shop and more.  Before ever Ikea invaded our shores we had Conran. Conran – and Heal’s – they were the bees knees. The last word in interior design.

These days that gallery annexe might look of its time – on the outside at least. Indeed I’m never sure how I feel about its exterior. Some days I like it and some days I don’t so much. Though I do always like the decorated glass panels.

It’s worth noting that this annexe is reputed to be the first purpose built public gallery , built in Britain post WWII.

But of course what matters most of all is what goes in the building. Which, as it happens, is lots. Lunchtime talks, childrens’ activities and trails, evening talks etc.

Or at least it did! More on that here: https://swindonian.me/2021/07/03/swindon-museum-and-art-gallery-closure/

But the point here being that, in its day, Swindon evidently created a chic and stylish venue for its art collection. 

Swindon's stylish art gallery - receipt from Conran associates for art gallery furniture in 1964


And on the subject of the gharial …

The Museum’s Inspiration: Charles Henry Gore F.G.S

The first honorary curator, for thirty-one years, and the man behind the setting up of the museum was one Charles Henry Gore.

Gore developed an interest in archaeology as a child. Over time he built up a collection of specimens, becoming a well-respected geologist and a fellow of the Geological Society.

Gore was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Swindon in October 1933. That made him only the fourth person in the town’s history to receive such an honour. Moreover the first museum curator to receive such an honour.

Charles Henry Gore died in 1951 aged 84. He’d held an ambition to be curator at the museum until he was 90. He almost managed it.

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