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 – a couple of them featured in this post.

A New Art Gallery Annexe

Photo of a model of Apsley House and the 1964 art gallery annexe.

Obviously I’m not going to reveal too much here about the building. #spoilers But I simply loved learning that, when the new art gallery annexe opened in 1964, 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. This was 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. 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. You can find out what’s on at the museum here.

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


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 – only the fourth person in the town’s history to receive such an honour. Moreover the first museum curator to be so honoured.

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