Public art at Swindon’s Orbital centre recognises the role of Swindon people in both the defence of the realm and the town’s transport history

Everyone knows about Swindon’s incredible railway history, and the effect it had on the world during its heyday. But fewer people are aware of is Swindon’s aviation heritage. But this piece of public art at the Orbital centre in north Swindon is doing its bit to spread the word.

Made in Swindon:

Extending from predictions of manned flight by Swindon’s nature writer Richard Jefferies in the 1800s, to the town’s links with today’s space industry, Swindon reaches for the skies. And beyond.

In the Orbital Shopping Centre in North Swindon, there’s a celebration of the town’s commitment to being at the forefront of transportation and the defence of the nation.

A range of artworks and interpretation boards tell the story. The installation includes paving slabs with pictures from students at Abbey North School, poems from children at Haydon Wick and Haydonleigh Primary Schools, and ever-changing art from other local children in the British Land Visitor Centre.

The centre piece is a sculpture based on the shape and size of a Spitfire wing in honour of the aircraft built in Swindon towards the end of World War II. 

About the sculpture

The research and design of the sculpture and other works around the Orbital, is the work of local historian/artist Mike Pringle, of Green Rook. Mike is also director of the Richard Jefferies Museum near Coate Water. 

In the following YouTube clip (thanks to Roger Ogle) you can hear Mike talk about the inspiration for the sculpture:

The figures within the wing represent the men and women of Swindon involved in the town’s aviation heritage, both in the sky and on the ground. Swindon provided pilots for the Battle of Britain, and female pilots for transporting planes from one place to another. Besides that, many women working on aircraft repair and construction.

Inthe centre of the sculpture, the two uprights and the glass panels represent tracks and sleepers of the railways. Out of which Swindon’s rich engineering heritage was born.

The management of Orbital shopping park,
Broad Gates Estates, commissioned the public art on behalf of British Land. Local fabricators, Stainless Supplies Limited laser cut and welded the sculpture.