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.

Swindon Spitfire Heritage Celebrated in a public art piece called Made in Swindon. In this video Dr Mike Pringle talks about it

In the 1800s, Swindon-born Victorian nature writer Richard Jefferies predicted manned flight. From that to the town’s links with today’s space industry, Swindon reaches fo the skies. And even beyond!

Swindon Spitfire Heritage Celebrated

This public art piece celebrates 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:
1. paving slabs with pictures from students at Abbey North School
2. poems from children at Haydon Wick and Haydonleigh Primary Schools …
3…. 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. 

Swindon Spitfire Heritage Celebrated - public art at orbital centre
Mike Pringle with the aviation related public art piece called ‘Made in Swindon’ at Orbital

About the Made in Swindon 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. 

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.

Spitfire model on Spitfire Way

For more on the Spitfire you see above:

‘I only learned recently of Swindon’s connections with the aviation industry. And that’s where Supermarine and Vickers came in. 

Around 1912 the first aeroplane, a Bleriot monoplane, visited Swindon. Then, not so many years later, Swindonians found themselves thrust into the midst of both aviation industry and history. In 1938 South Marston was chosen as a shadow site due to its good communication links and proximity to the skilled workforce of the Swindon’s GWR works. As Swindon Web explain in one of their articles on the subject, shadow sites were sites intended to provide back-up to the leading aircraft factories in the event of war-time attack.

As the jolly useful Swindon Web website further describes, at length the factory passed to Supermarine. The South Marston site became a shadow site of the Castle Bromwich site in the Midlands and the original Supermarine factory in Southampton. 

Little remains of that factory now – it’s become an industrial estate. And in part of the massive Honda plant there are echoes while the sports club that was once part of Vickers still retains the name.

In addition of course, there’s the Supermarine roundabout and further homage to the Spitfire is paid in the industrial estate in the area.’

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