September 2020

Heritage Open Days 2020: 11 to 20 September

Heritage open days 2020 is England’s largest festival of history and culture. It brings together over 2,000 local people and organisations and thousands of volunteers. Every year, in September, places across the country open their doors to celebrate their heritage, community and history.

This is your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences. And – ta da – it’s all for free!!! Or rather it would be were it not for a little thing called Covid-19. Oops!

So what CAN you do in Swindon?

Heritage Open Days 2020 - the GWR Railway village

Well a number of things – and not all of them virtual experiences. Although, for obvious reasons, the offering is a bit more limited than it might be under usual circumstances, there are some worthwhile offerings.

You can visit St Mary’s Church at Lydiard Tregoze (featured in both Secret Swindon and Swindon in 50 Buildings) and the Church of St John the Baptist at Inglesham.

Besides that, you can take a guided tour of Old Town’s Prospect Place (also in the aforementioned books) on 19th September.

Virtual tours

Take virtual tours from your sofa of:
The Railway Village:

The GWR Railway Village

Exciting things are happening in Swindon’s Railway Village which is currently being revitalised by Historic England, Swindon Borough Council and other organisations through the Heritage Action Zone.

Built in the 1840s to Isambard Brunel’s design to house employees of the Great Western Railway (GWR) Works, the village is the UK’s best preserved example of a model railway village. Planned as a self-contained community with all the necessary facilities for a ‘decent’ life (according to the times), it comprises 300 railway workers’ cottages. All laid out in charming terraced streets, a church, pubs, shops, a school and a park.

Additional communal buildings of interest include the Mechanics’ Institution and the Health Hydro. Long before the National Health Service this provided a comprehensive health and wellbeing service for GWR workers and their families.

Refurbishments are ongoing or planned for the Cricketer’s pub, the Carriage Works, the Health Hydro and the Mechanics’ Institution. 

Explore the Railway Village for yourself guided by our free map, downloadable from the HOD website. It’s full of information about Swindon’s rich history. Then come back next year to see inside the buildings and check how the regeneration is progressing.

The Pattern Store

The interior of the newly refurbished Pattern Store:

1897 saw the completion of this imposing 4-storey building, built to house the GWR’s collection of patterns. And later the pattern-makers themselves. It was designed to be fireproof with a steel frame and minimal combustible materials. All loading and internal doors and stairways are metal. On the roof are four massive steel watertanks capable of holding 1.1 million litres of water.

See all that in this lovely film by CREATE Studios:

The Richard Jefferies Museum

Also online is the wonderful Richard Jefferies museum.

Our small but perfectly formed museum is going all out to reach our visitors through a mix of virtual and ‘real’ activities.

On Friday 11th September, a brand new section on our website will go live with a host of wonderful resources, and entertainments. All designed to help folk make the most of the museum in these strange, limited times.

Our new online activities include:
Downloadable art/heritage activities for adults.
Fun and easy-to-do crafts for children.
Videos of musicians who have been commissioned to play/sing for the museum.
Educational activities for children to engage with the museum in all its different ways.
And a wonderful collection of nature photographs by Sarah Singleton.

old house and garden richard jefferies museum
The Richard Jefferies museum Coate, Swindon

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