One could well argue that creating a separate entry in Swindon in 50 More Buildings for The Cricketer’s Arms Pub constitutes a bit of a cheat, given that I covered the railway village as a whole in Swindon in 50 Buildings. But, given that, thanks to the work of the Mechanics’ Institution Trust it’s no longer rotting away, I felt it justified a special mention here.

What is it?

Well, the erstwhile Cricketers Arms Public House, is a three-storey, Grade II listed building. Listed in 1970, It’s built of Bath Stone under a slate roof. See the Historic England list entry here.

It lies at the heart of the Railway Village, Emlyn Square, on the south-east corner of the Mechanics’ Institution. 

Historically operating as a pub, The Cricketers takes its name from the nearby GWR Park, that contained a popular cricket field for the workmen of the Railway Village. The building has its pub epitaph no more and will be known as the Cricketers from now on.

The Cricketer's Arms Pub  in the GWR railway village in Swindon
The Cricketer’s Arms Pub in the GWR railway village in Swindon

The Cricketer’s story

The 1846/47 building of the railway village’s western phase saw the construction of the Cricketer’s Arms pub. It comprised one of eight shop premises designed to face Emlyn Square and service the GWR’s workforce and their families.

The building operated as a public house, with first floor accommodation, from 1859 until it closed in 2015 – it’s been empty since that time. The neighbouring cottage found itself incorporated into the pub at the back end of the 19thC.

The MIT Cricketer’s project

The MIT acquired this building, back in 2019, on a 125-year-lease from Swindon Borough Council. Since then, they’ve obtained several grants. Thanks to that fiscal boost they’ve been able to start both external and internal restoration work.

Further, the Trust got £200,000 from Historic England with which to fund external repair works. That phase of the renovations included the replacement of external windows and the making checks on the building’s structure and foundational stability. That work came to an end in September 2023. The trust also got a £250,000 grant from the Dept for Levelling Up’s housing and communities. That will go towards the internal restoration of the building. Work is now underway in the plant room, lounge and cellar.

The Trust’s plans for the Cricketer’s future

In the short term the Trust hopes to reopen pat of the ground floor to the public, offering its space and facilities for private hire and community events.The Trust will then consider whether to operate part of the ground floor as a visitor centre which can also support an internet café or workspace. 

Historically the first and second floors of the Cricketer’s served as a home for the pub owners with a function room and rooms to rent. Looking long-term, there are plans for apartments. But in the short-term the Trust intends to use both floors for creative purposes. Current plans include art studios, a gallery and a model making workshop.

See also:

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