Radnor Street Cemetery blog

Radnor Street Cemetery blog

Radnor Street Cemetery blog - image shows a gravestone.

Listeners! I have grave news for you. No apologies for the pun. I can’t help myself, I can’t stop digging – they’ll be the death of me.

Esteemed Swindon historian, Frances Bevan, has got a new blog. And it promises to be a rather riveting combination of research and fictionalised stories with which Frances will tell the story of Radnor Street Cemetery in Swindon. And, I guess, its inhabitants.

Radnor Street is, amongst being a regular cemetery, a Commonwealth War Graves site.

Photo of squadron leader UK airforce

It’s also the resting place of Harold Morley Starr.

Read more about him here.

Frances is a co-founder of Radnor Street Cemetery Society  so you can be sure she knows a tomb from a crypt. And even more about who is inside them!

To give you a further idea of what the blog is about – this is taken from the blog’s home page:

‘Every death touches someone; a husband, a wife, a friend, a lover, a stranger, leaving a mark on history itself. Each of these blogposts begin with the re-imagined stories of that unknown witness and continues with researched facts supported by contemporary accounts. Sources include books, emphemera etc held at Local Studies, Central Library, parish registers, Radnor Street Cemetery burial registers, Wills, census returns and the British Newspaper Archives website.’

I’ve read Frances’ first post and it leaves you wanting more. So I urge you to follow Frances on Twitter and keep up to the date with her graveyard goings on.

Lis McDermott: Author

Lis McDermott: Author

30th December 2018

Lis McDermott: Author

Lis McDermott author facebook page header

As we enter a new year, it’s pure delight to feature Lis McDernott to the ‘Made in Wiltshire’ section of Born again Swindonian. Writing is creating. And creating is making. So writing fits here as well as anything else.

Lis’ writing and business personas cross over somewhat. As the Headshot Diva, Lis does what it says and takes great headshot photographs. The crossover comes because Lis has written a book on that very topic – and you can find out more about that here. 

Lis McDermott author

Yet her output is much broader than that and I’m in awe. I mean, I do a spot of writing myself. There’s this blog for a start. And this year I became a published author for the first time with Secret Swindon. Plus, I’ve now got ‘Swindon in 50 Buildings’ underway. But the prolific Lis is three books ahead of me. And fiction? No. That’s not me at all. I don’t have that sort of creativity.

This is Lis’ author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lismcdermottauthor/

And here are images of her varied publications:

About Lis

Hailing from Leicester, Lis now lives in Royal Wootton Basset with her husband, Conrad.

Lis is musically trained, with a thirty-four year long career in music education under her belt. During this period, along with Mary Edwards she co-authored (under the pseudonym Lis Fletcher), Nelson Music. Nelson Music being a three-volume music scheme for primary schools.

2008 saw Lis change career and turn to photography. This allowed her to bring together her two passions: pictures and people. Complementing the photography, Lis gives talks on the topic and on writing and changing career at a later stage in life. (I sure as heck know all about that! What with necessity being the mother of reinvention. Baby boomer deprived of state pension and all that jazz)

Lis became an author in her own right in 2014 with the publication of ‘Headshot Diva‘. A proud moment came with a short story she penned being included in a short story anthology.

In 2017 Lis published her own book of short stories, ‘Changing Lives: 8 short stories’. Her latest book is, ‘Mixed Feelings‘, an autobiography.

Amazon Links

Should you be interested in buying any of Lis’ books – and why wouldn’t you be – here are links to them on Amazon.

  1. Mixed Feelings (Wordcatcher Real Life Stories and Biographies)
  2. A Tilted View: A collection of poetry (Wordcatcher Modern Poetry)

  3. Headshot Diva: Why Your Business Profile Affects Your Bottom Line: Volume 1 (Lis McDermott Photography Series)

  4. Changing Lives: Eight Short Stories (Wordcatcher Modern Fiction)


Get Business fit with Business Village

Get Business fit with Business Village

29 December 2018

Get Business fit with Business Village

Free event will help businesses and their owners get fit for 2019

Getting fit for 2019, in personal and business life, will be the focus of a free event kicking off the New Year for breakfast networking group Swindon Business Village.

Ian Locke and Shirley Hensher will jointly deliver a presentation: ‘Fit for business: achieving personal wellbeing is key to your business success’ on Thursday January 10.

Get business fit for business village

Ian is a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He runs Thrive Personal Training, helping people move, eat and live in ways which improve their health and wellbeing. Shirley, under her business banner The Change Agent, enables corporate professionals and business owners to shape working lives which fit with their values and aspirations.

Shirley said: “The presentation is aimed at helping business owners who want to manage their health and fitness with the same level of energy and focus with which they manage their business. In other words, business owners who need motivation or support to create the opportunities for more ‘me time’ in their working week.”

Ian added: “For many of us, we are the most valuable asset our business has but we often ignore our own wellbeing in favour of the needs of the business. At the heart of our presentation is the question, your business needs you, but are you fit for business?”

The event, on Thursday January 10, is the first after the group’s Christmas break, and is free to anyone wanting to attend, as well as Business Village regulars.

It runs from 7.30-9am at The Campanile, West Swindon, and includes networking, one-minute introductions and breakfast. The usual charge for each weekly, Thursday meeting is £10 for booking online in advance (£9 early bird) or £12 on the door. The group charges no membership fee.

For more information and to book for the presentation, and other events on the Swindon Business Village calendar, visit https://businessvillage.org/.

In their separate businesses, Ian and Shirley both work with corporate executives and business owners seeking personal transformation.

For more information about The Change Agent visit https://www.thechangeagent.me/ and for Thrive Personal Training visit https://thrivepersonaltraining.co.uk/.

You really never know!

You really never know!

29th December 2018

You really never know!

I’ve never before bothered to write a reflective blog. Largely because I’m usually too busy, in my AA Editorial Services arm, writing them on behalf of clients to think about it. Besides which, I’ve not felt I’ve had much to reflect on. Or maybe I simply haven’t bothered? Be all that as it may, 2018 is a different ball game altogether – in respect of me having something to reflect on. As ever, my clients still keep me busy enough. Phew! Blessed relief there – Champagne to buy and all that.

Here, courtesy of the exquisite Eight Interactive, is a bite sized, You-Tube shaped summation of my super nova 2018.

you really never know

2018 saw me enjoy a range of unprecedented personal – yet business related achievements – that I couldn’t leave behind without recording. And anyway, as Fiona Scott asked of us in her own end of year blog, New Year, New You? New Business? New Goals? : ‘Do we all reflect in business too? I don’t think we all do if we’re really honest.’ I’ve been remiss there for sure. 

Four Full Financial Years

2018 marks my fourth full financial year as a small business owner. I think too, it’s taken me this long to reach a point where I’ve felt I’ve made enough progress to let me step back and look at what I can do differently now. Or at least try too. I’m not big on goal setting. Chiefly because life has leapt up and bitten me on the bum a few too many times now – I am quite old. And, I won’t lie, the thought of it all makes me tired! 🙂 Nevertheless, as Fiona also says, ‘If your business goal is to ‘maintain’ (and that’s one of mine) that’s a goal like any other.’  So – I’m reflecting! 

And what I’m largely reflecting on – and as cheesy and clichéd as it sounds – is that one really, really never knows where a thing might go, what a thing might lead to. That’s my big learning from 2018. I’ve said it and thought it often enough. But late 2017/July 2018 saw that particular cliché turned into solid paperback, book-form proof. 

Some recent book/blog feedback

All of which leads, in a roundabout way, to my big learning/takeaway of 2018: that of never knowing what something might lead to.

Born Again Swindonian – and how you never know where a thing might lead

I started writing this blog around five years ago now – when I was still at the University of the West of England studying for a joint English Hons degree. It began as a means to an end: to provide material for a travel writing module. But as I wrote, I fell head over heels in love with Swindon and so continued writing about Swindon. In particular, when the odious Katie Hopkins decided to join the long and tedious list of people to take a pop at Swindon. Where oh where do these misconceptions about Swindon arise? It mystifies me. That’s something I’ve worked hard on this blog to dispel. And ditto in Secret Swindon. I appear to have had some success in that.

Review left on Amberley website

Katiegate then (about 4 yrs back) prompted BBC Wilts to invite me into the studio in defence of Swindon. As I went in, I crossed paths with someone on her way out. She’d also been on air in defence of Swindon with an A-Z of fab things about Swindon shed written for the Swindon Advertiser. That someone was – well she still is – Carole Bent. I and this blog were unknown to her at that time and she took the trouble to seek me out – something she’s jolly good at – and we became friends. And I carried on writing about Swindon and giving shout-outs where ever and whenever warranted. Which, it delights me to say, is often!

So, when I had the book launch for Secret Swindon – and what a wonderful, joyous event that was, Carole was kind and generous enough to say that I had bothered to keep writing about Swindon when others might not have. And that I had bothered to speak up when some others didn’t.  Until that moment I hadn’t looked at it that way. But she was right. I did.  I did it out of love for this town and its people. And such joy both it and the ensuing book have brought to me.

I had no way of knowing of course, that a commissioning editor from Amberley Books would one day chance upon this blog via our old friend Google. Then, having found it, make contact apropos writing an addition to their series of local history books ‘Secret XXXXX’ – Secret Swindon. The key words in all that are one day – because this was no overnight success. FIVE long years of blogging to get to this point!

Yet that wasn’t a stroke of happy chance. No, no, no. This particular stroke of serendipity came about through several years of slog at the blog. I write on it regularly. Because I write on it on a regular basis the blog’s reach is pretty big and its SEO credentials strong. It’s those two factors which, when the man from Amberley did a Google search on Swindon, put this blog in front of him. He then saw the variety of the content and that I can construct a decent enough sentence. Thus the approach  came.

I had no plans to write a book – it hadn’t entered my head. It all came as a big surprise to me I can tell you. There’s more of all that below. And it all goes to show that you really never know. I sure as heck didn’t foresee becoming a first-time-published-author in 2018.

 Secret Swindon has done well and my winter project is writing ‘Swindon in 50  Buildings’ – a further commission from Amberley. So 2019 will see me published for the second time! Yay!

On that note – the best of wishes for 2019 from Born again Swindonian.

Secret Swindon Book

Gilbert’s Home Furnishings

Gilbert’s Home Furnishings

December 2018

Gilbert’s Home Furnishings

Gilbert's of Swindon

I don’t know if it’s astonishing or not, but it strikes me as being so, that there should be three long-standing retail businesses   within a few yards of each other. Anyway – be that as it may – having already covered Deacon’s Jewellers and Blaylock’s Shoes it seemed only right to have a look at another long-standing Old Town business: Gilbert’s Home Furnishings.

Gilbert’s then, established in1886, has been in the business of serving their customers for 150 years.

Originally established in 1866, current owner Graeme Gatrill took on the business in 1991.

William Gilbert (1831-1911)

Philip Gilbert, a sawyer by trade, married Sarah Chouls in Great Bedwyn in 1828. Their son, William Gilbert, entered the world in 1831 at Grafton, near Marlborough.

By the time William Gilbert married Susanna Caroline (née Beaven) in Calne in 1860, he described himself as a ‘cabinet maker journeyman’. The couple made their first home in Blowthorn Street, Marlborough. But 1865 saw them living at 12 Belle Vue Road in Swindon and Willian employed as a grocer. A trade he continued to ply at that address for the rest of the decade. In 1867 he added ‘upholsterer’ to his occupations and cabinet maker in 1869. Thus the status quo remained until an unspecified point between 1871 and 1875.

At the earlier date, William Gilbert described himself as a ‘cabinet maker one man’ – though still living at Belle Vue Road. By 1875 though, the Gilbert family, comprising five children with another son on the way, relocated to a house and shop on the Newport Street site. Once there he advertised himself as a cabinet maker, selling a variety of furniture, fixtures and fittings for the home. Alongside all that, and on land at the year, he set up his furniture warehouse on the premises.

By 1881, William had staff. By now he employed one man and two apprentices. Following in his father’s footsteps, Gilbert’s firstborn son became a cabinet maker. As tradition often dictates, the couple’s second child, Emily, did what her mother had done before her and became a dressmaker.

In 1186-1887, the Gilbert clan rebuilt and remodelled the Newport Street shop to provide 6,000 square feet of warehousing space. The family moved around the corner into Ingleside, at 40 Devizes Road. In 1889 the business became William Gilbert and Son. The son, Albert John (AK John Gilbert) became the effective business boss in 1900.


In 1904 the new-fangled trams came to Old Town and the Gilbert business found itself a mere few yards from the Old Town terminus. The canny business owner capitalised on his serendipitous proximity to the tram terminus by telling his customers to ask the conductor for fares to ‘Gilbert’s furniture please!’

The elder Gilberts were still at Ingleside in 1906 when Susanna died. The following year, William wed Rosanna Breakwell, 23 years his junior.

From their website:

‘Gilberts have been offering a superb selection of carpets and furnishings in Old Town, Swindon since 1866.
Today, we continue to provide our customers with a fully comprehensive service and knowledgable, well-trained staff, like no other. Our showroom is open every day except Sunday, where you’ll find our dedicated carpet & flooring room plus home furnishings & upholstery on display.

‘Gilberts is particularly proud to have served generations of customers for nearly 150 years.’

On both Gilbert’s own website and on Swindon Web here, you’ll find a nice bit of video chronicling Gilbert’s and the Great War.

Find Gilbert’s in the ether

Social media: https://www.facebook.com/Gilberts-of-Swindon-628212434035141/