Ken White Triptych Lydiard House

Ken White Triptych Lydiard House

August 2019

Ken White Triptych Lydird House

Well. here’s a thing. These past few months, alongside writing Swindon in 50 Buildings, I’ve been working concurrently on Ken White’s story: A Ken White Retrospective.

I, like many other people I daresay, had formed the impression that the only piece of Ken’s Swindon work, still in existence, is the Golden Lion mural.

So imagine my surprise when, just t’other day, a tweet appeared on my Twitterfeed from the friends of Lydiard Park with an image of a painting of Lydiard House, that Ken did in 2005. I rather get the impression it’s been in storage or something. Certainly, I’ve been in that house more than a few times and never seen it. Even now it’s leaning against the wall in a tucked away corner of the rooms that are open.

Which rather begs the question Lydiard House management, WHY in God’s name do you not have this artwork on permanent display and shout it from the room tops? With Ken’s story due to be published soon you’re missing one heck of a marketing opportunity. #justsaying

Ken White's tryptych at Lydiard House

Ken created the triptych as a joint project between Ken and Intel. Some Intel staff did some of the painting. The idea of the artwork was, according to Ken, for children to find things in the painting around the house.

Indeed, hidden in the bottom right hand corner is the image of a very famous Swindon figure.

What else is there to see at Lydiard House?

Well. Quite rather a lot actually. The member of staff on duty, Adrian Smith, gave me a bit of a tour explaining some of the paintings etc. He’s really very knowledgeable – as you’d expect – and I must seek him out again and pay more attention. Why? Because, TBH, I was too stunned about the Ken White triptych to concentrate fully. That and thinking, as Adrian spoke, that small in number as the available rooms at Lydiard might be – there’s a heck of a lot of stuff that is simply not shouted about enough. WHY is Swindon so bad at this?

For example on this visit I noticed a couple of watercolours that I rather liked, created to accompany a 1951 newspaper article about the house written by none other than Aldous Huxley of Brave New World fame.

water colour of lydiard

I also rather liked this one:

Artwork in Lydiard House showing the Golden Cavalier monument in St Mary's Church.

Then there’s the Socchi desk, the portrait of Lady Diana Spencer – ancestor of the Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales we all know. And so much more.

So – if you’ve never been – or you’ve never been for a while, give it another look.

Discovering the River Ray Parkway – Part 2

Discovering the River Ray Parkway – Part 2

You may (or may not) remember that Angela and I walked half of the River Ray Parkway last year, from Moulden Hill to John Lewis. This summer (2019) we finally got around to walking the second half, John Lewis to Coate Water in our tour of the River Ray Parkway part 2.

We went out the back of the Mannington Retail Park, looking for the old green signs that show the way. We found the first one on the edge of a field used by dog walkers, pointing us towards the Old Town Rail Path, following Sustrans Route 45.

NB: This stretch of this walk is approx 5 miles

River Ray signpost near Mannington Retail Park
  • Blagrove Fitness Trail
  • Lydiard Country Park
  • Old Town Rail Path
  • Coate Water Country Park
  • Blue Route 45 signs – Old Town 2 miles, Wroughton 2 miles

Discovered a new thing already, anyone have a clue what “Blagrove Fitness Trail” is (or was!) ?

The Parkway continues along the Old Town Rail Path, which is the former route of the Midland and South Western Junction Railway, closed in 1970. Along this path we rediscovered the 5 Wheel Sculptures, previously visited by Angela in 2013, looking a little worse for wear.

One of five stone wheels on the Railway Path

The first wheel, “conceive”, grafftied but still readable, says:

“Stepping out of character, you interrogate a chaos of bearings. Where is the unknown journeyman, with his bag of fives, his measuring rod and chisel”

A bit more on the wheel sculptures

There are five wheels, from the Old Town direction towards the railway and Wootton Bassett Road. They are Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Conceive.

Each wheel has two parts, a small wheel showing the Element, and a large wheel with a short piece of poetry.

In addition, there is a length of wood crossing the path between each of the wheel pairs. Each of these lengths of wood has two words written on them.

AIR: On hot places behind your knees On high downs a ghost is growing. Depth & disquiet.

EARTH: Our wheels relinquish and seize, relinquish and seize….Curious tenderness..second word obscured

Fire: Pistons swell and shine, days are like face, Steam pumps the sky, this one this…Extinguished – the second word is hidden

WATER:  The stream fills a cut, Swills and wave, A new start, gravel and laughter, tick tock on the rim – the two words on the sleeper are not visible

CONCEIVE:  Stepping out, out of character, You interrogate, A chaos of bearings, Where is the unknown journeyman with his bag of fives, his measuring rod and chisel?  Hand & Eye

See also:

The route took us past all the wheels, and some fantastic views out over the south edge of Swindon.

View over the south of Swindon
View over the south of Swindon

Near the end of the Rail Path, the cutting gets deeper, and passes under Westlecot Road. This end is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England, as it shows all the layers of rock that Swindon is sitting on. Shortly afterwards we passed under another bridge, with Devizes Road and The Plough Inn on top of it, out of the cutting into the sunshine again.

The route now follows the road through the Signal Way industrial estate, sneaks out at the end of Berenger Close (which we almost didn’t find), and over the top of Evelyn Street, still following the old Rail Line.

Piper's Way River Ray sign

Next to the Piper’s Way roundabout we discovered another sign.

  • Great Copse
  • Lydiard Country Park
  • Coate Water Country Park
  • Old Town Rail Path
  • Moulden Hill

From the sign we headed south along Piper’s Way, crossing over to take the off-road path around the allotments on the east side. Just after the allotments a further sign pointed us off road, onto a track that leads all around the edge of the Broome Manor Golf Complex.

Here we were excited to discover a stone marker, planted in memory of Cassandra Clunies-Ross, carved by Sarah Chanin in 1992. The work is carved in Sarsen stone and was commissioned by Thamesdown Borough Council’s, Great Western Community Forest Team. The stone marks an area of what was then new woodland.

The inscription reads:

Casso’s Wood – planted January 1992 by friends, in fond memory of Cassandra Clunes Rosss, ecologist-forester. 1965-1991. That her work to conserve woodland here and abroad is not forgotten.

The last part of the trail had us squeezing past nettles and wondering if we were going the right way, before suddenly finding Broome Manor Lane, and the familiar sight of the Coate Water Park.

River ray parkway part 2

The final Parkway sign stands to the west of the lake, near the miniature golf course.

  • Lydiard County Park
  • River Ray Parkway
  • Cycle Route
  • Broome Manor Lane
  • Visitor Centre
  • Chiseldon

A further selection of photographs

The End

This is a guest post from Jess Robinson

New Murals in Swindon

New Murals in Swindon

Swindon used to be a town full of murals. Many, though not all, were the work of Ken White. Only one of his now remains and that’s the Golden Lion mural which you can see in the image below. Now though there are some new murals in Swindon.

From the Swindon Advertiser:

See also: and

NB: Image below of the Golden Lion mural by Roger Ogle for Link Magazine when Ken had refreshed and reworked the mural a few years back now

ken white and golden lion mural
Image by Roger Ogle for Link Magazine

A couple of decades back, Thamesdown arts produced an art trail leaflet. I can’t reproduce that here for copyright reasons. But Duncan and Mandy’s splendid website has a list of what was in that leaflet here.

1. The ‘Swindon: Then, When and Now’ Mural

Now though, thanks to a lot of hard work by the lovely people at Artsite (cutting a long story short) and the artist Billy Beaumont, and we have this super, glorious mural.

On the side of the Artsite building in Theatre Square is the glorious, IMHO, ‘Swindon: Then, When and Now mural.

See also:

Here’s a short video of Ken White cutting the ribbon to officially ‘unveil’ the mural:

Mural No 2: ‘My Town – My World

The other mural to brighten up Swindon’s walls is the one entitled ‘My Town – My World’

As this article in the Swindon Advertiser explained, Swindon-born street artist Martin Travers, who runs educational programmes in Amsterdam and Kathmandu worked alongside Peter Crowdy to create this mural.

‘The inSwindon BID team, in partnership with Artsite and Swindon Climate Action Network, launched the project to help re-energise the town centre and boost community arts.’

On his Facebook page, Martin says: ‘Locality is about things that take place within an area – theatre, arts, creativity – that’s what makes a place.’ He’s not wrong.

Richard jefferies quote - My Town - My World'  mural in Swindon

The quotation used on the mural is from our very own Richard Jefferies: ‘If every plant and flower were found in all places, the charm of locality would not exist. Everything varies, and that gives the interest.’

The GWR Park

The GWR Park

The GWR or Faringdon Road Park

The GWR Park, in the centre of Swindon’s award-winning GWR Railway Village conservation area began life in 1844 as a cricket ground. In that year, the GWR bought land from Lt.Col.Vilett, a local landowner. That land, to the west of the new Railway Village, between Faringdon Road and St Mark’s Church became first a cricket ground and later the GWR Park – known also to some as The Plantation or Victoria Park. 

Aside from cricket, the park played – and still does play – a big role in the social life of the the railway village residents and wider Swindon. As such it occupies a special place in Swindon’s history.

Read a detailed history of the park here:…/id/…/history_of_faringdon_road_park.pdf

The Children’s Fete

The Children’s Fete is Swindon’s oldest summer event – dating back to 1866. Organised by the Mechanics’ Institution, it ran until 1939 (except during the Great War) and was only halted by the outbreak of WWII. In 2003, the Mechanic’s Institution Trust revived the tradition and have run it most year’s since. 

The Trust maintains the tradition of providing a free piece of cake to all the children attending. Thus, the event has once again become a popular and recognisable part of Swindon’s social calendar.

Sadly, the ornamental, formal gardens, along with the cricket pavilion, the bandstand and glasshouses are long gone. There’s a lovely archive photo of the park here on the Historic England website.

GWR Park first world war memorial

The park does though have a small play area for tiny tots. And, installed in November 2018, in the park’s northwest corner, a WWI memorial. It affords a peaceful spot for some quiet contemplation. 

A park with a view

What makes this park stand out is what you can see from it. As you walk around the park you can see several of Swindon’s land marks. There’s the water tower and UTC, St Mark’s Church of course. Then there’s Park House and – towering over everything, the David Murray John Tower. Not forgetting the view up to Radnor Street cemetery.

And besides all that, and despite the fact that the glasshouses and ornamental gardens are long on, it’s a lovely park. As soon as you’re a few steps inside it the traffic noise of Faringdon Road recedes and it’s all tranquil greenery.

He’s Out!

This article from Swindon Web. ‘Faringdon Park was also the venue for one of cricketing most unusual moments, when in 1870 the great W.G.Grace (world renowned as one of the greatest players ever to pick up a bat and ball) was dismissed for a duck in both innings when playing for Bedminster against the New Swindon side.’ And that’s not cricket!!

And the Swindon Advertiser on the same topic:

How to get to the park

Christmas at the Wyvern Theatre

Christmas at the Wyvern Theatre

July 2019

I confess I didn’t know that Christmas in July is a thing in Down Under. I rather like the idea I must say. Amazing what you discover when writing about Christmas at the Wyvern Theatre.

What Christmas in July is in this country though, is a marketing opportunity. A quick root on a well-known search engine* brings up all sorts of marketing suggestions for business of all kinds. But in particular for hotels, restaurants and theatres to showcase Christmas menus and events. Makes sense.

*Other search engines are available. Like Ecosia for example which plants trees.

So – cue somwhat surreal silliness at the Wyvern Theatre for their Christmas in July event.

Born again Swindonian and Father Chritmas.

After sharing this on Twitter, Santa came online to apologise profusely for his drunken behaviour. Too many sherries and Santagrias he said. True story!

So we gorged on pigs in blankets, as is only right and proper it being Christmas, while the lovely Wyvern marketing team told us what’s going down at the theatre over the forthcoming festive season. And I know it’s only July BUT – JC’s birthday will hurtle towards us at the speed of light once we get into August.

Being all about the food and drink, my ears pricked up at mention of a new service being planned (I don’t think it’s here yet) whereby you’ll be able to get interval drinks brought to your seat. Which will be nice!

Now, I spend a fair amount of time in Surrey at my daughter’s and Esher has an Everyman cinema – go to an Everyman and you’ll never go to a multiplex again. The Everymans have couches and cushions and tables and tons of leg room. You order food and drink before you go into your film and they bring it to you. It’s amazing. I wish we had an Everyman in Swindon.

Sooo – back to the point – I’m liking this plan from the Wyvern.

Christmas Dining

Leaflet of Wyvern theatre Christmas menu

The Wyvern Theatre offers a range of pre-show dining experiences. All the info on their website here:

Christmas Paaaaartttyyy!

Leaflet/programme for Wyvern Theatre Christmas party.

If you want to get a group of folk together for a Christmas party event there’s all the info here.

He’s behind you!

Then last, but by no means least, there’s the Wyvern Christmas Panto. I’ve been to a few of these – they’re a great night.

This year’s panto is Sleeping Beauty, starring Michelle Collins (I’ve heard of her) and Chris Jarvis (not heard of him – but that means nothing. I’m not exactly current.)

Front of flyer for Wyvern Theatre Christmas pantomime

Full Wyvern Pantomime details are here.

Oh yes they are!!!

In the Spotlight!

The top floor venue for Wyvern Theatre dinner parties or pre-show dining.

Social media

The Wyvern Theatre on facebook:

On Twitter:

On Instagram:

Public Art at Orbital Centre Flies

Public Art at Orbital Centre Flies

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. 

The inspiration, plus 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 not only provided pilots for the Battle of Britain, it also provided female pilots for transporting planes from one place to another, as well as many women working on aircraft repair and construction.

Through the 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 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 not only provided pilots for the Battle of Britain, it also provided female pilots for transporting planes from one place to another, as well as many women working on aircraft repair and construction.

Through the 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.

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