‘The economy of Swindon has, pre-predominately over the years, depended on Land, agriculture and livestock markets. William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke (½ brother of Henry III) is recorded as having held a market in Swindon from 1259. It is from these records that the name Swindon first appears, as well as ‘Chepyng Swindon’ in 1289 and ‘Market Swindon’ in 1336.
Although Thomas Goddard was granted a weekly market and two fairs a year in 1626, the Market in Swindon was in decline by 1640. However a cattle plague hit nearby Highworth in 1652, allowing Swindon’s livestock sales to increase. In 1672, John Aubrey remarked “Here on Munday every weeke a gallant Markett for Cattle, which increased to its new greatnese upon the plague at Highworth.”
Swindon Market was one of the 32 weekly markets held throughout Wiltshire up to 1718.
In 1814, John Britton passed through Swindon and recorded 1,600 people and 263 houses in the town. He also wrote of the weekly corn market, fortnightly cattle market and regular Horse sales. However, by the mid-19th century the cattle market was poorly attended.
A new Cattle Market site was built in 1873 to try to revive the Market, a site which remained until the late 1980s when the final auction was held. There is no longer a Cattle Market in modern Swindon.’
So the tented market is now to be demolished and proposals are in for a change of usage. What ever your thoughts on that, my personal opinion is one of sadness that the market is going. Not the structure per se – it’s a the end of its lifespan – but the concept of there being a market.
Indeed this feeling is echoed by Ash Mistry, owner of Eggelicious. Ash started his business in the tented market back in 2009 and is grateful to it as a place that gave him a start. In this brief YouTube clip you can hear him say just that:
Ash has now moved Eggelicious – or E3 as it’s called (E2 is on Wood Street). Here’s a couple of snaps taken while it was being got ready for opening:
And here they are on the last day of trading in the tented market:
The Mistry family on the last day of trading in the tented market
Print by Tim Carroll – one of his 100 views of Swindon
It’s all indoors so it’s a lovely shopping experience whatever the weather. If you’re visiting with young children it boasts a brilliant play area – and there’s a mini land train, the Hooter Express.
The shops include: Hobbs, Jigsaw, Reiss and the White Company to name but a handful. Find out more about the brands available at Swindon’s outlet village here, on the McArthur Glen website.
The key, I find, is to go there on a regular basis as you never know when you’ll find a great bargain and the stock changes on a regular basis. There’s a great choice of restaurants and it’s easy to spend the day there.
The terrace of Heelis looking towards the Outlet Centre
NB: The outlet centre is linked to the town centre by a tunnel. It used to be used by the railway workers leaving their homes in the railway village to get to the works.
It’s only a few minutes’ walk from the outlet to the town centre via the tunnel. So, if you’ve the time, the inclination and the energy it’s easy enough to do both. Plus, the tunnel boasts some rather cool art/light picture/sculptures of railway workers across the years.
2. THE ORBITAL SHOPPING PARK
The Orbital in north Swindon is another favourite shopping spot for me. Next, New Look, Marks & Spencer and Outfit all have a presence here.They are large stores so you tend to find great choice in each of them. The Orbital also contains one of the largest Asda Walmarts in Europe. The George at this Asda is huge so there’s always a high chance of grabbing a bargain.
Once again, it’s a pleasant shopping experience and parking is free.
3. GREENBRIDGE RETAIL PARK
This is another firm favourite of mine. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I love all things Laura Ashley and this is where you will find Swindon’s Laura Ashley as well as a huge Home Sense, Boots and Matalan. I tend to visit for homeware but can’t resist popping into Matalan to make sure I’m not missing out! Again, parking is ample and free.
THE TOWN CENTRE
This is last on the list for Swindon as it’s my least favourite place to shop. However, once you do venture into the town centre and ignore the layout, the parking fees and the lack of ambiance, the shops are more than adequate!
There’s a fab and huge H&M opposite an even larger Debenhams. The River Island is a pleasure to shop in and the New Look and Primark are also huge. I keep mentioning the size of the stores because it means that they have a wide range of stock (something you of course can’t have in smaller branches). It does mean you’re spoilt for choice.
By now I hope you’re getting the point! Swindon is a fab location for shopping. The combined retail offerings of the town are jolly good! But what if you want to spread your wings a little and go out and about for your retail therapy?
Out and about
The beauty of Swindon is that it is also close to so many other great places to shop. Marlborough is a favourite for me.
Marlborough is a beautiful, historic market town with boutique shops as well as the likes of Joules, Mint Velvet, Monsoon and Phase Eight to name but a few.
I LOVE a day out in Marlborough broken up by the obligatory cream tea. And now that Rick Stein has opened a restaurant there it’s a firm favourite for me as a location to shop – not that I’m food driven at all!.
This McArthur Glen set shopping location boasts over 130 boutique outlets including All Saints, Burberry, Gucci and Jimmy Choo. I’m drooling already! So, if you want a real treat, this is the place to go and grab yourself a designer bargain. It’s also a great place to people watch!
BATH, CRIBBS CAUSEWAY & CABOT CIRCUS (both Bristol), THE ORACLE (Reading), OXFORD & LONDON
With Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Reading and London not much more than a stone’s throw away you’re never far from a wonderful shopping experience when you live in Swindon. In fact, you’re spoilt for choice. I often have to flip a coin to decide where I’ll spend my day enjoying a little retail therapy!
It was back in 2013 that I discovered the cracking good place to eat that is Eggelicious. I was late to the party though because they were established in 2009 would you believe? That’s a lot of eggs. And chicken. And lamb. And chickpea and paneer. And more – much, much more. All of it scrummylicious.
But now a new era dawns for the Eggelicious empire as the father of it all leaves the tented market to move into The Crossing, the new food court in the Brunel Centre, and becomes E3.
‘The ethos of Eggelicious is to deliver ‘slow food fast’. By which we mean delicious yet uncomplicated food that is freshly prepared each day and cooked before you. Our wraps are hearty and wholesome and each one is packed with a variety of health benefits.
Don’t be deceived by the term ‘Eggelicious’. Whilst eggs feature in our food they don’t define it. Whether a meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan you will be sure to find a wide choice of offerings each day.’
Here’s the Mistry family on the very last day of serving in Eggelicious in the tented market:
The Mistry family on the last day of trading in the tented market
And here’s one of Tim Carroll’s 100 views of Swindon – of the tented market of course.
And for a taster of what the new unit in The Crossing will look like:
And if you’re on Old Town then E2 is alive and well down the bottom end of Wood Street. So whichever end of town you’re at you can enjoy your slow food fast!
It’s a fab article that highlights lots of super things about our town. That’s always ace to see and it deserves a share for that reason alone. It was written by Clare Wilson and you can find her on Twitter: @clarewilson86
In the article she writes about lots of things that I’ve mentioned on here in the past so it’s also a perfect opportunity to remind me – and you of some them.
I love too that she mentioned the David Murray John Tower – if only as point of navigation. I LOVE that building for all sorts of reasons. But I especially love how, when I’ve been away, and am coming home on the train that’s the first thing I see. And I know then that I’m home. In Swindon. It’s on my list of great things about Swindon for sure.
There’s much more in Clare’s article so give it a read. And thanks to her for writing it and getting it out there and for reminding us all of how surprising and super Swindon is.
There’s also much more in general. The main problem with Swindon is that there’s a plethora of fabulous stuff. And that’s no bad problem to have eh?
Well listeners. It just goes to show. Y’never know what you might be missing.
For quite some time now, on my regular perambulations into town from home, I’ve passed by this curry house but never given it any consideration – being in the ‘oh not another curry house’ mindset.
And there, no doub,t I would have stayed had it not been for my current house guest, Arun.
In conversation about curry houses in Swindon, Arun told me he’d been to Diwali a number of times and had enjoyed it greatly because it was authentic Indian food. I make that point because the vast majority of ‘Indian’ restaurants are actually run by people from Bangladesh. I hasten to add that there’s nothing wrong with Bangladeshi food – far from it. It’s just not Indian that’s all.
So last week I addressed my sorry lack of attention to Diwali and went along there with Arun, one of his work colleagues and his wife.
On their website it says: ‘Our British curry Award Winning Chefs work tirelessly with their skill and knowledge in the creation of the tastiest meals using the finest spices from around the world. We are dedicated to ensure that the food we serve you will be packed full of flavour and not fat.
Diwali offers not only the finest food but also an excellent service from our experienced and friendly members of staff.’
And I think I’d have to agree with all of that. The food was lovely and the service was indeed friendly and attentive. I definitely hope to return before too long. If nothing else it’ll be top take-away pick.
Well now listeners. A good old-fashioned Sunday lunch is a rare treat for me. I’m not keen on cooking generally I won’t lie – and I’m even less keen on the clearing away part. And goodness knows cooking a roast seems to generate an awful lot of that. *Shudders*
SO, the opportunity to visit the Source Grill at the Swindon Marriott for Sunday lunch was greeted with enthusiasm. Particularly as the day in question was just a tad miserable weather wise. A hearty Sunday roast was definitely on the menu!
Chat’s Cafe bar. Open for lunch and dinner,‘Chat’s Café Bar provides a perfect spot for relaxing with friends or colleagues after a busy day in Swindon. Dine on gourmet sandwiches and delicious desserts, or surf the web using our free Wi-Fi access.’
Source Grill. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner:‘Discover the flavours of Europe right here in Swindon. Source Grill, our hotel restaurant, showcases cuisine from all over the world, as well as English classics. Pair your meal with a choice from our wine list, and be sure to visit us for Sunday lunch!’
But it was to the Source Grill that I was headed with my companion for Sunday lunch.
We were given a super little table for two tucked away in a quiet corner. It was ideally placed in close proximity to the main event: the food – while being set back a little from the main restaurant area. So that was a good start.
The ‘set-up’ for Sunday lunch in the Source Grill is buffet with waiter service for drinks – it’s a nice mix if you don’t want to be too formal. That said, the service when you need it, is polite and solicitous and the right side of obsequious.
As I’ve already mentioned, I was set upon partaking of a roast dinner. But if Sunday roast doesn’t float your gravy boat there’s a good range of other choices available for the delectation of your taste buds.
While I opted for, and enjoyed, the pea and mint soup to start, my friend chose to sample some of the wide range of cold appetisers. On the day we visited there was smoked salmon, mackerel and gambas for the fish lovers along with a selection of cold hams and meats – salami and the like with a range of salads. Alternative main courses on offer were chicken hotpot and a fish dish.
Getting a roasting
So, although my companion and moi enjoyed different starters we both went for the roast. On the day of our visit pork and beef was on the menu.
A good amount of each meat was duly carved and placed on our plates. We then proceeded to help ourselves to the various accoutrements. The Yorkshire puds were well risen and light. The roast spuds were fab: crispy and golden on the outside and soft and fluffy in the middle. New potatoes were available too.
When it comes to beef my personal taste is for it to be on the rare side. This wasn’t – but then it wasn’t rendered to an imitation of Ghandi’s sandals either. Far from it. Both meats were moist and tender in fact.
I was very pleased too by the vegetables. So, so, so often vegetables are done to death. The old joke about getting the sprouts on in September for the Christmas dinner is, it can seem sometimes, not tooooooooo far from the truth! But not the ones I ate there. Both the broccoli and carrots were fab and firm rather than super soggy. Good work Marriott!
One of the best things I think about a buffet situation is that you get lots of gravy. ‘Cos let’s face it – there’s nothing worse than Yorkshire’s and roasties without oodles of gravy. And, just as there’s often soggy vegetables, it’s not uncommon in restaurants for there to never be enough gravy. I mean – what the Bisto?! So frankly I was loving the ‘help-yourself’ to oodles and ladles of gravy. And ditto with the horseradish sauce!
And all washed down with a bottle of an agreeably palatable Granfort Merlot.
Having waded our way through that little lot there was little room left for dessert. Here again there was a selection. My friend chose to valiantly tackle a rather tasty looking pear and sultana crumble. I’d still got red wine left in my glass, and I’m not a dessert lover, so I opted to partake of the cheese board.
So there you have it listeners. I have to be honest and say I’m not, as a rule, a fan of carvery eating. But this I thought was a good compromise between that and full à la carte or table d’hôte service.
Would I go again? If the opportunity arose – yes, most certainly. Gah – now I’m hungry again. Best go raid the fridge then.