Restoring the Blondinis

Restoring the Blondinis

1st September 2017


First things first listeners: how ON EARTH did it get to be September already?! Now …

In the early days of this blog – in the summer of 2013 even – I wrote a post about the sculpture of the Great Blondinis.  If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about here’s the post in question:

The PMSA (Public Monuments and Sculpture Association ) has these rather dry statistics about the sculpture:

‘This work was commissioned just before the Swindon rail works was closed and made in association with the British Rail craftsmen. It was commissioned by the then Thamesdown Borough Council with financial assistance from Sun Alliance Insurance Group, Southern Arts, British Alcan and Metalfast Limited.’

The sculptor was Jon Clinch and were formed from Foundry cast aluminium alloy (LM6).

What that doesn’t say is that this sculpture was the absolute last thing made in the once great GWR works. That singular fact surely affords this sculpture a special significance? 

It’s derided by many but I love it. And I STILL miss it. It’s soooooo joyful.

I recently chanced upon some photos on Facebook of Swindon-based artist Tim Carroll restoring the sculpture when it was moved from its original home in Wharf Green to its current location in a play park in Gorse Hill. This was some time ago I should add.

Now I had no idea that Tim had restored this fabulous, gorgeous sculpture – or if I did I’ve forgotten. This is quite likely.

Anyway, they’re great photos that deserve sharing. So thank you to Gordon Dickinson for letting me use them.

This wonderful, exuberant sculpture used to have a prominent position in Wharf Green. Now they’re in a play park in Gorse Hill. I do feel that’s a huge shame. I’d love to see them somewhere prominent once more.

Here they are duly titivated and in situ in Gorse Hill.


The Great Blondinis in Gorse Hill


Find Tim Carrol’s impressive CV here:  Tim often uses Swindon and the area as subject matter. I’m particularly fond of his 100 views of Swindon. Would that I had the wall space and the cash! I’m delighted though to own a print of one of his views of the David Murray John Tower and some postcards of some others.

I guess, given the restoration work Tim did on the sculpture, it’s no surprise that he included it in his 100 views of Swindon. Here it is – it’s rather lovely:

Tim Carroll Blondinis 100 views Swindon - the Great Blondinis

Tim Carroll Blondinis 100 views Swindon – the Great Blondinis


There’s a nice article about Tim in the Swindon Advertiser in regards to last year’s open studios:




9th January 2017


Put your hands together please

Applause sculpture at Swindon Arts Centre

These are dark days in Swindon. What with the Health Hydro hullabaloo ( the fire at the agricultural museum up at Coate Water there’s much to be concerned about. And then there’s the libraries, parishing, the tented market – a seemingly endless list TBH.


Some of the problems we’re experiencing in Swindon are sadly far from unique. Towns up and down the land face similar battles and struggles. It’s an all too familiar, similar and depressing story.

Here’s the petition for the Faringdon Road buildings:

But you can be assured listeners that there are groups and people in Swindon that care about Swindon, about its history and its heritage and do all they can in whatever way they can. Always. But never more so than at the moment. So, in no particular order, we in Swindon are blessed to have – and no doubt there’s others not mentioned here:

  1. Better Swindon:
  2. Swindon Civic Voice and the Mechanics’ Institute Trust. Note that although I just happen to have written about the two together in this particular blog post – – they ARE separate and quite different organisations. Both are charities and both need your membership subscriptions to continue the work they do. Their websites and Facebook pages are below.

Swindon Civic Voice



The Mechanics’ Institution Trust



Then we’ve also got:

  1. Swindon Heritage Magazine:
  2. Save Swindon’s Heritage:
  3. Born again Swindonian:
  4. Swindon Viewpoint:  –
  5. The wonderful people – Mike Pringle et al – at the Richard Jefferies museum up at Coate Water. The transformation they have wrought on that place is simply fabulous. Here’s their website:  and one I did earlier:

So, with a little help from a conveniently handy (geddit) piece of Swindon’s public art standing proudly outside the Arts Centre – see below – a round of applause for all their sterling efforts. Thank you – all of you.


applause sculpture swindon arts centre

See also:


‘The sculpture is to be found in the forecourt of a small facility which is primarily a theatre. The work is by Mark Amis and is described on the plaque as ‘bronze veneer’. It is dated 2003.’ 


A ram but no ham

A ram but no ham

3rd January 2017


Ram sculpture in Swindon’s Old Town

But why no pig?

When I mention RAM dear listeners I speak not of Random Access Memory a la computer land but of the ram sculpture that resides in Swindon’s Old Town.

I get that, as this article – –  by Barry Leighton in the Swindon Advertiser posits, the ram is a ‘fitting reminder of a livestock market that thrived there for more than a century’ but what I want to know is this:

Given that our town’s name ‘Swindon’ is ‘apparently derived from the Old English words “swine” and “dun” meaning “pig hill” or possibly Sweyn’s hill, where Sweyn is a personal name’ – see: – why oh why is there not, SOMEWHERE, a sculpture of a pig?! 

I’m not for a moment suggesting that there shouldn’t be a ram but surely there ought to be pig too? Come ON!

We’ve got a bloody gorilla and a cow and a ram and a lion and whole host of other public art but no flipping pig in a town purportedly named Pig Hill. I mean – this is rash surely? Hells bells there’s even an elephant now! Shouldn’t someone be sheepish about this omission? The baaaaaa faced cheek of it.

Anyway there’s a photograph of it here on this blog:  and the ever-so-wonderful Swindon Collection have some facts and figures on the ram and a photograph too:

Title : Old Wiltshire Horn

Artist : Jon Buck

Date of Installation : 1989

Material : Bronze

Project Details : Commissioned by Thamesdown Borough Council through the Percent for Art Policy and funded by Trencherwood Homes (Western) Ltd. The ram is placed on the site of the old livestock market.

Directions: Travelling north on the Marlborough Road, Dewell Mews is on the left before Newport Street.

(Source : The Works, Exploring Public Art in the Borough of Thamesdown leaflet, 1993)

And here he is – a handsome beast albeit minus the wellies that some wag has relatively recently dressed him in.

And here he is sporting his Hello Kitty wellies! A case of mutton dressed as ram?!

ram sculpture wearing wellies - ram sculpture in swindon


Find more posts about Swindon’s pubic art here: and also:



The Hoarusib Elephant Bull – in Swindon

The Hoarusib Elephant Bull – in Swindon

4th December 2016


‘Today I went to a field in Wiltshire to witness the unveiling of a life-sized plaster elephant.’ A sentence I expected to utter never.

But life is full of surprises huh? So. We have an elephant. in Swindon – well Liddington. But that’s close enough for government work.  Sadly not called Nellie – what’s the world coming to? 😉

Created by yet another Swindonian – well Swindon area resident at least – that I’ve never heard of: David Lomax – this ‘ere elephant is the Hoarusib elephant bull.

Once you get over the incongruity of an elephant in Liddington it does, as you can see from the pictures below, look rather magnificent.  It was most splendid to see and I’m so glad I got the chance – via trunk call! (see what I did there?)

I do hope it’ll be warm enough. It was a tidy nippy in that there Coombe today. Thank goodness for the mulled wine and hot soup that’s what I say! A cold day it was but  it was sunny and bright so that was a big bonus for sure.  And what a great opportunity this was. Amazing.

A bit about the sculptor

‘David Lomax is married with four children and lives near Swindon in Wiltshire, U.K.

He was brought up in the horse racing world on a farm, and now works from Bishopstone, Wiltshire. Over the years his work has been quite varied in subject matter and in the use of materials.

Whether exploring the individuality of a particular animal in the portrait sculpture “Hoarusib Bull” or working more freely in “Plant Torso” , his work is underpinned by an interest in the continuities between species and an attempt to understand and celebrate the natural world.’

A bit about the elephant

The Hoarusib Elephant Bull

On Sunday 4 December Robert Buckland MP unveiled the Hoarusib Elephant Bull, a tour de force sculpted by the talented Swindon sculptor David Lomax.

David was commissioned in 1992 by the UK zoo owner John Aspinall to go to Namibia to observe and photograph this elephant, and then on return to the UK to sculpt a full-size portrait in the Pangolin Foundry in Gloucestershire.

The four ton sculpture was then cast in bronze, three copies of which were acquired by millionaire collectors in Los Angeles, Australia and Mexico. Imagine the logistics of the transport!

The elephant is now sited overlooking a green meadow in Swindon, where it gazes at a flock of Wiltshire sheep. (Goodness only knows what they make of it – ‘what the flock?! I shouldn’t wonder…)

The purpose of the event was to honour David Lomax the sculptor and to raise funds for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

A bit about David Shepherd

David Shepherd – artist:

‘Richard David Shepherd CBE FRSA FGRA (born 25 April 1931) is a British artist and one of the world’s most outspoken conservationists.[1]

He is most famous for his paintings of steam locomotives(he owns a number of them) and wildlife, although he also often paints aircraft, portraits (notably The Queen Mother) and landscapes.

His work has been extremely popular since the 1960s in limited edition print reproduction and poster form, as well as other media such as Wedgwood limited edition plates.

He has written five books about his art,[2] including an autobiography.’


Going off the rails

Going off the rails

26th June 2016


It’s the rail thing

Swindon Town Hall Railings

Oh listeners. I AM ashamed. All the years I’ve been in Swindon and have walked past the town hall – now the home of Swindon Dance – I’ve never noticed the Swindon town hall railings and how beautiful they are. How on EARTH have I missed them until now? It’s shocking!

And I can’t actually lay claim to ‘noticing’ them even now. I’m only aware of them because my good friend Carole Bent mentioned them on Facebook so I made a point of going to see them.

And very splendid they are.

A relatively new addition to the town hall, they were installed in 1997 and are the creation of  Avril Wilson:

“Avril Wilson’s studio practice and research interests explores how the interplay between image, material and process affect interpretation of place and notions of identity. “

These wonderful railings were it seems designed to detail hand gestures and dance movements.

See the railings on Flickr:

“Avril Wilson is a craftsperson, designer and artist, whose specialism is in blacksmithing and steel fabrication.

Avril Wilson was the first female artist-blacksmith to be awarded a bronze medal by The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths in recognition for her contribution to architectural metalwork. Her work explores identity of place through commissioned work in the public realm and gallery exhibitions.”

NB: Swindon town hall is now the home of Swindon Dance. The building also houses the sculpture of Charlotte Corday and a mural by Carleton Atwood creator of The Watchers at Toothill village centre – part of the West Swindon Sculpture trail.

Read about Carleton Atwood in this article by Barry Leighton:

Charlotte Corday with link to Barry Leighton’s article about the statue.

Swindon Dance:


Happy Feet!

Happy Feet!

21st May


Not being a driver I don’t generally get to the  Royal Mail sorting office out at Dorcan. But recently I was there with someone else and was pleasantly surprised to see this artwork on the perimeter fence.

Now I’ve searched and searched on Google for some more information about this artwork and its creators but I’ve   drawn a blank. So all I have to offer is what’s on the signage:

“This design depicts the four horses of the first mail coach racing over the Downland surrounding Swindon. It is based on the ancient chalk horse cut above Uffington and is made up from a postman’s footprints”

I like it. I think it’s interesting and rather clever. And it definitely brightens up a dull, utilitarian perimeter fence.


And a couple of pictures courtesy of Debs Donkersley:

Origins and the first mail coach:

“When a public postal service was first introduced in 1635, letters were carried between ‘posts’ by mounted post-boys and delivered to the local postmaster. The postmaster would then take out the letters for his area and hand the rest to another post-boy to carry them on to the next ‘post’. This was a slow process and the post-boys were an easy target for robbers, but the system remained unchanged for almost 150 years.

John Palmer, a theatre owner from Bath, had organised a rapid carriage service to transport actors and props between theatres and he believed that a similar scheme could improve the postal service. In 1782, Palmer sold his theatre interests, and went to London to lobby The Post Office. Despite resistance from senior Post Office staff, who believed the speed of the mail could not be improved, William Pitt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, accepted the idea. An experimental mail coach journey, undertaken at Palmer’s expense, started from Bristol on 2 August 1784, at 4pm. It reached London at 8am the next day, exactly on schedule. A journey that had taken up to 38 hours now took just 16.”

Read more here: