Well listeners, you can hardly have failed to notice that this summer saw the publication of my first book, Secret Swindon. So now it’s onto the next project: Swindon in 50 Buildings. To that end I’ve compiled a list of suggested buildings for the edification of the publisher, Amberley Books.
The buildings I’ve selected for my next project aren’t necessarily there because they’re fabulous architecture, or old or listed – though sometimes that’s part of it – but because they have a part in Swindon’s story. Many, many buildings do that of course – and far more than fifty of them too.
One that I might include in my next project is Deacon’s jewellers on Wood Street in Old Town.
The business is still family-owned – now in its sixth generation – that’s rather cool isn’t it? Besides that though, the business has a rich history – one that’s wrapped up in Swindon’s railway past.
Given that his year is their 170th anniversary (Established 1848), it seems fitting to give them a mention on this blog.
Their website has their history on it so here’s a couple of extracts:
‘ … The catalyst for bringing the name of Deacon to Swindon was undoubtedly the arrival of the Great Western Railway. As an ambitious 26 year old George Deacon, having moved from his home town of Westbury, realised the need for time-keeping in a fast growing town of the industrial revolution. The business was able to expand, winning one of the timing contracts for the Great Western Railway on the line between Paddington and Swansea from the early 1850s until 1893 …
…The Regulator clock which stands to this day in the jewellery, clock and watch department was made by Deacon & Son Ltd around 1865 when the company held one of the timing contracts for the Great Western Railway on the line between Paddington and Swansea. Before radio and the telephone gave universally available timing, accurate time keeping had to be maintained locally and this was usually done by the means of the regulator clock.
The dead beat escapement in this movement causes less friction and dampens vibration, giving greater accuracy. The self regulating mercury pendulum, which changes volume equally with the changes in temperature, keeps the clock on a constant steady beat giving better time keeping. This clock was used extensively in our workshops for clock timing and regulation for many years, until its retirement in the 1960s. In 2011 the same task is performed by radio controlled timing from the nuclear caesium clock at the National Physics Laboratory at Rugby.’
Find them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deaconsjewellers/
These boots are made for walking
Of course, Deacon’s is not the only long-standing, family-owned business in Old Town. I’m really rather fond of Blaylock’s – the shoe shop on the corner of Bath Road and Devizes Rd.
Blaylock’s is what I call a ‘proper’ shoe shop – though you’d need to be of a certain again to even know what I mean by that. And what I mean by that, is that the shoes are stacked in boxes on shelves in the shop itself. There’s no going out the back somewhere with an iPad and a headset on. Pfft. It’s friendly service and I love it. Not quite as old as Deacon’s they’ve been around for somewhere in the region of 100 years. Still, to my knowledge, this is a family-run business and an independent shoe shop. Fabulous.
Having bought your super comfy carpet slippers in Blaylocks – where better for your actual carpet than Gilbert’s on Newport Street, Gilbert’s have been in Old Town since 1866 so must have furnished a few Swindon homes in the intervening 152 years. What an astonishing thought.
7th January 2018
Switch on to Swindon stories: a round up
If you’ve been paying attention at all listeners, you’ll have noticed that, over the last few months I’ve shared stories from friends and clients that I felt fitted with the notion of Switch on to Swindon. I had every intention of doling a round-up at the back end of last year but never got round to it. So, seeing this article from the Swindon Advertiser on social media kicked me into action. Just about a whole year has gone by since the SOT campaign launched. Yikes! Happy anniversary SOT! Pop the corks!
2017 has been a busy old year for me. With personal, blogging and business stuff via AA Editorial Services. The high point for me came late in the year with a contact, via this blog, from a Glocs based publishing house. The upshot of all that being I now have a commission to write a book about Swindon. Double yikes!
Anyway, simply so they’re all in one place, and starting with my own (and why not?!) are some SOT stories. Some of them, like myself, are SOT ambassadors. But all of them have positive things to say about our fabulous town.
Here then is my own SOT story: https://swindonian.me/2017/04/11/my-switch-on-to-swindon-story/
Next up is my friend Catherine Attewell – she who makes the pretty jewellery: – https://www.facebook.com/catherinejayuk/ -she writes about finding a sense of self and community in Swindon: https://swindonian.me/2017/11/15/finding-self-and-community-in-swindon/
Odile Motte, owner of the Brunel Language Centre, wrote about what she likes about Old Town – or Old Swindon as it should properly be called: https://swindonian.me/2017/09/03/old-town/
Julie Nicholls who is the fabulous Body Mind Coaching did a great Seven Reasons to be Switched on to Swindon.
Shirley Hensher, aka the Change Agent, wrote this on LinkedIn after an SOT ambassador event. She kindly let me share it on the blog: https://swindonian.me/2017/04/06/switch-on-to-swindon-ambassador-event/
Sandra Trusty, a relative newcomer to Swindon, and owner of the Fab Gift Boutique gave a me a lovely piece about discovering Swindon: https://swindonian.me/2017/07/15/discovering-swindon/
It came as no surprise that Carol Aplin of Pink&Green Organic skincare (it’s gorgeous stuff) did a piece about the abundance of nature around these parts.
Likewise the subject matter of Reshma Field, aka Ishbel’s Wardrobe, was similarly predictable with her piece on Swindon Shopping and Seven reasons with it’s rather good!
Jo Rigden, being 4Points Leisure, opted for a post on the Dragon Boat Racing at Coate Water.
And we return to nature once more with Tim Perkins, of TMP Planning and his post about Kings Wood Walk.
And finally a couple from the Switch on to Swindon website. David Bent – because he’s a friend and I can. But also because I like what he says. Below is the strapline from his SOT story. I like that because it is. Swindon IS surprising and has so much going on. He’s not wrong!
And this one from Nicky Pasquier. Nicky has done – does do – such a lot of sharing of SOT ambassador stories, mine included, that I wanted to return the favour: http://switchontoswindon.com/greatplace/nicky-pasquier/ And I thought this was a fab sentiment too:
17th December 2017
A Community Library Launches at the Swindon Hindu Temple
To be fair, ‘A community library LUNCHES at the Swindon Hindu Temple’ would have been an appropriate heading being as how this event was celebrated with a food festival. Oh such scrummyness. Sadly for me, I’m getting over a virus and my normal appetite for Indian food – well food in general – is not, at the moment, up to scratch,
But that’s all a digression. I’ve been to the temple before so though it was about time it got a mention on this here blog. Because y’know, the overall vibe at the temple is never anything but welcoming and inclusive. It’s just lovely.
The temple came on to my horizon via Carole Bent – the photographs below are hers. Thanks Carole. I do try with photographs but they never come out right. Harrumph!
I had no idea, until Pradeep spoke at the event, that the community library that the temple has set up is part of the town’s library network. I though it was cool anyway. But when I heard that I thought it was even cooler! It was super fab to see Liam with the book bike there reading to the children!
Some pictures from yesterday’s library launch and food festival:
Pradeep, Swindon Hindu temple chairman
Library Liam with the book bike
Gujarti books in the library
Smiling, happy ladies serving food
You have to take your hat off to Pradeep Bhardwaj, chaiman of Swindon’s Hindu temple trust, and his associates. What they’ve achieved with a run-down industrial unit on the Cheney Manor estate can be described as miraculous. And a testament to what can be achieved with will and passion.
As Pradeep told the Swindon Advertiser last year when the Temple celebrated its official opening:
“For many here it is the biggest day of their lives. There have been Hindus in Swindon for 60 years but there hasn’t been a temple or community centre.
“I am very proud, more than proud, I am humbled. To be able to accomplish something like this for the entire community is beyond my wildest dreams.
“Throughout our lives we keep chasing dreams but having seen what it’s like to do this I would be willing to forego any of my personal dreams.”
The temple’s website describes its vision thus:
- Establish “Cultural Hub & Centre of Excellence” – first of its kind outside India
- A Social, Cultural and Community Hub accessible to all community groups with an interest in Indian music, dance, arts, culture, religion, cuisine, literature, health & wellbeing
- Establish Swindon as a Cultural destination, one of the top places to visit in England, promote cultural & religious tourism, attract new businesses & investment
- Ambitious project – unique in nature, scope, impact & overall vision
- Contributing significantly to the local area & economy
- Demonstrate long-term, strategic benefits of community-based enterprise
Amen to all of that is all I have to say!
What a wonderful Switch on to Swindon ambassador Pradeep is.
At this point I feel I should give mention also to SAPAC – another Asian organisation/group that Swindon is blessed to have in its midst. They too open their doors, their activities to anyone that is interested regardless of culture.
There’s lessons for us all from both these groups I feel.
The Hindu temple on the ether:
The website for the Swindon Hindu Temple is here: http://www.swindonhindutemple.org.uk
They’re on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SwindonTemple?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
And a public Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SwindonHinduTemple/662513007208181/
14th November 2017
Over the last few weeks and months I’ve shared on here experiences of, and reflections about, Swindon from friends and clients.
This one comes from Catherine Attewell who wears another hat as Catherine Jay jewellery. You can see her Etsy shop here and her Facebook presence here: https://www.facebook.com/catherinejayuk/
Catherine makes lovely jewellery, which to some extent she can tailor to you – your wrist size, the type of fastener you prefer – that sort of thing. Her contact details are on her Facebook page – link above. These plaited bracelets are among my faves of her work:
Anyway, like so, so many people, Catherine pitched up in Swindon for economic reasons.
Finding self and community in Swindon – and a business to boot!
Like so many others before and after me, I came to Swindon for economic reasons.
At the end of 2000 I left my home town of Northampton to relocate to Swindon as my partner had got a promotion here.
There was some trepidation in this move as I can’t say Swindon as a town had received great recommendations from colleagues. Indeed, they were pretty negative about it.
I remember the first time I took a wander in the town centre and felt that I definitely didn’t want to move here. Yet somehow when the job offer came in and I found myself saying “yes”. Within a month or two we were selecting a new home on the Taw Hill estate. This was in the days before the opening of the Orbital Centre and the Thamesdown Avenue road.
In the main those days revolved around my workplace. I made friends, including some native Swindonians all of whom proved welcoming and friendly.
After a while we moved to Devizes for a couple of years. But then found that we were travelling back to Swindon so much for shopping and socialising that it made sense to return. After doing the rounds of showhomes we plumped for a house in Haydon End. We were the first people on the building site to move in.
We had children and it was when they were small that I became more aware of my need for local community. So I joined a baby and mum music group at Bath Methodist Church in Old Town.
A positive recollection I have of Swindon’s people revolves around an incident in Boswell’s café with my baby girl. She was sick, not only all over the floor but all over herself as well. Not being the most organised of mums I hadn’t got a change of clothes for her. To cut a long story short a fellow diner disappeared and returned with a new top for my baby. She refused payment from me. What a wonderful act of random kindness that was.
Lydiard Park is a fantastic place to go with children. I have loads of happy memories of times there. In particular, my daughter’s 1st birthday when a group of us mums and my mum had a wonderful afternoon playing with the kids on in front of house.
Around this time, the friend I’d met at the music club asked me to be God Mother to her little boy. Being asked was such an honour. Although I did feel a little coy about the fact that outside of Midnight Services, I hadn’t been to church in years. The Christening was at St Saviour’s in Old Town. It’s s a beautiful church with an interesting history to it.
John Betjeman, once said of it:
“I would sooner be on my knees within the wooden walls of St Saviour’s than leaning elegantly forward in a cushioned pew in an Oxford college Chapel.”
This event proved to be turning point for me. I felt something spiritual – or at least felt I’d come home. I knew then that I wanted the church to be part of my life.
Twist and turns
Life took a further twist when I left my banking career in 2013. I’d worked for the company for seventeen years. But now, with two small children, I craved a meaningful way of life with a more equal work/life balance.
I felt a drive to do something more meaningful to me – that meant something creative.
So, setting sail on a journey I didn’t fully understand I launched my Catherine Jay jewellery business.
Swindon in business
The great thing about being in Swindon is the community of like-minded businesses women I’ve been able to connect with.
I’m a regular attender at ‘Ladies who Latte’ – a free and supportive networking group. The friendships formed at this and other groups have been invaluable.
In 2013, life took another turn with the unexpected death of my mum.
Around this time, getting to St Saviour’s to worship proved too much with two small children and I’d decided on a move to St John’s in Haydon End. The homegroup and Sunday school were super welcoming and gave much-needed succour at a difficult time.
What I like about St John’s is its community involvement. It offers practical services such as the rock café on Fridays and a pram club on Mondays. There’s a craft club to that I run together with another lady.
For me the church is more than a building and a place of worship. It’s a community and it’s important that it’s open to people.
Rock cafe St John’s Church
St John’s building – Haydon Wick
Back to my business: Catherine Jay Jewellery
I have over the last few years developed my passion for beaded jewellery. I’m still in the process of working out which way to take my business, but one regular feature of my calendar is a jewellery evening at Stanton House Hotel held in November. I have a collection of jewellery for sale, but the evening is as much about being social as it is about shopping.
Here’s a few snaps from last year’s event.
3rd September 2017
Why I love Old Town
Gosh, September is here and autumn is now fast approaching. So here’s a nice opportunity to share a few lines and photographs from Odile Motte that are a perfect evocation of long, sultry summer evenings from earlier this year. Particularly on days like today when it’s raining cats and dogs out there.
Odile is French, but has been in the UK for many years now. She runs the Brunel Language Centre in Swindon and lives in Old Town – right by where the cattle market used to be. And yes, I’m still confused as to why we have a ram but no ham! A ram as well as a ham at least surely??
‘It is 9 pm on Sunday. Such a lovely warm evening, following a lovely warm sunny day. Far too nice to be inside. Time for a walk around Old Town.
Two minutes from my front door and I am in The Lawn. So pleasant and quiet at this time of night. The birds are still singing. The outline of North Swindon and Stratton in the distance on one side, the silhouette of Christ Church standing peacefully on the other side as night falls.
Walking back I enjoyed the contrast of Wood Street where drinkers also enjoy the warm weather or the band playing in one of the pubs.
I came across a few groups of people along the way and not a single one of them was speaking English. This is Swindon, welcoming and multinational, Swindon.’
Here’s a few photos that Odile took when enjoying her walks around Old Town and The Lawn.
Looking towards Christ Church
The Lawn at dusk
https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/getoutside/local/the-lawn-swindon – The Lawn
https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1018057 – Holy Rood
http://www.swindonweb.com/index.asp?m=8&s=116&ss=320 – History of Old Town, Swindon Web
http://www.christchurchswindon.co.uk – Christ Church, Swindon
31st August 2017
Meeting a Born again Swindonian
Hello listeners. Well this is a nice thing. A week or so ago, a new feature writer on the Swindon Advertiser Tweeted out a photo taken on The Lawns. Being a helpful sort of a person – and yes, okay, ‘flog the blog’ is my mantra – I sent her a link to this here blog. The upshot of that being that I offered to show her some of the sights in the town centre area. Yes – I accept that parts of the town are not beautiful. But that doesn’t mean they’re not interesting.
I simply wanted to show someone how great Swindon is. But being a reporter she sniffed a story and it’s below. Ta da! Unbeknownst to me she must have spoken to Gavin Calthrop from Switch on to Swindon. He said some super good things about me. I won’t lie to you – it’s rather a pleasant feeling.
But it’s only fair to point a few things out:
What the article doesn’t mention, is that Martha Jane Parry (chair of Swindon Civic Voice) showed me and the smashing reporter Sarah, around the railway village and the health hydro and shared just some of her amazing knowledge about Swindon.
On that note, there’s an almost endless list of people with much more in depth knowledge than I’ve got. Born again Swindonian is a vehicle for giving a shout out and then a ‘but if you want to know more go here’ arrow.
Others in Swindon who can tell you all manner of things about aspects of Swindon’s heritage are, aside from Martha Jane Parry, oh off the top of my head: Graham Carter, Frances Bevan, Martin Parry, Daniel Rose. When I was talking about the West Swindon Sculpture trail I mentioned Roger Ogle because he knows way more about each sculpture than me.
See posts about the West Swindon Sculpture trail here: https://swindonian.me/category/artscultureheritage/west-swindon-sculpture-walk-artscultureheritage/
Anyway – here’s the article:
‘Swindon is a land of milk and honey, according to born-again Swindonian Angela Atkinson.
It is hard to imagine a more passionate advocate for the town than the newest ambassador for Switch on to Swindon – she is positively evangelical. Not only does Angela love the town as a place to live, she has dedicated her time to researching and celebrating its complex and vibrant history in her blog www.swindonian.me.
If you want to know why broadcaster and writer Jonathan Meades admires the David Murray John tower, or find out where you can encounter nature inside the town, Angela has all the information.
Now with her new role as ambassador going live, she is more determined than ever to shout out about the town and its people — which she says is her favourite place in the world.
“It’s the people of Swindon I want to talk about now,” she says. “We have lots of brilliant art and architecture, but the bottom line is that Swindon has some terrific people.
“Everyone I know that’s an incomer has said that the best thing about the town is the people who live here.”
She is enthusiastic about the contribution of individuals and community groups, because it is the people who create the art, organise the events and generate the ideas and enterprises that have made the town what it is.
And what better person to introduce the Adver’s new feature writer (me) to the glories of the town?
Angela buzzes with enthusiasm as we visit the Victorian Health Hydro in Milton Street, the Railway Village and the time-travelling mural painted at Cambria Bridge to commemorate 175 years since the arrival of the Great Western Railway.
Even better, Angela sees beyond these well-known icons of the town to the hidden places, lost treasures and surprising gems that even people who have lived in the town for years might not yet know.
It is this inside knowledge that makes her such an asset as an ambassador.
“Angela was chosen because she knows a lot of Swindon’s hidden gems and she offers a unique perspective on all the things Swindon has to offer,” says Gavin Calthrop, director of place marketing for Switch on to Swindon.
“And what we really like about her is that she has a lot of integrity, in what she writes about and how she advocates for the place.
“This makes her a great ambassador. Angela has an extensive network. She has huge influence and she is trusted.”
Switch on to Swindon is a campaign launched to highlight the ways in which the town is a great place to live, work and invest.
It aims to show just what Swindon has to offer and to communicate the story of the town to a wider audience.
The Swindon ambassadors are selected because of their knowledge and enthusiasm, so they can be proactive and positive about their town and make a difference by being advocates for Swindon.
Angela is the perfect fit for the job – she has been a proud and hard-working spokeswoman for the town since she started up her blog in May 2013 with a series on Ten Things to Celebrate about Swindon.
Since then she has not looked back, exploring, building up a fanbase and learning more and more about the town she loves so much.
She moved to Swindon early in the 1990s, have grown up in Derbyshire.
“When I left my part of the world to move to this part of the world I left behind an area that was still ravaged from the legacy of the miners’ strike,” she says.
“Coming here truly felt like arriving in the land of milk and honey. Hence, to a large extent, my fondness for and advocacy of Swindon and the decision to create the Swindon blog.”
Angela worked at Swindon Research Councils for about 16 years before taking early retirement in 2009.
She returned to education and studied English at the University of the West of England, and now works in editorial services.
“I want to be involved in the discussions about the direction Switch on to Swindon takes and contribute to the ideas about the future of the town,” she said.
And even if you think you know Swindon well, Angela has discovered many hidden gems to tempt you to reappraise what you think you know about the town.
Her top three recommendations?
“The West Swindon Sculpture Trail!” she says at once. “It was set up in the 80s by the then Thamesdown Council, when the West Swindon developments were built. There was an art fund and each area in West Swindon had some art.
“There is a five-mile circular walk that takes you round the art works. There’s a statue of Diana Dors, and another sculpture that’s based on the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle. And tucked away by a pond and across from the Asda in West Swindon is a statue called Looking to the Future by Jon Buck.”
You can find the map to this intriguing walk via her website.
Angela’s second hidden gem is Hagbourne Copse, tucked away in Blagrove Industrial Estate, West Swindon. Owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, the two-hectare wood has a pond and in spring is bright with bluebells.
“It’s a beautiful place, but really tucked away. It is not somewhere you could chance upon, if you didn’t know it was there,” she said.
And her third ‘hidden Swindon’ recommendation is the Richard Jefferies Walk around Old Town. Jefferies was a Victorian nature writer who lived and worked in the Swindon area and the walk takes you to places that were part of his life.
The Richard Jefferies walk:
Richard Jefferies Old Town walk: Part 1
Richard Jefferies Old Town Walk Part 2
So whether you are new to town, or you have lived here for years – there is always something distinctively Swindon to find out and enjoy.
Read the full story online here via the Swindon Advertiser: http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/15506370.MONDAY_MATTERS__Meeting_a_born_again_Swindonian/