‘The GWR Medical Fund Society: the forerunner of the NHS?’ 

January 2020

‘The GWR Medical Fund Society: the forerunner of the NHS?’ 

Welcome to 2020! This year is going to be a busy one for Swindon Civic Voice with the exhibitions we’re staging in the long corridor of the central library thanks to help from the National Lottery community fund

And, of  course, there’s still our regular SCV activities to deal with too. Including our talks programme. We kick off on the 16th January with a talk by Adam Busby on the topic of our Swindon’s famous GWR Medical Fund Society.

The Mechanics' Institution - The GWR Medical Fund Society

The Mechanics’ Institution, Emlyn Square, Swindon

Talk synopsis

The Great Western Railway Medical Fund Society existed for a century and evolved to provide comprehensive healthcare to the inhabitants of Swindon.

This Society was unique. It challenged many of the assertions and theories of historians about social welfare and healthcare before the NHS.

The Society demonstrates the complex relationships between the railway workers of Swindon, their families, the wider community and the management of the GWR board. It has been claimed that the society was a forerunner of the NHS.

This talk will explore the history of the fund, its achievements, legacy, wider impact and what it reveals about the history of Swindon and Britain’

When and where

Thursday 16th January 2020

Central Community Centre – 7 to 9pm

Cost – to cover venue hire 

£5 for non Swindon Civic Voice members
£3 for members of Swindon Civic Voice

Join Swindon Civic Voice on the night and pay the lower entry.


Born and bred in Swindon, Adam went to Lawn Primary and Churchfields, followed by New College. He did a degree in history at Hertford College, Oxford and wrote about the Medical Fund Society for his dissertation.

I’m looking forward to this talk a great deal. I wrote about the medical fund society in Secret Swindon and the Mechanics’ Institution in Swindon in 50 Buildings.  As it happens, I met Adam Busby at the Wilts and Swindon History centre in Chippenham on research duties for the latter of those books.

If you’re not a member of Swindon Civic Voice, I do beseech you to join. We’re a positive organization making great strides forward – as witnessed by our securing the lottery funding. But we need people interested in shaping Swindon to come and join us. There’s more information here about becoming a member of Swindon Civic Voice.

And here’s a couple of articles by members of our committee on what prompted them to get involved.

  1. Alan Gaunt – Trustee

Getting involved with Swindon Civic Voice

2. Sally Cole – Treasurer

Swindon Civic Voice – Becoming a Member

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