Swindon HAZ Needs Your Photos

Swindon Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) – share your family photos on the Know Your Place website

The Swindon HAZ needs your photos to populate the Know Your Place website.

Swindon HAZ needs your photos

Image railway village Big Conversation Civic Voice

Do you live in the Railway Village or have you or your family lived there in the past?

If you’ve been doing any furtling during lockdown and you’ve across any old photos, you might have just what the HAZ is looking for.

  • Do you live in the Railway Village now? Or have your family lived there in the past?
  • Have you got any family photos taken in or around the Railway Village?
  • Might you have some old photos found during a lockdown-inspired clearout?

Hoping to increase understanding

he Swindon Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) is keen to increase our understanding of Swindon’s railway history and time engage local people.

The Know Your Place website at http://www.kypwest.org.uk/ can help us do both.  This fantastic website hosts a huge range of heritage data including maps from different ages which reveal how an area has changed over time.

It has a dedicated Community Layer. You can submit your own images to this and help to build a rich and diverse community map of local heritage for everyone to see.

Know your Place logo

How to see the Railway Village on the website

Go to: https://maps.bristol.gov.uk/kyp/?edition=wilts&layer=Community%20layer&x=414650.97&y=184830.79&extent=143.37

Each image is marked in its correct location on the map by a green square which you ‘click’ on to see the image.

We’d like you to help add to the collection by emailing your photos to Karen Phimister (the Heritage Action Zone project officer) at: kphimister@swindon.gov.uk

What you have to do

You can either:

  1. scan your photo(s)
  2. or take a photo of the photo with your phone.

But for copyright reasons they must be your photos.

In your email can you tell us:

  1. Where the photo is and the date if possible
  2. who/what it’s of (eg a building or people or an event). 

Please state whether you want your name and/or contact details recorded against your photo on the website or not.

We’re interested in photos of any age, right up to the present day, taken anywhere around the Railway Village, including the public buildings and spaces such as the Health Hydro or GWR Park.

Local Studies at the Central Library

The Local Studies collection at the Central Library is always adding to its amazing collection of on-line photos of Swindon.  You can see them at www.flickr.com/swindonlocal.

You can donate any unwanted photos of Swindon to Local Studies by emailing them at: localstudies@swindon.gov.uk.

Why it matters

Your photos will provide vital local evidence to support the research element of the Swindon Heritage Action Zone (HAZ).

The HAZ is a partnership between Swindon Borough Council and Historic England. Over the next four years the HAZ will seek to revitalise the Railway Village and to engage local people in Swindon’s railway heritage.

To find out more visit: https://www.swindon.gov.uk/info/20030/planning_and_regeneration/1016/the_swindon_heritage_action_zone

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Richard Wintle Virtual Talk

11th June 2020

Welcome to our first ever virtual talk – as we leap into technology, we’re super excited to have a Richard Wintle virtual talk  as our first virtual event and speaker.

On Thursday 18th June, 7.30pm start. Richard will be joining us for a Zoom chat, to share some exciting images of Swindon past and present and to talk about his books.

Richard already has one book published about his life in pictures with another coming soon. Read about his first one here on Born Again Swindonian: https://swindonian.me/2020/03/31/richard-wintle-photographing-swindons-history/

About Richard’s Talk: ‘Wow, what a time to launch a book’

In his talk, Richard will summarise his first book (see link above – and image below): A picture is only the start of the story with some images from the book and the pages they’re on.

He’ll then talk about his second book. This one is under construction and bears the working title: Another picture – another story

The Second Book

Richard’s second book is centred around Lydiard House and Park and the restoration. There’s also mentions of Swindon’s museums and the Wyvern.

He says he’ll tease the audience some interesting snippets. Such as:

  • Why did two funerals and a wedding make national news but got very little local coverage?
  • How one of Richard’s snapppers got to be holding an AK47n in Albania.
  • And how Richard amazed a professor at Swindon’s Festival of Literature with some old pictures.


He’ll show us why, in some exclusive image,  Swindon’s twin town, Salzgitter, found itself in the centre of a major political event. AND:

Why two elderly gentlemen sat down to discuss Z-Cars and a New York ballet star in Aldbourne?

And of course, Richard’s talk will show technical snippets of the agency’s and photography’s history.

Oh – and there’ll be some Royals too. #obvs

Richard Wintle first book

Richard Wintle first book

Richard Wintle second book

Richard Wintle second book


How do we join you for this talk?

We’re running a Zoom session for Richard’s talk, but due to security etc, we can only release the link for the Zoom session, to members of Swindon Civic Voice.

What’s Zoom? Zoom is a video conferencing, web conferencing platform, check it out here https://zoom.us/

You’ll need to join/sign up to enable you to access our talk with Richard.

Note though that we hope to do other virtual events while ever we need to – could be a long while yet. So, pay once and then you can access anything else we do.

Am I a paid member and if not, how do I renew?

 If we sent you an email in April 2020, asking you to renew, and you haven’t done so, then you can renew your membership (£6) via a bank transfer. 

Mmm, I’m still not sure if I’m a member with you? Not a worry. Pop an email to membership@swindoncivicvoice.org.uk and Jo our membership secretary will let you know.

How much are you charging for Richard’s talk?

Aside from your SCV membership, nothing at all. And do bear in mind that we may get one or two more virtual events organised over the summer – so once you’ve paid membership of SCV you’ll have free access to those too.

Do you intend to join us for Richard’s talk?

If you do and you’ve got your membership sorted out, send an email to membership@swindoncivicvoice.org.uk to let us know to expect you online.

When will you send the Zoom link to us?

We’ll send you a link for Richard’s talk on Wednesday 17th June 2020, and the email will come from membership@swindoncivicvoice.org

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Planning and the New Eastern Villages

3rd June 2020

Planning and the New Eastern Villages

We’ve been contacted recently by SCV member Julian Jones on the topic of planning and the new eastern villages.


Swindon is obligated to build a further 8000 houses. A chart of UK Climate Emissions for 2017 (BEIS government figures, production basis) shows that 55% of emissions are due to energy.

  • Energy Supply 24%
  • Business 17%
  • Residential 14%

This illustrates that energy reduction is very important. Yet, building regulations are not where they need to be.

Passivhaus is a voluntary German-originated internationally-used standard for building energy efficiency based principally on insulation, air tightness and ventilation with heat recovery. It represents the gold standard for energy efficiency and can reduce energy use by 80-90%.

Exemplar UK Projects

  • Exeter Council – a series or projects showing decreasing marginal costs
  • Norwich Goldsmith Street – an conventional-looking social housing scheme, 93 homes,  which won the RIBA National Architecture Prize. Build costs were in line with conventional: see Passivhaus Trust page.
  • Nottingham Council – including social housing

These projects tend to be eye-opening. Why? Well, because they use standard building materials and practices and add little or nothing to the build cost. Indeed, the build cost is a fraction of the house price which also includes the land price, so it adds even less proportionally to the house price. These projects demonstrate that energy efficient future-proofed homes are perfectly feasible now and cost need not be a barrier. Julian and Jane are seeking to get Councillors to visit some of these projects.

Government Supported Experiments

There have been one or two government-supported experiments with energy-efficient housing in Swindon.

One of these was a Hab Housing project (Kevin McCloud) that Swindon Civic Voice showcased and also won a RIBA national award. Originally dubbed The Triangle, now Howse Garden, it is off Northern Road, just north of Ferndale Road and the Great Western Way.

This had some teething problems, and after government grants ran out there seemed to be little follow up.

For example, an evaluation by Oxford Brookes University identified overcomplicated heating controls so people didn’t use them as intended.

Adver articles here and here refer. It would be good if these projects could be revisited and any remaining problems fixed so we have our own showcase projects.

The Local Plan in Swindon

The Local Plan undergoing revision and the final submission draft being prepared.

Energy efficiency is the most controversial element. Whilst people want to see it, some are also concerned not to disrupt the smooth passage of the 8000 new homes in the pipeline. As that could mean SBC losing control of the planning process again.  As, if not enough homes are built the government may override the council planning process and allow plans to go ahead anyway, with SBC having to pay the developer’s appeal costs.

BUT, high energy efficiency in new developments is one essential element of moving towards SBC’s climate change targets agreed by council at the beginning of 2019. National standards are complicated and changing, but there do appear to be sufficient hooks to mandate sustainable design practices and energy efficient design and construction if there is the political will to do so.

North eastern villages swindon

The Planning Applications

The 3 biggest planning applications are:

  • Lotmead and Lower Lotmead Villages – 2500 homes
  • South Marston and Rowborough Villages – 2380 homes
  • Great Stall East Village – 1550 homes

The energy efficiency of the buildings in these villages depends on the planning documents and the Energy Statement and Sustainabilty Statement within them. If these only need the regulatory minimum then that’s all the developer will deliver. But if they outline more stringent requirements, developers with the interest and capability to build energy efficient buildings will bid for the work.

These statements therefore influence the energy efficencies of these new builds.

For Lotmead and Lower Lotmead Villages and for Great Stall East Village, Peter Brett Associates produced the Energy and Sustainabilty Statements. These are well written and although not binding will influence the build in the right direction.But they need to be updated and strengthened, and the plans are up for decision at the committee on 9-June . You must register representations by noon on the previous day.

For Rowborough, there is only a Sustainability chapter of one page which is cursory. That means that the statutory minimum is likely to be delivered.  The consultation on this application has just officially ended meaning it’s likely to come before the planning committee soon. Unless officers are still waiting on other issues.

The New Eastern Villages are also being built on a flood plain. It could be that these are villages, rather than a continuous development, due to flood risk -e.g. built on higher ground or surrounded by drainage. 

Now it’s of the utmost urgency to:

  • Lobby Councillors on the detail of these plans
  • Promote to the Councillors what other councils have achieved
  • Publicise the risks of these developments in terms of flood risk and energy efficiency.


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SCV Photography Competition 2020

SCV photography competition 2020

Swindon Civic Voice Photography Competition 2020

Swindon Civic Voice Logo

It’s here again: the SCV Photography Competition 2020.

The competition is open to all photographers of any age or ability.

We launched it last year – in this post you can see last year’s winners. 

SCV photography competition 2020

Now, our Chair, Angela Atkinson, has a Born Again Swindonian’s Guidebook coming out in the next few weeks.  As you can see from the back of this book cover there’s a hashtag: #LookdownLookaroundLookUp

Born again Swindon guide book

The theme of the competition

And that sense of looking around and observing connects with the theme of  our 2020 photography competition: OPEN SPACES.


Phone taking picture

We’re not looking for fancy, technical wizardry. What we want you to do is think about #LookdownLookaroundLookup and see what captures your imagination in open spaces. And remember to think and look further than parks and gardens – though they could be good subjects.

Entry is free and photographers compete for age-related awards.

Because of the Covid-19 situation and restrictions around that, and children perhaps not being at school, we’re opening entries earlier and have extended the closing date. SO:

You can take images anywhere in Swindon or the borough between 1st June 2020 and 30th September 2020.


Simply send your photograph by email to: angela@swindoncivicvoice.org

between 1st June 2020 and 30th September 2020.

Announcing the winners

We’ll announce the results on the Swindon Civic Voice website and social media platforms.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/swindoncivicvoice/

Twitter: @SwindonV


For how we handle this, much depends on our situation regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. If it’s still not possible to have a physical gathering then we’ll arrange some sort of virtual event and put an appropriate prize in the post!


There are two categories determined by the age of the photographer on 1st June 2020.

  • Up to and including 16yrs
  • 17yrs and older


The judge(s) will look for images taken by any device (standard camera, phone, GoPro, drone, etc), which display a clear image. The winner will produce a powerful image that demonstrates an eye for detail, the unusual design or a different perspective – SO LONG AS IT FITS THE THEME OF OPEN SPACES.

The competition is not merely a hunt for pictures that show famous or well-known images. Rather novel, previously hidden or revealing new views.

Give free rein to your imagination, creativity and artistic skills!


  • Competitors must have landowner permissions for the photography location.
  • If using a drone, competitors must fly responsibly and abide by Civil Aviation Authority guidance.
  • Images must be taken within the competition geographic boundaries between 1st June 2020 and 30th September 2020.
  • There are no absolute limits on image processing post capture, but this is not a Photoshop skills competition. Changes made post image capture should not distort the image beyond what was essentially observed when the picture was taken.
  • Competitors can enter up to 2 images
  • Competitors should submit a caption for each image, up to a maximum of two sentences and a total of 50 words.

Ethical Standards

You should never do anything to injure or distress any human or animal during your photography.

Applicants are responsible for complying with any legislation and securing any relevant permits that are required, e.g. when entering buildings or locations.

Image Entry

Email images no later than 17.00 on 30th September 2020 as attachments to: info@swindoncivicvoice.org.uk Include your name, age (as at 1st June 2020) and image captions (title and location) in the email.

Re-sizing and naming images

1.Competitors should submit medium resolution JPEG or TIFF files, but please retain your original, unprocessed images. Images should have NO WATERMARKS.

  1. Entrants should rename their images to include their name, e.g. John_Smith_1 (add a suffix of 1 or 2 if submitting 2 images).

Photographers’ Image Rights

Swindon Civic Voice reserves the right to publish winning images on social media, but with due credit given to the photographer.

Images may also be used royalty free in media coverage of the event and materials to promote Swindon Civic Voice, but not for income generation.  Copyright will always remain with the photographer, who will be consulted for any other use of images not declared here.

The judges’ decision on any matters arising from these guidelines shall be final.

Prize and Awards

A first place winner of each category will receive a £25 gift voucher, second place £15 and £10 for third place.

Other category runner ups may have their images published on line or displayed and receive a certificate

Timetable 2020

1st June 2020 – Competition opens for submissions.

31st August 2020– Competition closes for submissions.

Judging: An independent panel will judge the entries

Swindon Civic Voice will announce the winners on Social Media and  inform prize winners by during October 2020.

We’ll announce the winners first and then the details of the prize giving.

Organisers’ contact details

Before the event, please direct any competition queries to: info@swindoncivicvoice.org.uk

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Darryl Moody of Local Studies

January 2020

Our second event of 2o2o, on Thursday 20th February, is a talk by Darryl Moody of Local Studies. (Our first talk being Adam Busby talking about the GWR Medical Fund Society )

The Logistics:

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.

Swindon Local studies logo

“Collecting Swindon: the Raw Material of Local History” by Darryl Moody, Local Studies

In August 1960, Librarian Harold Jolliffe wrote to the Swindon Advertiser appealing for “the raw material of local history”. The Local Studies team at Central Library continue his project to this very day, building a vast and ever-growing collection of local photographs, books, directories, postcards, maps, photographs, CDs, videos, DVDs and much more. Local Studies Librarian Darryl Moody talks about their mission and showcases some of the many weird and wonderful discoveries they have made along the way.

Darryl Moody of Local Studies - Cover of book Swindon Photographers and postcard publishers

Darryl Moody of Local Studies

About Harold Jolliffe – ‘The Father of Cultural Life in Swindon’

Extracted from Swindon Web

‘ … Swindon would be a much poorer place to live had he not been here, and we have him to thank for our Arts Centre.

“The Father of Cultural Life in Swindon”? This is no sentiment-driven comment about a former public servant. It’s a statement hard to argue with; in much the same way it’s hard to dispute that Brunel sired the town’s industrial success.

Harold Jolliffe was the Chief Librarian and Curator of Swindon Borough Council for 23 years. He died on Wednesday, 8 January 1969 at the age of 54.

It’s a testament to his integrity that his last day of work was also his last day of life.

A native of Bury in Lancashire, he was appointed Chief Librarian for Swindon in 1946. In November of that same year, he oversaw the opening of the country’s first dedicated municipal Arts Centre, here in Swindon.

That building wasn’t in the current site on Devizes Road. Rather, it was in the town centre, in a church hall leased for ten years. The growing commercial value of that site, and the Council’s inability to match those prices meant that by 1955 a change became inevitable …’

** See Secret Swindon and Swindon in 50 Buildings for more on Local Studies and the Arts Centre. Also:


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‘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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Getting involved with Swindon Civic Voice

16th December 2019

Following on from the post by our treasurer Sally Cole, about becoming a member of Swindon Civic Voice, we have this piece from trustee Alan Gaunt about Getting involved with Swindon Civic Voice.

See also about Alan: 

Ron Spencer: Cerney’s Hero Policeman

Alan Gaunt -getting involved with Swindon Civic Voice.

I must start this item with a confession. Despite having worked in Swindon since 1969 and lived here since 1984, I’d never heard of Swindon Civic Voice. Or, at least, it had never imposed on my consciousness before the summer of 2018.

That year I saw an announcement for Swindon Civic Day 2018. The programme included a tour of the Milton Road Health Hydro together with the unveiling of a Blue Plaque marking the Hydro’s key role in the founding of the NHS. The day also included displays in the Central Community Centre and a tour of the Railway Village.

Having always had an interest in history, this event had huge appeal. The tour of the Health Hydro was fascinating, the architecture and design was superb. And the possibility that some company could even consider converting part of the building to flats horrified me.

Equally fascinating that day was the Railway village tour under the expert guidance of Royston Cartwright. Both events left me feeling that I had to do ‘something’ to help.


The then Chair of Swindon Civic Voice, John Stooke, next handed me a leaflet explaining all about the organisation and urged me to join. I realised then that I’d found what I was looking for – a non-political body dedicated to making the town better and which had a membership fee of a mere £6 per year. Who could say ‘no’ to joining up?

Speaking for myself, I’ve always thought that membership of an organisation carries with it certain responsibilities. One of which being to attend at least some of that organisation’s meetings. Thus, on the 1stNovember that I found myself with a (too) small group of people in the Milton Road Health Hydro attending the 2018 Swindon Civic Voice Annual General Meeting.

My previous work for the Government’s Valuation Office together with various roles that I had undertaken in the Civil Service Trade Union Movement and school governing bodies gave me a firm background in the application of certain laws and the interpretation of rules for voluntary organisations. I could see, at this meeting, that this was an area where I could be useful. And so offered my services.

An Invitation to Join and Get Involved with Swindon Civic Voice

As a result, the new chair of SCV, Angela Atkinson, invited me to join the board of trustees. I thereby secured a notable double header: recruited into Civic Voice by one Chair and recruited to the Board of Trustees by the next.

My role in examining and working on constitutional, procedural and other such matters began I know many find such things too tiresome, but they appeal to a geek like me! This has allowed the other Trustees to focus on the core activities of Swindon Civic Voice. The organisation has accomplished much of late – but there’s much more to do. And if you can help speak now.

Read here about becoming a member of Swindon Civic Voice.

We had the remarkable success last year in helping the Railway Village to win the award of being ‘The Nation’s Favourite Conservation Area’. In this we beat supposedly more popular places such as Lichfield and Port Sunlight – a particular highlight.

Heritage Action Zone

This, in turn, helped the Borough Council to get funding from Historic England to designate the whole of the area around the railway village as a ‘Heritage Action Zone’. A scheme which includes plans to restore the Mechanics’ Institute. It’s possible this is our last chance to save this important and historic building.

The Mechanics' Institution Swindon

Finally, we have our own ‘Project 2020’, preparations for which are now underway.

With various developments in the pipeline, there are exciting times ahead for Swindon. So if, like me, you care about the town where you live, you could do no better than become a member of Swindon Civic Voice.

Membership: Joining Swindon Civic Voice



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Lottery Boost for Swindon Civic Voice Town Centre Project 2020

Lottery Boost for Swindon Civic Voice Town Centre Project 2020

David murray john building - Swindon Civic Voice Town centre project 2020

The David Murray John Tower

Lottery Boost for Swindon Civic Voice Town Centre Project: Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, next year, 2020, we are going to run a year-long project. The project will focus on Swindon’s central retail core and  surrounding traffic circulation.

Project Outline

During the course of the project we’ll explore the development of Swindon’s town from its origin in the mid-1880s, through its transformation in the 1970s, up to the present day. 

We‘ll pull together information from historic records, maps and memories and share this early year’s material in an exhibition in Swindon’s Central Library in early February. Watch this space and our social media for details nearer the time.

Second Stage

We’ll follow that up with a second exhibition illustrating the range of proposals floated in recent years, each with a view to improving the range of housing, shopping and cultural facilities in the town centre.

Project conclusion

We will conclude the project, at the back end of the 2020, with an exhibition on future proposals.  This will offer an opportunity for you, the residents to give your opinions concerning the future character of the area.

This project is timely, due to the range of recent proposals, including the current Local Plan development which looks ahead to 2036.


We intend to work closely with Swindon Council planners to understand their approach to the issues of our town centre.  Our attention to the town centre will dovetail with the Heritage Action Zone project on the GWR Railway Village Conservation Area.

We’ll use our social media platforms and this website to share the learning from this project. It’s our aim and hope to engage residents in shaping the future of their town, with further discussions based upon the knowledge pulled together throughout the exhibition process.

Swindon Civic Voice’s Aims

Our aim is to bring information and people together to air both their concerns and their future wishes.

We’d especially like to meet and work with some of the more knowledgeable social media contributors, whose sharing of photos have been inspirational to Swindonians interested in the evolution of the town centre since 1945.

‘It’s time to share and shape our town centre for the future.’

Full details of how to contribute to the project or become a member of Swindon Civic Voice will shortly be available through oue Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/swindoncivicvoice/) and the SCV website: swindoncivicvoice.org.uk

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Swindon Civic Voice – Becoming a Member

Swindon Civic Voice – becoming a member … 

… Why would anyone do that? Sally Coles, Trustee and Swindon Civic Voice member explains what drew her in ..

All I wanted was a quiet retirement and be able to do all the things I’d planned in that retirement seminar they insisted we all went on at work.  So, I made my list: sort the garden; read all those books I had on the shelf; learn how to paint with watercolours and have a go at mosaics…just like the ones we’d seen in Italy.  And, of course, travel.

I had been working for over forty years and I deserved a rest. Didn’t I?

The first couple of years in retirement went very well.  My husband and I did a bit of travelling, but has anyone else noticed that the older you get the harder it gets to keep up with the group?  Too much waiting around having passports checked; too much heat and questionable food; and there’s all that washing when you get back after a struggle to get the suitcase through the front door.  So, the cases spent more time in the loft as time went on.

I got the garden presentable and the summers have been wonderful, but I felt so guilty, sitting there thinking the grass needs cutting, or I needed to dead head the hanging baskets.  Shouldn’t I be doing the ironing or the washing up?

And, yes, I did some watercolour and mosaic classes.  They were wonderful and having new skills was very fulfilling.  But it was a bit lonely sat in the spare room thinking of what to draw next.  I did a mosaic table top and plaques for out in the garden and very nice they looked too.  But I wasn’t exactly keeping active and the brain was beginning to lose its edge.

One day I was drifting my way through some Facebook trivia when I came across a page about Swindon’s Favourite Conservation Area What drew me in was the fact that I had been born in the Railway Village and can remember playing in the “backsies” and having parties and dances in the Mechanics’ Institute

The Mechanics' Institution Swindon

It’s quite amazing how the brain goes into overdrive when it has a suitable stimulus.  So much came back to me of my childhood that I felt a pull to help get my old stomping ground the recognition it deserved.

Thus, there I was, every day and night, until the closing date monitoring the numbers, sharing the page all over the various groups and imploring people to get behind this initiative.

It felt like a real sense of achievement when we won. And that’s what bought me and Swindon Civic Voice together for the first time.

See here about the official presentation by the national Civic Voice – our parent bodyof the conservation area award. 

I decided to attend the AGM where the presentation of the trophy was taking place.  And I offered my services if they thought I could be of any help in their mission.

And, as they say, the rest is history.  A year later I am a full trustee, Treasurer and have helped on their Swindon Civic Day 2019 and planning goes on for next year.

Swindon civic day 2019

NB: Follow this link for a review of Civic Day 2019

But there is so much more to do.  I was shocked to hear about how little Swindon children know about the historic town they are growing up in. It’s worrying how apathetic people can be because they have little influence in the decisions made in their name. It’s a concern  how our history is threatened by the overriding need for more housing, roads and general development.

One thing is certain, like climate change, if we do nothing the outcome will not be good for the next generations.  Civic pride is a thing of beauty and together we can bring about positive change, inspire others and help ourselves be active in mind, body and spirit.

I would encourage anyone who has time to spare become a member and help us influence, educate and spread an enthusiasm for all things Swindon.  We won’t realise what a heritage we have until it’s lost.

Swindon Civic Voice – Becoming a Member - WOMAn, horse, children

If this blog post by Sally has inspired you to help us at Swindon Civic Voice there’s more information here. 

See also: https://www.swindoncivicvoice.org.uk/2019/08/swindon-civic-voice-needs-you/


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Ron Spencer: Cerney’s Hero Policeman


1st November 2019

Ron Spencer: Cerney’s Hero Policeman

Our Alan Gaunt, trustee of Swindon Civic Voice, has been busy with his keyboard again. In a recent post we shared news of Alan’s book: A Good Man and a Brave Man:

A Good Man and a Brave Man

In this post though we’re sharing an article Alan has written for the South Cerney Trust. In  Ron Spencer – Cerney’s Hero Policeman, he recounts the tale of a crime that almost lost a local Bobby his life. Below is an extract – follow the link above to read the entire thing:

‘Police Constable Ron Spencer arrived in South Cerney in July 1958. He went to live, with his wife and two small children, in the police house with its attached office in Station Road, close to the Village Cross.

Almost three years later, on 16th March 1961, he was required to visit a house in Down Ampney seeking information relating to the unexplained death of the occupier’s wife in Cirencester Memorial Hospital the previous evening. He called at the property twice during the day but was informed that the occupier was out.

At 6pm he left the Cirencester Police Station in a police van driven by PC David Smeeton in a final attempt to speak to the man. Diverting from their route the two officers stopped at South Cerney Police Station where they learned of an emergency call from the Down Ampney Post Office concerning a shooting incident at the house they were due to visit. Returning to the van, Ron and David drove quickly to Down Ampney …

Images – The Two Policemen involved in this almost fatal crime caper

Arriving at Down Ampney Post Office, they found the son of the occupier saying that his father, Jan Piechowicz, had just shot two people – Mr Jan Biernat and Mrs Rozalia Jandy. Telling the boy to remain where he was, the constables went directly to the house. Ron was leading the way as they approached the front door which opened in response to his knocking, and a hand appeared holding a pistol ….’


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