Our Meetings

Swindon Society Meeting Review

Wednesday 9th January 2019

David Bedford - Jan 2019

A slide show from stalwart committee member David Bedford is always a treat and this was no exception. He had plenty of images to show us from the 1950s through to the 1990s. I’m sure all of us certainly could “remember when”.

David began with a clutch of photos depicting a royal visit to Swindon on 15th November 1950 as part of the borough’s golden jubilee celebrations. Princess Elizabeth travelled to Swindon on the GWR train bearing her name and had a busy day of visiting around the town - we saw her open the Garden of Remembrance in what later became Queens Park, as well as travelling to the Civic Offices, the Town Hall, Old Town, Gorse Hill, Moredon and touring the Works.

Seeing us through the 1950s we were shown the opening of the Penhill post office, following the completion of the new estate; the parading of circus elephants through the town to promote their latest show; and the John Street terraces awaiting demolition. We also saw the “temporary” library, which got a giggle from the audience as we all know there was nothing temporary about that structure! David also revealed that he had painted some of it as an apprentice in the 1960s.

Next up was the Garrard fire of 1958; the biggest fire ever seen in Swindon. David recalled that the glow was so bright it could be seen from the Whale Bridge. Water was pumped from the lake in Queens Park to the Newcastle Street site. David told us how the clear-up operation began straight away, but when the record decks were dumped, they had to be squashed under the wheels of a truck to ensure they couldn’t be salvaged by anyone. The company found another site at Cheney Manor and the production began again six days later.

Taking us into the 1960s we had images of the PMH summer fete, featuring some of the cast of Emergency Ward 10; the closing of the Ghost Train refreshment room at the old Swindon station as well as some Denis Bird shots which are always a pleasure to see. Rounding up the 1960s we had a very special photo of the Keep It To Yourself litter campaign, featuring my grandad.

We then fast-forwarded nearly thirty years to 1997 and the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. David had some great photos of the town centre devoid of shoppers on the morning of the funeral - Saturday 6th September. No doubt, this was due to the closure of almost all shops until the afternoon - I remember being given a half-day off from Boots that day. We finished off the show with the closure of McIlroys in April 1998 and a rather lovely photo that David had captured of his mum coming down the grand central staircase, which was later auctioned off, along with the rest of the shop’s contents, at The Planks on 22nd May 1998.

Many thanks to David for another marvellous collection of photos and facts to entertain us on a chilly January evening.

Kelly Blake - February 2019